Published: 11.22.2021

Focusing on functions

How expanding your view enhances the value of financial management

The functions performed by the financial management (FM) community and those it serves within the DoD are often seen as narrowly defined and rigid. There is considerable value to be gained, however, by taking a more expansive view of functions, functional areas and functional experts.

FM is playing an ever-larger role within the DoD

New provisions in the FY2021 Defense Authorization Act have led to changes in DoD oversight for Government Performance Results Act (GPRA) compliance, with an increased role for the Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller) and, by extension, the FM community. This calls for a renewed focus that can not only facilitate compliance with GPRA, but also enhance progress toward financial statement audits, data management, and overall improvement of FM activities.

Our experience in the DoD has highlighted the importance of FM functions and how optimizing them can enable impactful—and more importantly, sustainable—mission success. By enabling a holistic, end-to-end approach in three key domains, FM professionals can help to improve efficiency and effectiveness across the board.

3 axes of success

Look across these domains to boost functional effectiveness and efficiency

Culture: Break down the barriers

The DoD’s traditionally siloed FM culture inhibits sustainable progress. Working across organizational boundaries can be a challenge at best. Sometimes it seems nearly impossible, especially when the task is mission- or time-critical. This isolated, unilateral culture can lead to lost opportunities and unanticipated consequences.

With the FM community now responsible for GPRA, FM professionals across the Department should take steps to evaluate the effect of decisions made within their functional area (e.g., budgeting) and refrain from acting without first assessing how it will impact other areas of the FM community.

Functional expertise in different areas should be leveraged. For example, a functional expert in programming may be evaluating where to send resources in his or her respective Program Objective Memorandum (POM) and take action without first reaching out to a fellow functional expert such as a budget analyst. That analyst may, in fact, be supporting additional resources for a higher-priority program but not know that those resources may be at risk and non-executable. By working together, they may be able to address the priority requirement in a more effective manner.

Systems: Nothing works in isolation

Implementing, enhancing, and retiring FM systems and technology without end-to-end functional FM input often leads to decisions that are costly both in time and resources. Too often we evaluate solutions for one specific problem set rather than considering how that single functional change will affect the overall process

By looking at systems in a broader and more inclusive context, resourcing challenges can often be alleviated. For example, the “must-fund” requirements for your respective system capabilities could be included in the scope of a larger enterprise system solution proposal, ensuring that the capability need is met not just for your command or organization, but across an entire branch of the military.

The most viable overall solution requires functional expertise in the processes performed by your respective system as well as the processes that your system impacts. Ensuring that all affected functional communities have properly mapped out current process updates that need to be made to implement a specific system enhancement is necessary to provide a sustainable solution.

Competing objectives across functional communities also highlight the importance of data standardization. Coupling functional community interaction with enterprise data is the answer, but a lot of work lies ahead for the Department to achieve this ideal state. A little relationship rekindling in the functional community, along with reconciliation of data, will go a long way.

Laws/Regulations/Policies: The value of comprehensive expertise

The Department addresses many of the seemingly endless labyrinth of laws, regulations, and policies that impact it through the functional expertise of the FM community. For this reason, the institutional knowledge that FM experts bring is extremely valuable.

For example, the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 requires annual financial audits of federal agencies’ financial statements. With this audit requirement at the top of the FM priority list, who does the Department turn to when responding to Notices of Findings and Recommendations (NFRs) from the auditor? The functional experts, of course. Without their ability to correctly interpret laws, regulations, and policies, the Department would be hard-pressed to resolve the NFRs.

Achieving compliance with the CFO Act will require both leadership and functional expert input to ensure implementation of enterprise-wide corrective action plans that benefit the entire Department. As enterprise solutions are developed, the Department can enable more efficient business processes and make better use of its resources.

The challenges aren’t going away.
Neither are the opportunities.

The systemic challenges outlined above are nothing new, but that doesn’t diminish their importance. As DoD continues to strive for more transparent, authoritative, efficient and effective functional processes across the FM community, sharpening the functional focus becomes a critical imperative.

The one thing that remains constant despite constant change in laws, organization and policies is the steadfast commitment of the FM community to adapt and in support those in the DoD as financial stewards of taxpayer dollars. The additional duty of taking on compliance with GPRA is just the latest case in point.