Powering Up the Public Sector by Replacing Outdated Systems

IT Modernization Microsoft Power Platform

By Megan Cifuentes and Yebio Mesfin

What do you get when you have congressional reporting requirements dating from the 1970s, record handling software first designed 20 years ago, and a user interface more than a decade old? This isn’t a riddle – it’s the reason an office within a cabinet-level agency turned to Acuity for help.

An urgent need to update reporting processes led the office to look for an alternative to their outdated systems and manual, time-consuming workflows. Acuity provided a solution based on Microsoft Power Platform. This new, modern architecture made the office’s data more accessible, more useful, and more compliant with congressional reporting mandates.

Issues and Constraints with Outdated Document Sharing

The outdated system allowed the agency’s legal affairs office to receive agreements internally or from other US agencies. External users could upload agreements and answer questions posed by office personnel, who were analyzing the agreements. The approved agreement submission was ingested into the Content server for reporting. There were seven identified issues with this process:

  1. Only cleared users could access the classified system. The office did not have many users with sufficient clearance to access the data, making the system of limited use for reporting or decision-making.
  2. The office planned to decommission the Content server. The office needed a replacement before archived data was potentially lost and unavailable for reporting or analysis.
  3. Search functionality within the system was limited because there was no linking structure (parent/child relationship) for agreements and no way to attach related documents to an agreement.
  4. Older agreements were linked in two separate places which further complicated any attempt to link them to one another or to simplify search.
  5. The existing database required reclassification. Not all agreements and documents were classified. Identifying classified material for export could take 6 months to a year. The Legal Affairs office planned to keep the classified version of the system for classified agreements.
  6. The system did not save the history of last modified dates for records, which caused confusion among personnel.
  7. The system had an inconvenient and unreliable user interface. Each record included over 150 required information fields. Entering a full record could take up to 20 minutes to enter a full record and the system would return a timed-out error message.

Acuity Recommends Power Platform

The Acuity team considered a variety of technological solutions, including custom development, for addressing the client’s needs. They selected Power Apps on the Microsoft Power Platform for rapid, low code development, easy maintainability, and easy integration to other Microsoft products. Acuity was able to leverage existing M365 and D365 Authority to Operate (ATO), which alleviated any necessary security documentation requirements. The final deployed system used Power Apps Canvas Application, Power Pages, SharePoint, Outlook, Power BI, Power Automate, Dataverse, and Power Platform security controls.

A Powered Up, Modern System

Enhanced User & Mission Effectiveness
The implementation of the Acuity solution streamlined the agency’s processes. With a user-friendly interface now at their fingertips, personnel were able to easily search their data and create and submit reports for Congress. In addition, the updated system allowed users to gain new insight into earlier reports, statuses, and classifications. Cover letters are now automatically generated as PDFs, slashing report completion timelines from weeks to mere days. This shift not only empowered users but also aligned with agency goals.

Efficiency Gains & Right-Sized Security
The updated system enhanced collaboration and accelerated data validation and reporting delivery, leading to a significant uptick in operational efficiency. Moreover, leveraging M365 and D365 Authority to Operate (ATO) and integrating Power Platform security controls streamlined access and bolstered security without the need for more documentation. This ensured a smooth transition toward a more secure and efficient reporting environment.

Modern IT & User Experience
The agency’s legacy modernization efforts paved the way for a modern IT landscape, marked by faster software delivery, higher-quality outputs, and enhanced interoperability. Transitioning from Access Database to Dataverse facilitated smoother operations, while the adoption of DevOps pipelines expedited software delivery, ensuring the agency could keep pace in the digital age. Furthermore, the newfound interoperability of the Acuity solution with other Power Platform apps solidified its position as a cornerstone in the agency’s modernization journey.

The Acuity solution transformed the office’s data management and reporting capabilities, enabling them to meet their mission objectives more effectively and efficiently. By using Power Platform, the office modernized their IT infrastructure, improved their user experience, and enhanced their security posture. The office is now well-positioned to harness the power of their data and deliver prompt and accurate reports to Congress and other stakeholders.

Learn more about Acuity’s approach to IT Modernization.