Core Competencies in Financial Management for Information Technology Personnel in the Federal Government (Exposure Draft)

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-09-01.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

Core Competencies
in Financial Management
for Information Technology Personnel
in the Federal Government

                                            1)1 NV'kit

                        A Joint Project of the
  Human Resources   Committee  of the Chief Financial Officers Council
     and the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program

                                                                     September 1997

             The CFO Council and the Office of Management and Budget identified
    improvement of Federal financial management systems as the number one priority in their
    jointly published Federal Financial Management Status Report and Five Year Plan.
    Indeed, the degree of success that any Federal agency or department has in achieving its
    financial program goals and objectives hinges on the utility and effectiveness of its
    financial management systems. Ready access to financial data and accurate, timely reports
     are essential for managers to determine the costs of their program services and products in
     an environment increasingly characterized by business-type analysis and evaluation of
     program success or failure. With the full implementation of the Government Performance
     and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993, agencies will be required to report to Congress on their
    progress in achieving the performance goals contained in their strategic plans. These
    reports will be Congress's primary tool in reviewing budget requests and determining
     further funding.

             Agencies will measure progress by evaluating their success or failure in achieving
     program performance indicators that are measurable both qualitatively and quantitatively.
     To do this, each agency will need to develop financial management information systems
     that capture both financial and program specific information that can be reported in an
     understandable, clear and concise way.

            Financial management systems will need to conform to the new accounting
     standards prepared by the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board, approved by the
     CFO Council and mandated by the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act of
     1996 (FFMIA). Implementation of these standards, and especially the cost accounting
     standard, will change the culture of financial management in the Federal Government.
     Rather than the traditional "checkbook" method of providing funding through annual
     budgets that focus on only the budget year, agency program outputs and outcomes will be
     evaluated based on their costs, accumulated and reported consistent with cost accounting
     standards. The marrying of cost and program data, historically captured in various
     information systems, will be the greatest challenge to both financial and information
     technology (IT) personnel.

             To promote cooperation and understanding between these two disciplines, it is
     absolutely essential that IT personnel have a solid knowledge of core financial
     management competencies. The CFO Council and CIO Council agree these disciplines
     must speak the same language in order to develop the kinds of information systems that
     will meet the needs of a new, business-oriented government. Core Competencies in
     Financial Management for Information Technology Personnel in the Federal
     Government defines the key developmental goals and training activities for IT personnel to
     achieve competence in financial management. Successful development and implementation
     of information systems that accurately capture both program and financial data will be the
     catalyst for change to a results oriented government.

     Foreword                                                           i

     Acronyms                                                          iii

     Introduction                                                       1

     Financial Core Competencies for Entry- and Mid-Level
     Information Technology Personnel                                   3

     Financial Core Competencies for Senior Information Technology
     Managers and Supervisors                                           7

     Specialized Knowledge Required for Financial Management Systems   11

     Training                                                          18

CFO        Chief Financial Officer

CFO Act    Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990

CIO        Chief Information Officer

COTR       Contract Officer Technical Representative

FASAB      Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board

FFMIA      Federal Financial Management Improvement Act of 1996

FFMSR      Federal Financial Management System Requirements

FMS        Financial Management Service, Department of the Treasury

GAO        General Accounting Office

GPRA       Government Performance and Results Act of 1993

GSA        General Services Administration

IRM        Information Resource Management

IT         Information Technology

JFMIP      Joint Financial Management Improvement Program

OMB        Office of Management and Budget

SFFAS      Statement of Federal Financial Accounting Standards

USDA       U.S. Department of Agriculture


              A governmentwide training symposium held in 1994 provided the impetus for
      establishing governmentwidecore competencies for all levels of financial management
      personnel. The first effort resulted in the Framework for Core Competencies for
      Financial Management Personnel in the Federal Government published in 1995. The
      CFO Council then suggested that financial management competencies be defined for
      program managers in light of the new requirements placed on them by the GPRA. The
      resultant Core Competencies in Financial Management for Program Managers in the
      Federal Government was published in April 1997. The Council had also recommended
      that financial core competencies be identified for financial system analysts. A CFO sub-
      committee was formed in December 1996 to develop these competencies. After a few
      discussions, the sub-committee concluded that the roles of the financial system analyst and
      the computer system analyst (computer specialist) supporting financial systems were
      blending together. Indeed, neither discipline could continue to operate as it had in the
      past--one dictating functional requirements, the other deciding on technological solutions,
      sometimes almost independently of each other. It became clear that in order to produce
      financial system solutions that work, the financial system analyst needs an in-depth
      knowledge of financial management and a working knowledge of IT, while the IT
      professional must have an in-depth knowledge of IT and a working knowledge of financial
      management. These two disciplines working together is a critical factor for the effective
      design, development, implementation and operation of financial management systems.
      The objective of this document is to set forth recommended core competencies in financial
      management that will foster collaborate work among IT and financial management
      professionals at all levels of experience.

Purpose of this Document

             The financial system analyst takes the lead in gathering functional requirements,
      while the IT professional develops IT solution alternatives for those requirements. The
      two disciplines, working hand-in-hand, can then decide on the best option that satisfies the
      financial user needs. The competencies, learning objectives, and training outlined in this
      document are intended to be used as a reference tool and a general guide to assist both
      financial management and IT personnel in their roles of providing meaningful financial and
      program information to managers throughout the government.

              This document presents the core competencies in financial management for IT
      personnel from entry level through senior level. It includes definitions of the
      competencies, learning objectives, and developmental activities associated with each.
      Most of the experience and knowledge can be obtained on the job, however, classroom
      training may be essential to gain specific knowledge, skills, and abilities. Successful IT
      personnel will most likely achieve competence in financial management through a
      combination of classroom instruction, practical applications, and on the job experience
     relying on financial management personnel in their organizations for expert financial
     guidance and knowledge in the design, development, and implementation of financial
     management systems.

Conclusions and Recommendations

             Following the initial recommendationby the Human Resources Committee for
     development of financial core competencies for the general financial management (500-
     599 classification) series, it was concluded that the financial system analyst (classification
     series 501) and the IT specialist (classification series 334) need to work together as a team
     to analyze, design, develop, implement, and support financial systems. Therefore, Core
     Competencies in Financial Management for Information Technology Personnel in the
     Federal Government was developed. This document will be issued along with Core
     Competencies in Financial Management for Financial System Analysts in the Federal
     Government to provide both disciplines a reference tool for developing the knowledge,
     skills and abilities necessary for support of financial systems.

Financial Core Competencies for Entry- and Mid-Level Information
Technology Personnel

             The following are target levels of competencies for entry- and mid-level IT
     personnel. They are described as knowledge, skills, and abilities; however, possession of a
     level of understanding, knowledge, and skill alone does not accomplish the work.
     Competencies are evidenced by their application and can be developed only through a mix
     of on-the-job experience in structured work assignments and third-party provided training.

           The competencies are clustered into the following groups: Accounting; Financial
     Systems; Legal, Procedural, and Regulatory Framework; Agency/Organization Specific;
     and General Business, Communication, and Leadership.

Accounting Competencies

      Basic accounting concepts and principles

            *      Knowledge of double-entry accounting concepts of debits and credits,
                   including single transaction entry resulting in multiple postings.

            *      Knowledge of the different methods of accounting including accrual,
                   obligation, and cost.

     Federal accounting concepts and principles

            *      Knowledge of the requirements of the Standard General Ledger (SGL).
                   Understanding of the structure of general ledger accounts required of all

            *      Understanding of the structural relationship between the budgetary and
                   proprietary SGL accounts.

            *      Understanding of how financial transactions affect SGL accounts.

            *      Knowledge of Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB)
                   financial accounting concepts and standards.

     Accounting internal controls and automated data processing controls

            *      Knowledge of the techniques used to assure that financial transactions and
                   files are fully processed (e.g., hash dollar and item counts). Mid-level IT
                   personnel should have a thorough understanding of such techniques.

            *      Knowledge of financial systems control reports and files that are used to
                   check the data integrity within the process. Mid-level IT personnel should
                   have a thorough understanding of these reports and files.

            *      At the mid-level, thorough understanding of the types of functional and
                   technical security controls used to limit access to financial computer files,
                   tables, and data. This includes controls for purposes of separating
                   functions so that an individual does not have sole control and oversight of
                   the security of financial data.

Financial Systems Competencies

      Financial systems' functionalities

             *      Working knowledge of the overall functionality of the financial system(s)
                    and the individual specific supports and interface(s) with other systems.

             *      At the mid-level, thorough knowledge of the organization's various
                    financial systems' functionalities. Comprehension of how a change in one
                    system affects other systems and how all the interfaces between systems

      Financial requirements and IT solutions

      At the Mid-level

             *      Ability to identify and analyze software tools that facilitate the processing
                    or retrieval of financial data.

             *      Ability to identify and communicate technological solution alternatives,
                    including costs and time frames, to financial managers and program
                    managers for mutual decision-making.

Legal, Procedural, and Regulatory Competencies

             *      Knowledge of legislative and regulatory requirements applicable to the
                    organization's financial systems and practices.

                    Acquire a general understanding of, and stay current with, relevant law and
                    regulation such as the requirements of OMB Circular A- 127, GPRA, the
                    CFO Act and their effects within the Agency.

                    Acquire a general understanding of JFMIP guidance contained in JFMIP
                    Frameworkfor Federal Financial Systems and JFMIP Federal Financial
                    System Requirements.

      At the Mid-level

                    A general understanding of how the agency formulates its budget and the
                    Congressional and OMB appropriation process.

                    Understanding of sources of funding and the appropriation process
                    including associated terminology such as authorizations, apportionments,
                    allotments, commitments, obligations, and expenditures.

Agency/Organization Specific Competencies

      Mission and Strategic Plan

             *      Become acquainted with the agency/organization's structure, mission,
                    function, and major components and the requirements of the agency's
                    strategic plan.

      Organization's business practices

             *      Acquire working knowledge of the organization's business practices as
                    they relate to the financial system(s) the individual supports.

             *      At the mid-level, a thorough knowledge of business practices related to the
                    financial system's operations required to effectively work with financial and
                    program staffs in importing and/or reengineering financial management

General Business, Communication, and Leadership Competencies

      At the Mid-level

             *      Ability to apply knowledge of business process re-engineering and analysis
                    for efficient operations.

             *      Ability to communicate with financial and program staffs and other end
                    users for the purpose of determining financial management needs.

             *      Understanding of team building approaches and skills and ability to apply
                    them in teams made up of different functional disciplines.
Financial Core Competencies for Senior IT Managers and
            The IT professional is now at the level of managing projects from conception to
    implementation and is most often responsible for the management and supervision of an
    organization devoted to financial management systems acquisition, implementation, and
    operation. Typically, the IT manager is heavily involved with such activities as
    procurement and Contracting Officer Technical Representative (COTR) functions,
    resource management, budget allocation, planning, systems architecture and integration.
    At this level, skills in leadership, management and communication are essential for
    success. Further competence in the following areas of financial management is necessary.

Financial SystemsCompetencies

            *      Knowledge of organization's financial systems, including legislative,
                   administrative and regulatory requirements, in order to manage the
                   integration of these systems within the organization's environment

            *      Knowledge of government-wide standards for the exchange of financial

            *      Ability to identify and interpret planning requirements resulting from
                   legislation and oversight agencies' directives.

            *     Ability to define roles and responsibilities of oversight and partnering
                  organizations within and outside the bureau/agency (such as Treasury,
                  GAO, GSA and OMB for external oversight and the CIO/CFO within the
                  Department and agency) as necessary to carry out new requirements.

            *     A general understanding of JFMIP Framework for Federal Financial
                  Systems and JFMIP Federal Financial System Requirements.

Agency, Budgeting and Resource Management Competencies

            *      Obtain thorough understanding of the concepts of strategic planning.

            *      Identify organizational priorities and relate them to resource and budget

            *      Participate in the development of the organization's Strategic Plan.

            *      Plan, manage resources, and budget for financial systems development and
                   implementation. Evaluate costs and allocate resources necessary to
                   develop/implement financial software solutions.

            *      Demonstrate the capacity to develop and monitor plans on a general basis
                   for the development/implementationof financial software solutions.

IT Solutions Competencies

            *      Evaluate proposed IT solutions and communicate technological solution
                   alternatives including costs and time frames, to financial managers and
                   program managers for mutual decision making. Identify efficient IRM
                   solutions for organizational manual processes, functional needs, or problem

            *     Stay abreast of current technologies and how they can assist with financial
                  systems technological solutions.

            *     Understand the inner technological workings of the financial systems
                  including design, security, change management, backup and recovery
                  procedures, and updated documentation procedures.

            *     Relate potential impacts of technological solutions on the organization in
                  terms of efficiencies introduced, manual processes eliminated, and cost and
                  resource savings.

            *     Build effective collaboration among IT personnel, financial system analysts,
                  financial managers, and program managers when discussing technological

            *     Evaluate financial software vs. organizational needs. Understand methods
                  for evaluation of financial software.

            *     Understand the procurement process for purchasing financial software.

            *     Demonstrate capability to establish a working relationship with providers
                  of financial software.

            *     Understand the concepts and techniques of cross-servicing, outsourcing
                  and franchising as they relate to the organization's needs and support for
                  financial systems.

Financial Systems Oversight and Management Controls Competencies

            *     Ability to work with financial auditors and financial systems analysts to
                  audit automated financial systems, respond to findings, and apply
                  improvements to these systems.

            *     Identify financial system improvements through the auditing process and
                  apply technological solutions to strengthen the system.

            *     Apply the concepts of business process re-engineering to the entire
                  financial operation to conform as much as possible to the capabilities of the
                  financial software package selected for implementation.

Acquisition and Contract Management Competencies

            *     Understand IT contract management models and methods, including past
                  performance evaluation.

Learn IT acquisition best practices.

Describe alternative acquisition models, (e.g., franchising, contracting out,

Demonstrate the capacity to act as COTR of IT contracts, including
budgeting, monitoring of performance, verification and payment of
invoices, allocation of funding, and resolution of issues.

Specialized Knowledge Required for Financial Management
            In certain instances, such as analysis, design, and development of financial
    management systems, the IT professional will be required to develop specialized
    knowledge related to the unique requirements of the particular system. The matrix that
    follows identifies various financial systems common throughout the government and lists
    the specialized knowledge required for those persons engaged in the development of those
    systems. It highlights the basic financial knowledge that IT personnel should acquire in
    order to perform their duties effectively.

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           There are numerous courses available within each agency, from established
   educational institutions, and from professional education vendors for the competencies
   described in this document. Classroom instruction is very important in order to acquire
   understanding of principles, processes, and techniques. This knowledge must be
   reinforced by practical applications leading toward achievement of these competencies.
   Information technology professionals will also benefit from management training in
   leadership, quality management, team management and oral and written communications.
   These skills will facilitate application of both IT and financial management competencies.

           The Internet is an excellent resource for finding specialized training courses and
   seminars offered by both private and public sector organizations. FinanceNet maintains a
   current list of training and development courses and providers which can be accessed at
   the URL provided below.



          U.S. General Accounting Office
Joint Financial Management Improvement Program        Bulk Rate
                   Room 3111                               Fees Paid
                 441 G Street NW                 Postage & Fees Paid
           Washington, DC 20548-0001                    GAO
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