The FBI’s Digital Journey

Keynote panel of C-level executives at PegaWorld 2014. FBI CFO Richard Haley (2nd from right).

Criminals (and auditors) beware: the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is transforming itself to be even more effective in the field — and cost-effective at home.

“We’re a 106 year old organization,” said FBI Chief Financial Officer Richard Haley. “An organization that’s gone through a transformation in the last 14 years as our mission has moved away from from one that is reactive and paper-based.”

Today, the FBI is looking to use data to power all operations, thereby extending the reach of the organization beyond its iconic steel desks, file cabinets and telephones.

Haley was speaking on a PegaWorld panel of C-suite executives across industries – healthcare, financial, and public – to discuss the possibility of using digital innovation to foster change in enterprise organizations. In fact, this is the broader theme of PegaWorld, a four-day digital enterprise extravaganza focused on customer service, simplification of operations and the automation of key internal and external processes.

Monday, June 10th was government day, and the panels featured very compelling case studies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Education, the state of Maine – and the FBI.

The FBI’s Digital Journey

For many organizations looking to go digital, the ability to improve customer service and service delivery is a huge factor. This is the same motivation for a private telecommunications company as it is for a public regulatory agency.

The FBI has a unique perspective on this topic, since its customers are slightly less traditional. For one, the FBI has thousands of field agents and tens of thousands of partner law enforcement agencies that need the support of central operations for information and situational awareness. The idea that they’d have to wait for paper files and manual workflows means that they are that much slower than the criminal and terrorist threats they face.

“If somebody gets pulled over, and [the officer] approaching that person doesn’t have data, what could happen if they let them go? Or worse yet, if something happens at that site?” asked Haley.

Secondly, the FBI acts as a clearinghouse for the interstate movement of data, such as fingerprints and gun license checks. The ability to move quickly to respond to a potential criminal act is vital to being an agile crime-fighting organization.

“If somebody commits a crime in the Northwest, fingerprints can be readily available to an officer in the Southeast,” explained Haley. “Our systems can now move millions and millions of files around.” Conversely, a faulty background check can prevent a law-abiding citizen from purchasing a firearm – which goes back to the customer service piece.

But the FBI’s digital transformation didn’t stop at mission-focused service areas. They also transformed their support services as well.

“We’ve just recently replaced a 30-year COBOL financial system,” said Haley. “It’s important because if we’re moving those agents towards that tip-of-the-spear capability, that we’re also able to do that on the backside operations as well.” This saves time and resources, which can be then redirected back to the mission.

The Motivation

But customer service and response times weren’t the only motivators behind this transformation – the budget landscape was also a factor. “Early on, we were building a lot of hardware and software that weren’t really getting us to those service goals,” said Haley. “Now, with the resources drying up, and with everything going on in the federal government around sequestration, we’ve seen our funding drop off. So we have to be much more strategic, prioritize, and listen to our customers – the men and women out in the field actually using our applications.”

Haley acknowledged that the stakes are higher, even as the demands are greater. “The guard rails have narrowed in so there aren’t many chances to make mistakes,” said Haley. “We can’t build a system that nobody is going to use or invest in products that aren’t going to get us to the end result, which is ultimately protecting the American people and making the country safer.”

For more information about the technological tools the FBI used to power their digital transformation, you can visit Pega’s public sector page. For more information about PegaWorld 2014, visit the event website.

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