Serving Up Data

By Robert J. Scanlon  |  Posted 2009-01-26 Print this article Print

The Transportation Security Administration’s business intelligence system provides a powerful application to capture, manage and analyze large volumes of data across multiple databases for thousands of users.

Serving Up Data

The new BI system offers a variety of useful ways to view and understand our data. We have customized dashboards and reports for different users, including top executives, power users and frontline security personnel. Our power-user community consists of several hundred TSA managers, team leads and analysts who measure, track and analyze trends on security procedures, risk assessments, impact analysis, payroll and other operational metrics. These users follow trends and identify security concerns across the nation’s transportation system.

Our users can choose unique formatting options, including graphing, exporting to Microsoft Excel and converting to Adobe PDF file formats. They also can run key reports, such as prohibited-item breakdowns, which can be printed or saved without intermediate steps. In addition, federal security directors can run HR reports to help them make decisions on payroll, overtime, staffing and diversity in recruiting. Users can analyze airport profiles (hub analysis) and determine an airport’s performance level. Benchmarking comparisons between airports is another key capability for field users.

Staff members rely on PIMS to help them make decisions on airport configurations. In one case, TSA officials at a major airport realized they had a problem with excessive wait times at checkpoints. After running a report, airport officials determined that they did not have to enlarge the security checkpoint by adding a costly new wing. Instead, the analysis revealed that they could reduce wait times simply by opening the security checkpoint 30 minutes earlier.

The implementation of PIMS has led to a cultural shift in how our users perform their daily job requirements. They quickly found PIMS to be an improvement over the inflexible, time-consuming static reports we had previously used.

Our power users have ownership over reporting needs for the entire user community. A distributed development environment enables power users to change report layouts and formats without assistance from IT developers. This greatly reduces the time it takes us to deploy new reports to the field. For users in the field who do not have laptops, we deployed wireless handheld devices at each airport checkpoint.

Since its creation, the TSA’s Operational Process & Performance Metrics (OPPM) Group has gauged success by tracking usage metrics, such as monitoring application uptime versus downtime. However, since the implementation of PIMS, these metrics for measuring success have evolved to include system stability, user satisfaction, system availability, help-desk resolution (issues resolved in less than 24 hours) and user-base expansion. We run more than a million reports per year across a user base of 12,000 employees, and PIMS tracks more than 1,000 metrics.

Using PIMS has also given federal security directors and their staffs new insights into their screening processes and has helped them improve performance across a broad spectrum of metrics. We plan to implement Lean Six Sigma in fiscal 2009 to provide a more robust, disciplined way to continue improving performance.

Robert J. Scanlon is a freelance writer for Baseline magazine.

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