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Office of Budget, Planning, and Integration
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why are we doing ABC in the first place?
The Department has a sustained need for cost management information to help
our employees and the public that we serve understand what it takes to
deliver quality products and services - for example, what it takes to keep
our National Parks and Refuges open, the cost of producing topographical
maps or making earthquake predictions, to deliver good quality water, to
process land use permits, or to deliver services to Alaska, Native American,
and Insular Area communities.
ABC will help us explain how we serve the public and what they get in return
for the money they invest, as taxpayers, in us to provide them with the high
quality products and services that they have grown accustomed to receiving.
- I've worked for Interior for over 20 years now. I can recall doing ABC
in the mid-80's. This didn't last for very long - too cumbersome to
maintain. What makes this effort that the Dept's about to launch any
different from what we did back in the 80's?
The Dept is committed to identifying the cost of delivering its products and
services to its customers. The need for accurate cost management information
will never go away. Building from past experience, we are using an approach
that will generate necessary information while avoiding cumbersome paperwork
There are over 300 Departmental work activities. Most of you will only have
to code your work against about 5 or 6 of these work activities. We are
working to train your supervisors/managers to help you to code your work.
And, we have worked this implementation so that coding your work shouldn't
take any more time than it currently takes you.
- OK, so the Dept has developed activities that supposedly describe what
I do. I wasn't asked about what I do. Who developed these activities? And if
I don't think these activities describe what I do accurately, who do I go
to, to get them changed?
Three weeklong workshops were held in Aug '02, Feb '03 and Mar '03 to
identify and define activities. Field and headquarters level practitioners
and program managers participated in these workshops. The activity
definitions developed during these workshops were then sent out to the
bureaus for coordination and comments.
The activity definitions represent the Department's best attempt to
accurately define the Department's work. The good news is that these
definitions can be redefined and changed as we see if they provide the
information we need. Suggestions for changes to the activity definitions
should be forwarded to your Bureau ABC Steering Committee member. Bureau ABC
Steering Committee members are listed on the Department's ABC Website at http://www.doi.gov/ppp/abc.html
under "ABC Steering Committee - Membership/POC".
- I hear the Dept talking about how ABC will benefit the Dept. What's in
it for me? How will this help me do my job?
If you have ever wondered why you are asked to perform tasks that don't seem
to contribute to an end outcome that has meaning, or why your organization
seems to run out of money toward the end of the fiscal year, ABC can help to
identify what your work efforts are really contributing to, and what it
really costs to provide products and services. ABC can help you make the
argument to get adequate resources - people and money - to do your job more
- What is the Department going to do with this information they're
The ABC information will help your Bureau and the Department make resource
ABC will help us understand how much we are actually spending to get the
results we're seeing. It will allow us to understand the major drivers
behind spending in a given program, to identify what are the most efficient
(and inefficient) elements of a program's operation and, from this
information, to decide how we can get the best results for our efforts.
- I don't know anything about "coding" my time against work
activities? Who's going to train me? How much time is it going to take out
of my job to do this? Is management asking us to code our time so they can
keep track of what we do and use this information against us? What
difference does it make whether I code my time, or my timekeeper or
supervisor does this for me?
The Bureaus and Departmental Offices have developed training modules that
will help you understand the purpose of ABC and how to code your time
against work activities. These modules will be available on a CD or, in some
cases, be available for downloading from either your Bureau's or
Department's Web site. The modules allow you to be trained at your own pace
- also to skip over the modules that address topics that you may already
know about. Your Bureau or Departmental Office has developed a training plan
for how the CD and/or Web site will be used. Consult your Bureau or
Department ABC Steering Committee member for further information. Each
Bureau's ABC Steering Committee members are listed on the Department's ABC
Website at http://www.doi.gov/ppp/abc.html under "ABC Steering Committee - Membership/POC".
The Department's standard is for coding time against work activities to not
take more than 5 minutes of your workday.
The Department is interested in seeing how much it costs for you and others
who do similar tasks, to do your work. The ABC process looks at unit costs
by organization, field, region, state, or national level. It does not track
You should code your time against work activities because you are in the
best position to accurately record what work you accomplished - you (and not
your timekeeper or supervisor) performed the work activity and know what you
- OK, so you're looking at how much it costs to do work. What will happen
to those high cost work activities? Are they subject to being studied for
contracting-out? Is one of the reasons why the Department is interested in
doing ABC to determine what it should contract-out?
The high-cost work activities would be analyzed to determine how these work
activities could be reengineered to cost less to perform. Our goal is to be
as efficient as we can be.
The process for selecting activities to review under OMB Circular A-76
competitive sourcing guidelines depends on a number of things. Each Bureau
is required by Congress to inventory work activities to designate them as
either "inherently governmental" or as potentially
"commercial" in nature. In the competitive review process, each
bureau selects some of the activities inventoried as potentially commercial
for study using the OMB Circular A-76 guidelines. Overall, the Department's
bureaus have identified about 33 percent of work activities as potentially
commercial in nature. Of this, a small percentage, approximately 4 percent
of the Department's total workforce activities, are being reviewed in the
competitive sourcing initiative. The review does not necessarily result in
outsourcing; often, it results in management improvements or other changes
to improve effectiveness and efficiency. Just because a work activity costs
a lot to perform doesn't mean it is automatically a candidate for
The Department is not implementing ABC to determine what tasks, if any,
should be contracted. The Department is implementing ABC to better
understand how the Department is spending money and the results derived from
spending that money.
- Who's in charge of ABC in my bureau? Is he/she the one I go to for
answers to my questions?
Your Bureau/Departmental Office ABC Program Coordinators are part of the ABC
Steering Committee. ABC Steering Committee members (including your ABC
Program Coordinators) are listed on the Dept's ABC Website at http://www.doi.gov/ppp/abc.html
under "ABC Steering Committee - Membership/POC". You should
consult your Bureau/Departmental Office ABC Program Coordinator and/or
Steering Committee member for answers to your questions. Your supervisor may
also be able to answer your questions.
- OK, so you're training me on how to code my time. Is my supervisor
going to be able to help me figure out how to code my time?
Yes, we will work with your supervisors and managers so that they will know
how to help you figure out how to code your time against work activities.
- I work in the field. I don't have access to a computer. How do you
expect me to be coding my time? Are you developing a new timesheet or
something for me to use that won't require me to use a computer?
Your Bureau or Departmental Office is developing specific guidance on how
you will code your time against work activities. In some cases, you will use
an automated time and attendance system to record your time; in other cases,
your Bureau may give you a new timesheet to record your time and code your
work. Consult with your Bureau or Departmental Office ABC Steering Committee
member for guidance on how your Bureau will be coding time against work
- What about all the time I put in on my job that I don't get paid for -
either through overtime pay or compensatory time off. Does that get recorded
in ABC too?
ABC records all paid (salaried or approved compensatory time) time on work
activities. If you spend more time on the job than for which you are
compensated, you should talk to your supervisor about getting approved
overtime or compensatory time for your efforts, in accordance with
Departmental regulations on requesting/approving overtime/compensatory time.
The Department is looking into identifying ways of capturing the level of
effort spent accomplishing work that will be outside of ABC implementation.
- What do you do with leave?
You code your timesheets with leave taken; you also code your leave to the
work activities you normally work in. Consult with your Bureau/Departmental
Office ABC Steering Committee member for specifics on how to code leave.
- What other agencies besides Interior are doing ABC?
Many Federal government agencies-- and many state and local government
agencies-- have implemented ABC across entire departments, or within certain
organizations in departments. The Environmental Protection Agency, Patent
and Trademark Agency, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, to name a few
Federal agencies, have implemented ABC.
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