USPS Delivers Poor Data Governance

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May 2, 2013 – The United States Postal Service has struggled through modernization and declining revenue in public for years, but behind the scenes has been dealing with numerous data governance issues that require a full overhaul of its organization-wide data program, according to a new federal audit.

A new report from the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General encapsulated the national postal carrier’s data efficiency and utilization practices from 2009 to 2012, through an OIG first-hand audit last year and a review of other audits done in the prior years. The USPS has one of the largest IT infrastructures in the world, according to the OIG, with nearly 800 applications and its subsequent data which is stored in numerous repositories and shared across the U.S. mail provider.

The audit found 148 issues related to inconsistencies in its data warehouse, and unreliable or inaccurate data that traced back to the absence of governance policies or the lack of thorough policy enforcement. For instance, the assignment of data stewards in the initial USPS governance policy from 2003 was never fully followed through on, resulting in spotty or missing governance across departments. Misaligned budget data from the USPS CIO, extracted from its data warehouse, resulted in inaccuracies with spending data related to $14.9 million of its more than $1 billion in expenditures to date this year. In other emerging tech areas, the audit found that the USPS did not develop a framework to use GPS data, or assess a strategy for cloud deployments, which could bring $2.6 million in annual savings.

“Although the Postal Service defined a structure for a data governance program in 2003, full roles and responsibilities were not uniformly adopted across the enterprise. Also, limitations in the Postal Service’s data governance program placed the Postal Service at risk to potential vulnerabilities that could affect data quality, availability, and integrity and result in inefficient operations, disruptions of service, and fraud,” according to the audit report.

The report finished with nearly three-dozen recommendations of best practices that could clean up the USPS’s governance practices and policies, including a two-year framework for data quality and a complete governance program overhaul. In response to the recommendations, USPS CIO and EVP Ellis Burgoyne agreed with the audit recommendation of new governance practices. To that end, Burgoyne stated that USPS management had begun a process of formulating a high-level governance model, identifying departmental data stewards and selecting work flow processes. The target date for the initial stages of this governance overhaul are set for Sept. 30, 2013.

In its previously outlined plans for organizational change, entitled “Vision 2013,” the USPS recognized the need to upgrade its data practices and infrastructure. Overall financial woes at the USPS have been no secret over the last decade, and the audit isolated the proper management of data as a competitive necessity as the USPS faces massive business threats from a struggling economy and the digital nature of business and communications.

Click here to access the full, 32-page report PDF.

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