Q. 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
Q. 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.
Q. 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 it that these definitions
can be refined 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/training/abc
under “ABC Steering Committee – Membership/POC”.
Q. 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 effectively.
Q. What is the Department going to do with this information
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.
Q. 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 website. 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 website 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/training/abc
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. It does
not track individuals on how much time you spend doing work to keep track
of what you do.
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 did.
Q. 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 competitive review.
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
Q. 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
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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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 activities.
Q. 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 you are paid for
(i.e. are not being paid overtime pay), or for which you do not receive
compensatory time off, 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
The Department is looking into identifying ways of capturing the level
of effort spent accomplishing work that will be outside of ABC implementation.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.