Applying Data Analytics to Federal Student Aid’s Next Gen and SABER Programs

Guidehouse and Summit Consulting discuss applying data analytics to Federal Student Aid's Next Gen and SABER Programs - Complexity Simplified Podcast episode 3.

By Jay Hurt

In a previous episode of Complexity Simplified, Summit Consulting director Samuel Dugger and Guidehouse partner Jay Hurt discussed Federal Student Aid's (FSA) Next Gen and SABER program & project management planning. The final episode delves into the application of data analytics and complex funding analysis to FSA's Next Generation Financial Services Environment (Next Gen) and Student Aid and Borrower Eligibility Reform (SABER) programs.

Guidehouse and Summit Consulting ran sophisticated analytics on both programs, such as schedule analytics to identify errors before they become schedule problems and requirements tool analytics to calculate Agile Scrum story throughput and ensure the appropriate pace of implementing requirements.

Regarding the schedule analytics, Hurt says, “Our team runs tests on the quality of the schedule file and determines if it meets industry thresholds. […] This ensures a dynamic scheduling file that enables management to decide between possible decisions and predict the consequences of those decisions.” The team follows guidance in the GAO Schedule Assessment guide and the DCMA 14-point schedule assessment. 

The Summit and Guidehouse team also examined the FAFSA Processing System, which ran on a very tight schedule. The team worked with FSA staff to define key performance indicators, or KPIs, to monitor vendor performance, including end-of-sprint metrics, to be part of a weekly status report. Using these tools enabled the team to do a robust analysis of progress on multiple levels, where it discovered that a vendor was behind schedule. The team also found that the development road map created by the vendor was vastly underestimating the amount of effort actually required to deliver the features. When combined, the final analysis revealed a large amount of schedule risk.

Dugger notes, “This detailed analysis helped us send an early signal to FSA that the project was so far behind schedule that on-time delivery was unlikely, even after the development completion date overall was postponed. FSA leadership agreed to our recommendation to begin a contingency planning process, which cut scope for the initial release, reprioritized outstanding tasks, and engaged the U.S. Digital Service. These combined interventions helped get the project onto a more realistic development and deployment schedule and enabled the project to succeed based on the altered scope.”




"Our team helped to forecast the collection costs, isolate those different sets of costs into separate contract line item numbers, and demonstrate controls to ensure that the funding streams could not be accidentally used for the wrong activity. It was a very sophisticated forecasting model, combined with regulatory analysis providing the authority for the use of mandatory funding that helped FSA move forward with their re-engineered processes."            

—Jay Hurt, Partner, Financial Services

Disclaimer: This podcast and related materials do not constitute an endorsement of Guidehouse Inc. or any other non-federal entity. The opinions, anecdotes, and any other comments made by the presenter or interviewee do not represent any position of the United States Government, the FSA, or other components of the United States Government whether official or unofficial. Any opinions, anecdotes, and any other comments made by the presenter or interviewee are their own and are made in their personal capacity alone.

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