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SBA Open Government Plan

2010 - 2012
Version 1.0
April 2010

Executive Summary

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) acts as a guarantor of small business loans and provides management and technical assistance and contracting opportunities to small businesses. The Agency also provides disaster assistance through direct loans in communities that have undergone catastrophes with the intention of rebuilding the devastated economy and community simultaneously.

Through the strategic focus areas and objectives that have been set, SBA is working to address the most critical needs of the small business community and serve as the voice of small business. The agency realizes that it cannot construct effective plans to meet the needs of its customers without the benefit of input from those we support. By adopting the following Open Government themes, we will successfully further our mission in a manner that involves and values public involvement.

  • Transparency: SBA will work to make data and other information about agency programs and activities available to customers and stakeholders. Greater transparency will help us achieve greater accountability, accessibility and responsiveness.

  • Participation: SBA will strive to increase participation by using new tools and strategies to encourage input and feedback from the public. Public engagement will enhance SBA’s effectiveness and improve the quality of decisions made by its employees.

  • Collaboration: SBA will improve collaboration with all partners. In doing so, we will better engage interested parties, including small businesses, in the work of their Government.

With direction from SBA’s senior leaders, a cross-functional team created this Open Government Plan, which serves as our roadmap forward and creates a framework for aligning Open Government concepts with programmatic activities.

SBA’s Open Government Plan summarizes many things that our agency has already accomplished in support of transparency, participation, and collaboration. More importantly, it identifies specific actions we will take to create and institutionalize a culture of Open Government and reflect those principles in the core mission of our agency. Our plan describes many projects; however, our most important effort, referred to as our Flagship Initiative, involves the complete redesign of our web presence – SBA.gov. This redesign is already underway and will accelerate our ability to offer the public we serve more interactive and relevant information and services so we benefit from their thoughts and opinions in many areas.

Our Open Government Plan is a starting point for our agency and will be updated regularly. We welcome feedback on this plan at opengov@sba.gov. Progress on the implementation of activities described in the plan will be available on our website at www.sba.gov/open.

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Introduction

SBA’s Mission, Strategic Focus Areas and High Priority Objectives

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) helps Americans grow businesses and create jobs by providing resources and tools, including access to capital; opportunities in Federal contracting; access to entrepreneurial education; and disaster assistance for businesses, homeowners, and renters.

SBA’s efforts to assist entrepreneurs and small business owners are especially critical during these difficult times for the U.S. economy. Throughout America’s history, small businesses have played a leading role as the driver of economic growth and job creation. In fact, more than half of working Americans either own or are employed by a small business. Also, over about the last decade, small businesses created nearly 65 percent of net new private sector jobs.

Senior leadership provides solid guidance to the various programs within the agency. To fulfill our mission, resources are aligned to support efforts in the following key strategic focus areas:

  1. Growing businesses and creating jobs

    1. Expand access to capital through SBA’s extensive lending network and a portfolio of more than $90 billion in outstanding SBA loans and guaranties.

    2. Ensure Federal contracting goals are met and/or exceeded by collaborating across the Federal Government to both expand opportunities for small businesses, as well as strengthen the integrity of the Federal contracting certification process and data.

    3. Strengthen the effectiveness of SBA’s entrepreneurial education, counseling and training resources by successfully focusing on “the basics” and ensuring these resources are aligned with the needs of both Main Street and High Growth Small Businesses.

    4. Ensure that SBA’s disaster assistance resources for businesses, homeowners, and renters can be deployed quickly, effectively and efficiently.

    5. Strengthen SBA relevance to high growth potential entrepreneurs and small businesses to more effectively drive innovation and job creation through the agency’s existing programs and new initiatives.

  2. Building an SBA that meets needs of today’s small businesses

    1. Strengthen SBA’s core programs to ensure that they are high performing, effective, and relevant to the needs of the small business community.

    2. Investing in the SBA’s people through training and new technologies.

    3. Manage risk to taxpayers and improve oversight across SBA programs.

  3. Serving as the voice for small business

    1. Serve as a leader in interagency collaborations to strengthen the Federal Government’s ability to deliver programs, resources and services to small businesses and foster a small business-friendly environment.

    2. Strengthen outreach to underserved communities, including two of the fast-growing sectors of the small business community — minorities and women — and veterans.

    3. Advocate for both Main Street and high-growth, high-impact small businesses.

The SBA has identified four performance goals which reflect high priorities of SBA leadership, and the Administration, and are critical to success in the strategic focus areas highlighted above. These goals reflect the breadth and depth of SBA’s commitment both to taxpayers and to the small business community. By actively pursuing these goals, SBA will strengthen its national contributions to entrepreneurship, innovation, and competitiveness.

  1. Expand access to capital by increasing the number of active SBA lending partners for the 7(a) loan program to 3,000 by September 30, 2011, a 15 percent increase over the FY 2008 and FY 2009 average. The SBA will increase its outreach to lending partners so that small business owners will have more access points to capital. This initiative will be led by the Office of Capital Access which manages SBA lending programs through product development, oversight and processing. The primary “on the ground” contacts for these lenders are SBA staff in the Office of Field Operations’ district offices that provide outreach and lender training.

  2. Increase small business participation in Federal Government contracting to meet the statutory goals and reduce participation by ineligible firms. Congress has mandated that small businesses should receive at least 23 percent of Federal Government prime contracts and has set separate goals for other subsets of the small business community. SBA’s Office of Government Contracting and Business Development will play the lead coordinating role in helping Federal agencies reach their specific goals. The Office of Field Operations will also help promote contracting opportunities to small business owners through marketing and outreach efforts.

  3. Process 85 percent of home disaster loan applications within 14 days and 85 percent of business disaster loan applications within 18 days. SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance will lead the Agency in overseeing the success of this goal. The Office of Field Operations’ network of providers and partners will help as needed when disaster strikes a particular SBA region or district.

  4. Improve the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.The SBIR program can support research and development activities that meet Federal agency needs and also drive innovation in the general marketplace to increase America’s global competitiveness. The SBA will build on the success of this program by: (1) deploying an improved data collection and reporting system and continue implementing performance metrics; (2) implementing more systematic monitoring for fraud waste and abuse, and; (3) improving commercialization from existing program awards.

SBA’s Commitment to Open Government

On his first full day in office, President Obama set a theme for his Administration by issuing a Presidential Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government to establish a culture of transparency within the Federal Government and increase citizen participation and collaboration.

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.
- Barack Obama 1

SBA fully supports the spirit and intent of the Open Government Initiative and is working to integrate the principles of openness and transparency into its activities. The agency recognizes the opportunity these changes will bring to deliver better service to the small business community. Our efforts moving forward in this area will be guided by several themes that will directly benefit SBA customers.

Principle

SBA Open Government Theme

Government should be transparent

SBA will work to make data and other information about agency programs and activities available to customers and stakeholders. Greater transparency will help us achieve greater accountability, accessibility and responsiveness.

Government should be participatory

SBA will strive to increase participation by using new tools and strategies to encourage input and feedback from the public. Public engagement will enhance SBA's effectiveness and improve the quality of decisions made by its employees.

Government should be collaborative

SBA will improve collaboration with all partners. In doing so, we will better engage interested parties, including small businesses, in the work of their Government.

Purpose of the Open Government Plan

SBA’s Open Government Plan serves as a roadmap outlining specific future steps in each area – transparency, participation, and collaboration. The plan is a living document that serves as a foundation from which further planning can occur. It also describes the public benefit of our plan and how the public can give us feedback and continue to engage with us. Finally, it is constructed in a manner that allows us to monitor our results so we can ensure alignment with our core mission and the high priority objectives.

SBA Leadership and Governance Structure

The Chief Operating Officer serves as SBA’s senior official with responsibility for implementing the guidance of the Open Government Directive. Similarly, the Chief Financial Officer is designated as the senior official accountable for ensuring data quality of SBA’s Federal spending information.

In December 2009, the Chief Operating Officer directed that a cross-functional working group be established to oversee implementation of short-term milestones specified by the directive as well as formulate a plan to guide longer-term actions. The composition of the working group reflects the multiple disciplines necessary to properly incorporate Open Government principles. The working group representatives interface regularly with senior policy, legal, and technology leadership and share insights from those individuals with other working group members during weekly meetings. The figures below depict the composition and responsibilities of our working group.

The Open Government Working Group contains representatives from the Office of General Counsel, Office of Cumminications and Public Liaison, Office of the Chief Information Officer, Office of Performance Management, and Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts Office. The Group's Executive Sponsor is the SBA Chief Operating Officer.

Office

Primary Responsibility

Chief Operating Officer

Executive sponsor

Communications and Public Liaison

Open Government lead, Citizen Engagement tool, Web Content Management (SBA.gov/open)

Chief Information Officer

Data.gov oversight, information security and architecture

General Counsel

Legal and privacy review

Performance Management

Program-specific data

FOI/PA Office

FOIA Report

Citizen Engagement and Plan Development

As the working group began constructing SBA’s Open Government Plan, the team launched a dedicated web page (www.sba.gov/open) to provide an overview of the Federal Open Government Initiative and provide a central resource for the public to find information. From the Open Government web page, a citizen engagement tool – OpenSBA - was available to encourage feedback from the public on what should be included in our Open Government Plan. From February 6 - March 19, 2010, members of the public were invited concerned citizens to submit ideas to SBA’s Open Government Team to guide the content development of the plan.

To promote OpenSBA to the public, SBA utilized several communication avenues including a blog post on Business.gov, posting multiple announcements and reminders through social media tools, as well as sending an email blast to the 50k+ subscribers of the Business.gov Weekly Update. SBA also actively promoted the engagement by placing a prominent link on SBA.gov, as well as emailing an invitation to over 100 industry group representatives. Internal stakeholders where encouraged to participate in a special message sent to all SBA employees.

At weekly meetings, the Open Government working group was briefed on ideas submitted to-date and every idea was discussed. During the engagement, SBA received 32 ideas and 37 comments, with 175 votes. Ideas came from 26 authors.

The public’s ability to comment via the OpenSBA citizen engagement tool ended on March 19, 2010; however, continued feedback is welcomed by the public through the opengov@sba.gov. SBA will post comments to the www.sba.gov/open page on an ongoing basis.

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Open Government Roadmap

SBA’s Flagship Initiative – Web Redesign Project

The agency is taking aggressive steps in 2010 to create an exceptional Internet destination for its users. SBA plans to improve its primary SBA.gov website to make it more user-centric and focused on the needs of small businesses. The new website will merge key elements of current SBA resources, in particular SBA.gov and Business.gov websites. The SBA desires that the new site incorporate innovative and meaningful online tools and features that more effectively deliver information and services, and enable businesses to gain necessary access to the tools they need to drive economic recovery and to create and retain jobs.

This Flagship Initiative will address all three of the Open Government themes in the following ways:

Transparency: The site will include an improved information architecture, an advanced search function, an ad hoc reporting tool, and a dashboard feature that provides direct access to data sets, reports, and content on agency programs and operations. Moreover, these improvements will enable users to quickly and easily get access to the most relevant information and provide a targeted, personalized user experience.

In addition, tools such as a contracting opportunities locator and geospatial mapping tool tied to agency resource partners and lenders will foster virtual online transactions that will help small businesses start, grow and succeed.

Participation: The site will feature “SBA Direct” which will allow users to customize their online experience and quickly access content that is relevant to them. When users provide business, geographic and demographic information, SBA Direct will display content and services directly related to their individual needs.

In addition, the new SBA.gov will include interactive SBA web chats on the topics that small businesses want most to discuss and incorporate page tools to allow the public to rate content and provide feedback to the agency for continual review and improvement.

Collaboration: The site will include Web 2.0 tools, such as community discussions forums, that will encourage networking, facilitate knowledge sharing, and provide real time, transparent feedback from the public. In addition, a virtual SBA Answer Desk feature will integrate the agency’s customer service call center with an online chat function for 24/7 interactive online assistance.

SBA’s Flagship Initiative will improve agency operations in a number of key areas including:

  • Streamlined publishing process that will increase information dissemination across the entire site by shortening the amount of time it takes to publish content

  • Interactive customer response mechanisms, including a virtual helpdesk feature that will allow immediate feedback to questions

  • User-centric site organization and assistive technologies that will improve transaction success rates

  • Case management and automated workflow capabilities to increase standardization of processes and improve activity tracking

  • Correspondence management capabilities to track, review and respond to all incoming correspondence

  • Audit tracking on all new records, updates and deletions

  • Incorporate an organizational chart and staffing list

To measure and assess success, SBA will continue to make use of usability and focus sessions comprised of the agency’s diverse customer base as part of an ongoing dialog to make transactional and accessibility improvements to the site. In addition, the new site will randomly initiate customer satisfaction surveys that will enable the agency to delve deeper into key areas such as content, navigation, search, usability, online transactions, bounce rates, and other important elements.

Through a robust and integrated website analytics process, the agency will establish benchmarks and access key data, including online success rates, usage patterns and customer feedback.

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Transparency

At times, organizations become so focused on delivering products or services that they lose sight of the fact that people may want to know more about how they deliver products or services, statistics about the underlying processes, and the actual data that supports decisions. SBA has a number of examples of transparency already available, but realizes the value in making more information transparent. The following describes steps SBA has taken, as well as future plans, to become more transparent.

Accomplishments to Date

The SBA supports and manages many programs that provide innovative information services across all levels of Government. The following examples highlight the activities and technologies employed that meet the intent of the Open Government transparency theme:

SBA Recovery Act Performance Reports

The Recovery Act was signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009. The SBA received $730 million to help unlock the small business lending market and improve the flow of capital to America’s small businesses. Due to the success of these programs, SBA received additional funding to continue some Recovery Act provisions. SBA provides the results of the Recovery Act programs and ongoing reports in the form of the online Recovery Act Performance Report. Report topics and statistics include copies of SBA's Recovery Act plans, monthly program performance reports, weekly financial reports, and registered lobbyist communication disclosure documentation. All reports are available as syndicated feeds.

Transparency is a key principle of Recovery Act programs. Industry groups, small business owners, and tax payers all share a common interest in the performance of these important programs. Accordingly, public dissemination of performance reports has been critical to ensuring interested parties have accurate information, which ultimately results in SBA gaining valuable feedback for improvements and efficiencies.

SBA plans to continue to produce ongoing reports related to Recovery program performance and information via the agency website and the Government-wide Recovery Act site.

Business.gov Metrics Dashboard

The Business.gov Metrics Dashboard presents web analytics data, drawn from various tracking tools, to provide insight into the needs and interests of small business owners who visit Business.gov. Data provided by Business.gov users determines which new features and content the agency will provide to help the nation's small businesses start, grow and manage their operations. The dashboard is updated quarterly.

Metrics data is released publicly because it shows how the agency collects and uses site visitor information, and indicates the performance of the website as reported by user satisfaction comments. This information has long been collected and analyzed for internal SBA web team deliberations. Because the data presents no privacy or security risks, it is released via the dashboard.

Metrics data is an important source of feedback for the agency. In order to make SBA websites more user-friendly, web metrics can help the agency identify priority content or content that needs improvement. Public release of web metrics allows users to better understand the internal workings of the site as well as gain valuable statistics about the small business community.

Based on the success of the Business.gov Metrics Dashboard, SBA plans to implement a similar dashboard for SBA.gov, the agency’s banner website. This will be accomplished via the Flagship Initiative – a reinvented SBA.gov – described earlier.

Customer Relationship Management Tool

SBA is implementing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Tool to assist headquarters and field operations staff in providing a customer-focused response to borrowers, lenders, partners, and stakeholders. The CRM Tool is improving, streamlining, and automating information related to loan processing and lender oversight, a key objective outlined by the Recovery Act.

The CRM Tool aggregates data from a variety of systems and allow employees to access information in less time and in a more concise format. Ad hoc reports and dashboards are critical to the presentation of this information. Further, there is the capacity to centrally manage and track communications with critical stakeholders. These capabilities will improve the SBA’s capacity to provide more timely and effective responses to FOIA requests and Congressional requests for information.

The initial version of the CRM Tool has been rolled out across the agency. Additional enhancements to integrate existing applications, introduce mapping tools, and coordinate communication and interaction with the public are planned.

Audit Visibility and Tracking Tool

The Audit Visibility & Tracking Tool is the first of its kind in the Federal Government that is meant to help us respond efficiently to audit requests from external and internal sources. This solution provides the necessary tools to help us register audit findings, and then track SBA’s response. This tool leverages our existing investment in Microsoft SharePoint. In addition to an effective and easy-to-use interface, the tool has alerts, notifications, reports and a comprehensive, performance-driven dashboard. The Audit Visibility & Tracking solution reinforces the Administration’s message to provide transparency in our efforts and accountability for our actions.

“In the Loop” Blog

Business.gov’s “In the Loop” blog provides information on Business.gov’s programmatic planning. Opening up the program’s editorial and tool planning processes allows the agency to provide real-time information sharing to the public. Further, the public is able to comment on direction and priorities of Business.gov.

“In the Loop” allows the Business.gov team to speak authentically and honestly, which fosters a thoughtful dialogue with users about plans for the site. The blog also features roundups of hot topics, which allows users who are not active participants to stay connected with discussion trends.

In the future, SBA plans use a tool similar to the “In the Loop” blog on a redesigned SBA.gov by incorporating a mechanism for discussing agency plans and activities.

Business.gov Web Services

As a direct result of SBA’s efforts to provide easily accessible data sets, the agency launched the first of many web services, with which it hopes to collaborate with the business community to build web applications and solutions. Web Services refer to open software systems designed to support machine-to-machine interaction over a network. The Business.gov web services use an Application Programming Interface (API) to enable this interaction. The API is free of charge, does not require registration, and allows for unlimited calls.

The initial web services launched included Licenses and Permits, Grants and Loans and Geographic Data. These web services provide programmatic access to data aggregated by SBA. The SBA will collaborate with public and private sectors to support the development of applications and services that leverage these data sets and web services.

The SBA understands that by collaborating with a wide range of public and private sector organizations it can improve the types of service offerings it provides the small business community, but it cannot be the sole provider of services. By allowing outside computers to access information in a hosted dataset, the public (specifically, web developers) can create new applications based on Government data. Often called “mashups,” these applications are citizen-driven and created. For example, the website GovSites.org was built by a citizen using the Business.gov API.

The SBA will continue to explore avenues for providing better access to data and enabling both private and public sector entities to create new or enhanced services.

New Datasets

Since December 2009, the SBA has registered four new datasets on Data.gov. These datasets leverage internal agency data plus data from other sources to create new datasets of interest to the small businesses community. Three of SBA’s four datasets are provided via web services which provide for real time, programmatic access to these new data. Our most recent data contributions include:

  1. The Small Business Goaling Report dataset which identifies all Federal procurement actions eligible for small businesses in a given fiscal year. The dataset provides all small business set-aside contracts for the same fiscal year.

  2. The Geographic Names web service provides a "mashup" of URLs for city and county web sites and city and county location data from the United States Geological Service Geographic Names Information System (GNIS). GNIS data includes incorporated places, census designated areas, unincorporated places, counties, and populated places.

  3. The Licenses and Permits web service provides a collection of Federal, state and local licenses, permits and registrations that small businesses may need to operate.

  4. The Loans and Grants web service provides a collection of links to Federal, state, and local financial assistance programs that may help small businesses get started or expand operations. Each program is categorized to 15 dimensions, from loan type to business activity, industry group and location.

The agency established an internal review process and working group to review proposed data submissions to Data.gov and to ensure that the SBA’s existing data meets quality and privacy requirements.

Plans for the Future

The SBA plans to review the feasibility of implementing these proposed items, and incorporating them into the agency’s Open Government framework:

Create Online Capability to Check Certification Status (8a/HUBZone) or Disaster Loan Application Status

The SBA provides a number of certifications (e.g. 8a, HUBZone) for small businesses. To better inform applicants on their status, a simple interface will be established to allow users to monitor the progress of an application.

Because SBA certifications are critical for Government contracting and business development, providing a more user friendly, transparent process will increase applicant satisfaction with the programs. Self-service capabilities will also help to minimize phone calls and emails to district offices and SBA's Answer Desk for application status inquiries.

In conjunction with the Flagship Initiative redesign of SBA.gov, plans to include a user-self service interface are under discussion. Special attention is being given to privacy and security implications of revealing any sensitive data via an online portal.

Publish an Online Employee Directory and Phonebook

The agency plans to utilize its web presence to provide a resource that will serve as an interactive organization chart - a mechanism for members of the public to search for an SBA employee by name, and/or browse a phone directory listing by office or SBA resource. Providing a list of current SBA employees with their office, phone and/or email information creates a more transparent environment and enables members of the public to efficiently locate the appropriate SBA resources.

The agency plans to explore how it could incorporate this type of search mechanism into the Flagship Initiative described earlier. Key considerations include how to interface with the current internal system/database and provide an efficient tool that is fully accessible to individuals of all abilities.

Create Mobile Applications to Enhance Access to Information and Services

The number of U.S. consumers who use a Smartphone to access the Internet is growing rapidly. Aware of this trend, SBA plans to incorporate the growing need for mobile application access as another means of communicating about programs and services. Some of the core services provided by the agency, such as disaster assistance, could be enhanced by providing easier mobile access. In the case of disaster assistance, potential beneficiaries of this aid may well not have anything more than items on their person, such as a mobile device, with which to find information about resources available to assist them.

Making information and services available to customers in a variety of methods allows individuals to choose what works best for them. As a part of delivering better customer service, SBA will ensure that consistent and accurate information is delivered via multiple communication channels. As part of the agency’s Flagship Initiative, improved access to up-to-date and timely information will contribute to SBA’s small business customers being more successful.

Enhance Publicly Available Datasets

To achieve the SBA’s goal of enhancing publicly available datasets, the agency will establish an ongoing dialogue and internal processes for publishing new data. This dialogue will incorporate SBA staff as well as external stakeholders. A three-pronged approach will inventory existing information resources, identify gaps and enhancements, and publish new or improved datasets. Data review procedures have been drafted and are coordinated with processes incorporated in SBA’s Data Quality Plan (currently under development).

Enhancing the timeliness, quality and usefulness of agency data enables SBA to develop information that addresses the needs of the small business community in a more holistic manner by engaging public comment; assessing the suitability of data in the context of value, quality and privacy; allowing lenders to better understand the needs of small business; and, enhancing inter-agency coordination to improve the Government’s response to economic challenges and disasters.

SBA plans to incorporate the elements of discovery, improvement and review to enhance the value of publicly available datasets:

  • The agency will require that each program office catalog currently available public data in a central repository. This will help identify gaps in terms of missing or erroneous data.

  • The agency will incorporate public requests for new data, and review and prioritize comments via public engagement tools to identify new or improved datasets. The agency can leverage existing SBA outreach channels to engage stakeholders to identify useful data (both existing and proposed).

  • The agency will regularly review all comments related to new, improved or existing data to identify gaps and enhancements, and prioritize opportunities for improvements against agency infrastructure, resources and benefits.

  • The agency will establish quarterly meetings to review agency progress and establish action items; establish an internal portal to manage data inventory and new submissions; and provide online orientation to allow offices to understand Open Government Directive goals and agency priorities.

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Participation

The following describe steps SBA has taken to improve opportunities for the public to participate in the agency’s decision-making process, in addition to planned initiatives where the agency can further engage the public in participatory processes.

Accomplishments to Date

The SBA supports and manages many programs that engage citizens to participate across all levels of Government. The following examples highlight the activities and technologies employed that meet the intent of the Open Government Participation theme.

Idea Exchange

The Idea Exchange consists of a collection of suggestions, from new product requests to thoughts about how to improve Federal products or services, from members of the public through the Business.gov Community.

The Idea Exchange allows users to submit their own ideas and fellow members can rate, rank and sort them according to their popularity, relevancy, or importance. When appropriate, the agency can take action on a user-submitted idea by announcing that they are reviewing, developing, or implementing it. For example, a past Idea Exchange asked users to comment on the industries for which they are seeking loans and grants information. The provided feedback was taken into account as more financing data was added to the website’s Loans and Grants search tool.

The agency plans to use a tool similar to the Business.gov Idea Exchange in the Flagship Initiative by incorporating a mechanism for user feedback, suggestions, and ideas.

eRulemaking

As part of the Federal Government’s ongoing e-Government efforts to further the effectiveness and efficiency of Government, the Regulations.gov portal was established to create a Government-wide electronic docket management system. The purpose of this inter-agency effort is to establish a common, automated (web-based) and integrated repository for managing Federal rulemakings and non-rulemaking actions that follow a structured public notice and comment period.

The eRulemaking Program is a collaborative, inter-agency effort designed to enable the public to easily access and participate in the Federal rulemaking process from one centralized, efficient electronic point of access.

The agency already utilizes the Regulations.gov portal to post and receive comments on all of its proposed and final rules and plans to continue to use this resource in the future.

Licenses and Permit Tool

Business.gov’s Licenses and Permits tool allows users to receive a listing of the Federal, state, and local permits, licenses, and registrations needed to start and manage a business.

Recently implemented, a second generation of the tool builds upon the relevancy of information-sharing by allowing small business owners to recommend to SBA which industries or business types they would like to see added to the tool. Users are key players in the editorial process, as they can suggest a business type or vote on topics submitted by other users.

By opening up the License and Permits data to include user-suggested industries, the agency stays in touch with the current and evolving needs of the small business community. The relevancy and usefulness of the original license and permit data is further magnified when small business can receive targeted search results for the data they are seeking.

SBA Web Chats

The SBA sponsors an ongoing Web Chat series that gives the public a chance to interact with SBA officials and industry leaders. The Web Chats have recently featured topics of high interest like exporting and access to capital. These well-attended chats offer business owners a chance to interact with SBA in real-time.

SBA's Web Chat series helps to promote the agency’s core programs and services to the small business community and serves as a platform for industry experts (e.g. December 2009's chat on tax preparation) to provide small business owners with vital knowledge on running a business.

As part of the Flagship Initiative redesign of SBA.gov, the Web Chat series will be highlighted as an ongoing, interactive resource for the small business community.

Plans for the Future

The following activities highlight activities and technologies that meet the intent of the Open Government Directive. The SBA plans to review the feasibility of implementing these proposed items, and incorporating them into the agency’s Open Government framework for participation.

Consolidate Listservs into an E-mail Marketing Program

In order to better promote SBA's services and programs, the current listserv system will be phased out in favor of a more robust email subscription service. Many Government agencies maintain communication with interested parties by email marketing using industry standard techniques.

The current system is outdated and does not support user expectations for email communication. Furthermore, listservs often do not provide corresponding metrics upon which to base analysis or improvements. Moving to an email marketing program will also encourage SBA employees to learn additional web communication skills and techniques and will lessen the reliance on desktop publishing software.

Business.gov currently operates an email subscription service, GovDelivery, with over 51,000 subscribers. In conjunction with the redesign of SBA.gov, the success of the Business.gov email marketing program will be leveraged for a new agency-wide program.

Solicit Public Feedback to Determine Training Needs

The SBA currently offers various forms of training and counseling for entrepreneurs through a variety of resource partners. SBA also offers a series of on-line training courses. The agency plans to coordinate a centralized engagement for the small business community to suggest the types of training they would like to see the agency produce for the online training.

By asking the small business community to suggest training topics, the agency will better understand the needs of the small business community. This direct feedback will create further efficiencies in SBA's entrepreneurial education initiatives by providing a source of baseline information.

Building on the success of the OpenSBA public dialog and Business.gov Idea Exchanges, the Open Government Team plans to work with the Office of Entrepreneurial Development to discuss additional opportunities for public engagement.

Broadcast Agency Communications to Better Involve the Public

The ability to provide electronic broadcasts of town hall style meetings held by SBA’s Administrator and other senior leaders enables the public to better engage in conversation with their Government.

Encouraging public participation and providing access to SBA senior leadership in an interactive forum enables the public to receive direct responses to questions, and could encourage further participation in all SBA activities as more people learn the range of services available and how SBA programs and services may benefit their business directly. Electronic broadcasts also enable SBA senior leadership to personally interact with more existing or potential business owners in multiple locations at the same time. From a resource management perspective, this enables SBA to reach more people with the same message without incurring additional travel expenses.

The agency plans to explore the feasibility of providing such an open, electronic forum while utilizing its current resources. It must also explore the ability to provide this type of interactive forum in a manner which is fully accessible to all members of the public.

Introduce Blogs to Discuss Agency Issues and Programs

At present, many Federal agencies and institutions use blogs as a communications channel. Though blogging activity does occur on some of the agency’s web properties, including Business.gov and the Office of Advocacy websites, SBA does not yet have an official agency blog.

The SBA will establish at least one agency blog on which the Administrator, as well as other agency staff, will engage with the public on current issues affecting small businesses. By proactively articulating the agency’s positions and activities to a larger audience, an agency blog can act as a channel for quickly responding to situations, to questions and comments from the public. Presenting SBA blogs in a centralized manner provides the agency’s customers and stakeholders with additional choices for, and also more targeted means of, engaging with the agency.

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Collaboration

The following describe steps SBA has taken to improve collaboration with other Federal and non-Federal Governmental agencies, the public, and non-profit and private entities, in addition to planned initiatives where the agency can improve upon collaborative processes.

Accomplishments to Date

SBA supports and manages many programs that enable collaboration across all levels of Government. The following examples highlight the activities and technologies employed that meet the intent of the Open Government Collaboration theme.

Online Community

In 2009, SBA launched one of the first online communities managed by a Federal agency. The Business.gov Community enables conversation between small business owners, Government representatives and industry experts. The Community engages citizens to participate through discussion forums that include a broad range of topics relevant to starting and managing a business, staying in compliance with regulations, and understanding Governmental assistance and support programs. Since its inception in early 2009, the Community has grown to over 9,000 (and counting) small business owners.

In order to better serve the public, the agency must be aware of the issues that small businesses are concerned with and understand the information and services that small business would value most. The Business.gov Community lets SBA and other Federal agencies engage in this ongoing dialogue. Online discussion is a channel through which SBA can provide direct support to small businesses and gain insight on everything from discovering underserved business segments to getting feedback on new service ideas. The Business.gov Community helps SBA build relationships with the small business community.

The Business.gov Community will continue to grow the breadth and depth of the conversations hosted within the discussion forums. Originally launched with five discussion boards, the Community now has seven primary discussion boards and will continue to expand as the areas of interest continue to grow.

Cosponsorships

SBA has a statutory authority to engage in cosponsorships with associations, corporations, and other Government agencies to define, implement and meet short- and long-term goals to train, educate, and provide additional resources to benefit the small business community. A recent example of a cosponsorship is the “Strategies for Growth” video series, developed with Dell, Inc. This video series was designed to educate small business owners on a variety of topics for growing businesses from exporting to managing technology.

Cosponsored activities allow SBA to collaborate with groups outside of the Federal Government. Often, larger businesses and industry groups have resources and specialized knowledge or expertise that SBA can leverage for the benefit of the small business community. Through cosponsored activities, the agency can provide a greater degree of education, information and assistance to small businesses than it could alone.

The SBA engages in cosponsored activities on a continual basis at both the district office and national levels. The agency’s Office of Communications and Public Liaison is planning to launch several new tutorials and online training videos in the coming year.

Partners Program

The SBA has always partnered with both public and private sector entities to provide a broad set of programs and services to the small business community. The launch of the Business.gov Community (detailed above) has expanded the opportunities for SBA to partner with Federal, state and local agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations, businesses and individuals in the private sector. These partnerships range from leveraging Business.gov’s e-Government partners to deliver content targeted at the small business segment, to helping agencies engage in the conversations happening within the Business.gov Community.

Small businesses want to engage and get help from the Federal Government on subjects ranging from financing to environmental concerns. Small businesses in particular often do not understand where to find the information they seek or even what agencies are responsible the information. By partnering and collaborating with other Federal agencies, SBA aims to reduce the burden on small business creating tools that help them cuts across agency stovepipes to get comprehensive access to information.

The SBA will continue to grow the number and depth of partnerships it has within the Federal Government. By expanding the breadth of its partnerships, SBA hopes to create a set of services better tailored to segments within the small business community.

Customer Relationship Management Community

The SBA is currently deploying a Customer Relationship Management Tool to provide staff an easier way to locate, manipulate, and analyze data. To accompany the CRM Tool, the agency is also testing an internal online community. The CRM Community, based around sharing best practices and technical troubleshooting the CRM Tool, encourages staff to collaborate with one another across headquarters and 68 field offices with wikis, blogs, discussion forums, and a media library.

For the immediate need of training users on the CRM tool, the CRM Community will help support staff to efficiently address technical issues and build requirements for the tool. In the longer term, the CRM Community will allow staff across SBA's district offices to share best practices for using the tool.

As the CRM Community moves from a pilot phase to full implementation, additional staff will be invited to participate. Once all policy and personnel issues are cleared, the software can be used as an agency-wide social network.

Plans for the Future

The following sections highlight activities and technologies that meet the intent of the Open Government Directive. The SBA plans to review the feasibility of implementing these proposed items, and incorporating them into the agency’s Open Government framework.

Create Contests for Improving Processes and Creating New Tools

In a memorandum dated March 8, 2010, the White House Office of Management and Budget encouraged agencies to use prizes and challenges for "advancing Open Government, innovation, and the agency's mission." In the spirit of this memo, SBA plans to implement a public challenge for the small business community.

As detailed in the OMB memo, prizes allow the Government to pay only for results while also furthering the agency's mission by attracting interest in the private sector.

The agency will identify any legal or policy issues related to the administration of such a contest and work with the Office of Management and Budget, if necessary, to proactively address these issues.

Collaborate with Outside Organizations to Provide Information and Reports Electronically

Though Federal agencies have annual reporting requirements, not all of those reports are currently transmitted in an electronic format, especially an open electronic format. Electronic publication of agency information and reports is an effective and efficient approach to making agency information universally available.

Creating and transmitting reports in an open, electronic format enables SBA, and other agencies and organizations it interacts with, to encourage collaboration in two ways; initially through the requesting organization, and further with the general public who may find such information of value.

The SBA plans to collaborate with various resource partners and report-collecting constituents to determine the interest and feasibility of converting from paper (or electronic sources with limited capability) to open-format sources.

Participate in Cross-Agency Working Group to Foster Policies and Procedures Aimed at Creating Jobs

The Open Government Jobs Working Group was established to promote job creation through the principles of the Open Government Directive. As job creation is central to SBA’s mission, the agency has been represented on the working group since its creation in February 2010. The working group currently includes members from the following Federal agencies: Department of Commerce, Department of Labor, Social Security Administration, Department of Treasury, Executive Office of the President, General Services Administration and Department of Agriculture.

The intent of the group is to operate with an unprecedented level of openness and accountability and harness new technologies to disclose trusted information rapidly and in a form the public can readily use. The group’s specific actions - within the principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration - will identify existing programs, jobs data and strategic drivers in a way that demands collaboration and robust participation by the public.

While each of the agencies involved in the Open Government Jobs Creation Group has responsibility for promoting job creation, there has never before been a concerted effort to engage an interagency body in finding ways that transparency, collaboration and participation can promote their missions. The manifestation of this collaboration in terms of job creation is at present unknown, though promising.

Participating agencies will soon be disseminating datasets that relate to the central work of their agency. In many cases, these data sets on their own tell only a limited story, however, when combined with data from other agencies charged with promoting job creation, the potential for a powerful “mosaic” effect is introduced. This body will strategically explore individual agency data and actions in order to better promote the creation of American jobs through greater participation, collaboration and transparency.

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Leadership, Governance and Culture Change

SBA’s leadership is taking additional steps to support a culture of transparency and openness within the agency. Examples of additional activities identified for the coming years are described below.

Integrate Open Government Principles into New Employee Orientation Training

Working with SBA’s Office of Human Capital Management, the Open Government team will provide assistance in incorporating training on the principles of Open Government into New Employee Orientation. The New Employee Orientation module is posted online at http://www.sba.gov/newemployeeorientation/, which supports the principle of transparency.

The first day on the job is critical for setting the expectations for behavior within an organizational culture. Exposing new employees to Open Government and the relevant policies and procedures during their orientation will demonstrate SBA's commitment to the principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration. Arming staff with these values will allow the agency to increase efficiency in program areas and improve morale.

The Office of Human Capital Management concurs with this addition to the New Employee Orientation and discussions are ongoing as to how to best accomplish this in context of the agency’s Human Capital Strategic Plan.

Educate SBA Employees on Open Government

Organizational change happens best when senior management adapts first and serves as role models for those they supervise. Educating SBA managers on Open Government and how it can be applied within their program areas will accelerate the change to embrace Open Government principles and help the agency deliver better customer service faster. Armed with the right knowledge, managers can in turn train the employees in their area. Using a waterfall approach, cultural change will occur incrementally throughout the organization. The Administrator will use internal town hall meetings to share her views and commitment to Open Government and discuss with staff how they can learn more.

Improve Information Sharing Amongst Employees

“Investing in our people” is a priority initiative for the agency. This initiative is similarly supported by the principles of Open Government. Recent progress in improving information sharing amongst employees include the consolidation of several announcements, including standard operating procedure changes, Administrator messages, and job openings into the “SBA Daily,” a single email message sent to all SBA employees with the day’s announcements.

To achieve “real-time Government,” SBA employees need accurate and easy-to-find information about agency programs and services. Employees who have increased organizational awareness are more productive. Armed with accurate, easy-to-find information and a culture of sharing, employees are better equipped to make quick decisions. Likewise, improving access and efficiency of support services allows employees to spend more of their time on mission-related tasks.

Future plans to improve information sharing include the deployment of instant messaging capabilities to desktop workstations, an improved employee directory, and a redesigned Intranet.

Update Information Technology Investment Management Procedures

The implementation of an effective, efficient, and repeatable information technology investment management process is required by law and essential for informing sound decision making. SBA’s information technology management process ensures that funding requests for new information technology and systems as well as major enhancements are aligned with the strategic focus areas and priorities of the agency. As required by the Office of Management and Budget, all of SBA’s significant information technology investments are available for public review on the federal IT Dashboard.

As SBA’s program offices bring forward information technology investment requests, they are evaluated against a set of criteria. These criteria include considerations such as:

  • Does the investment support key business needs and further the agency’s mission?

  • Will it adhere to SBA’s established information technology blueprint?

  • Is the investment duplicative or overlapping with current investments?

  • Will the investment yield a solid benefit to cost ratio?

  • Is there solid planning behind the investment and does it present a manageable level of risk?

SBA’s efforts to change its culture to reflect Open Government principles will necessitate change in many management processes. SBA’s criteria for evaluating and monitoring IT investments will be updated to reflect the commitment to greater transparency, participation, and collaboration. By considering transparency and openness early and often in the information technology management process, SBA will be proactive rather than reactive in adopting Open Government principles.

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Next Steps

This version of SBA’s Open Government Plan establishes our roadmap for moving forward to create and institutionalize a culture of Open Government. The many items described in this plan will be prioritized and sub-plans to implement them will be constructed. As progress is made on this plan, accomplishments will be reflected on the agency’s Open Government webpage, www.sba.gov/open. The public is encouraged to comment on the plan and the milestones identified or offer suggestions for other transparency, participation, and collaboration opportunities. Comments can be sent to opengov@sba.gov.

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Appendices

Appendix 1

Overview of SBA Organization and Senior Leadership

About SBA
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953 as an independent agency of the Federal Government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation. We recognize that small business is critical to our economic recovery and strength, to building America's future, and to helping the United States compete in today's global marketplace. Although SBA has grown and evolved in the years since it was established in 1953, the bottom line mission remains the same. The SBA helps Americans start, build and grow businesses.

Through an extensive network of field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations, SBA delivers its services to people throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U. S. Virgin Islands and Guam. This network includes:

The organizational chart for SBA is currently being revised. The Open Government Plan will be updated in the near future to include an organizational chart.

About the Administrator

Karen G. Mills was sworn in April 6, 2009, as the 23rd Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Since 1983, Ms. Mills has been an active hands-on investor in and successful manager of small businesses. Ms. Mills also has distinguished herself as a passionate advocate for small business policy that encourages innovation, economic development and job creation.

About the SBA Senior Leadership and Staff

The executive leadership team at SBA reflects a diverse cadre of experienced professionals who bring many years of experience in starting and/or growing small businesses. The SBA team consists of about 2,000 hardworking employees at SBA Headquarters (Washington, DC), other SBA centers, and about 68 SBA field offices in all 50 states as well as U.S. territories.

Appendix 2

Overview of Records Management Program

The purpose of records management is to make information available in the right place, at the right time, at the lowest cost. Records management controls official records from the time they are created or received until they are either destroyed or archived. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) must identify, preserve, protect, and make available the historically valuable records of the U.S. Government.

The head of each Federal agency shall establish and maintain an active, continuing program for the economical and efficient management of the records of the agency. The program, among other things, shall provide for:

  • effective controls over the creation and over the maintenance and use of records in the conduct of current business;

  • cooperation with the General Services Administration and the Archivist in applying standards, procedures, and techniques designed to improve the management of records, promote the maintenance and security of records deemed appropriate for preservation, and facilitate the segregation and disposal of records of temporary value; and

  • compliance with sections 2101-2117, 2501-2507, 2901-2909, and 3101-3107, of this title and the regulations issued under them.

The SBA’s records management program ensures that records are properly documented and preserved and that records no longer needed are properly disposed of or retired.

Records management consists of three lifecycle stages:

  • Creation or receipt of a record or document

  • Maintenance and use of records

  • Archiving and disposing of records

The SBA staff responsible for overall records management reside within the Office of Management and Administration. The staff provides oversight and guidance to SBA employees to ensure that each stage in the lifecycle of records is recognized, preserved and properly disposed. The Records Management staff also interacts regularly with NARA to ensure all Federal records management policies are followed.

The Office of the Executive Secretariat is responsible for managing the records of the Administrator, Deputy Administrator, and Chief of Staff. Due to the sensitivity and nature of many of the documents, Exec Sec handles the retrieval and temporary repository. The coordination for archiving is done through the Agency’s records management specialist in the Office of Management and Administration under the Administrative Information Branch.

Records are collected on a quarterly basis with a schedule that ensures appropriate handling for each year. Based on guidelines regulated by the National Archives and Records Administration, a determination is made on which records are the Administrator’s records, and which are not. Records that are stored in our electronic tracking system will either be transferred to another holding area or destroyed. Vital records, those that come from the Administrator, are packaged and sent to the National Archives and Records Administration.

Appendix 3

Overview of the Freedom of Information Act Program

The Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts (FOI/PA) Office has the responsibility of managing the appellate function for the SBA as well as developing policy and procedures for the Agency regarding both Acts. Both Acts contain two administrative levels, an initial and an appellate review. The initial review is conducted by the program or field office(s) that maintain the requested information. The FOI/PA office conducts an appellate review should a dissatisfied requestor submit an appeal of the initial response. In addition, the FOI/PA Office provides guidance and training to SBA personnel, agency clients and the general public regarding the Acts.

The FOI/PA Office, located within SBA’s Office of Hearing and Appeals was established in December of 1976. The FOI/PA Staff consists of one supervisory paralegal specialist and two paralegals. There are also a network of Public Liaisons and FOIA Requestor Service Center Staff available.

SBA’s efficient FOIA operation helps the agency maintain a low backlog rate. Statistics for FY 2008 and 2009 are provided below. A more detailed description of the agencies overall performance in this area can be found in the Chief FOIA Officer Report for FY 2009 and the Backlog Reduction Goals.

Fiscal Year

No. Of FOIA Requests

No. of Appeals Processed

No. of Requests Backlogged

2008

2,640

22

8

2009

3,898

39

8

To support greater transparency across the agency, the FOIA office will be a permanent member of the SBA Data Oversight Review Board. The Review Board will meet quarterly to review candidate high-value datasets to post on Data.gov. As part of his or her role in this group, the FOIA representative will identify and present to the group approved FOIA requests which relate to high-value data which could potentially be made publically available on an ongoing basis. Such requests will be evaluated by the Review Board against established criteria (e.g., value, quality, privacy concerns, etc.). Data sets which meet these criteria will be posted on www.sba.gov and, if applicable, forwarded to Data.gov as high-value data sets.

Appendix 4

Summary of Congressional Requests for Information

The mission of SBA’s Congressional & Legislative Affairs (CLA) is to assist in the development and enactment of SBA legislative proposals and to serve as the liaison for SBA's communications on all legislative and congressional activities with Congress and the agencies that support Congress. The Assistant Administrator for CLA reports directly to the Administrator in carrying out this mission.

The principle functions of CLA include:

  1. CLA sends and receives all official communications with Congress and all of the agencies that support Congress, including but not limited to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Congressional Research Services (CRS). It furthers the goals of the SBA by ensuring that all requests are properly met and enables Members of Congress to best serve their small business constituency by promptly providing accurate, current and continuous information to Members of Congress, congressional committees and others interested in SBA programs and small business issues.

  2. CLA monitors legislation and policies introduced by Congress and proposed by Government agencies to determine their effects on the SBA and small businesses.

  3. CLA devises and implements legislative strategy and has primary responsibility for all matters relating to the congressional and legislative functions of SBA. It is responsible for communicating SBA's policies to Congress. It serves as a liaison with legislative personnel at the White House, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and various Federal departments and agencies. It coordinates with SBA program offices and field offices to ensure continuity and consistency in the Agency’s communications with Congress.

  4. CLA oversees SBA participation in congressional events and hearings, both in the field and in Washington, DC by: coordinating the entire hearing process including assisting in the preparation of testimony; conducting mock hearings to prepare the witness to testify; attending congressional hearings where SBA officials are testifying; following all congressional hearings affecting the SBA or the small business community; tracking legislation; monitoring bill status; and analyzing the effect of legislation on the SBA and the small business community in cooperation with program offices.

Key Officials

Position

Name

Deputy Assistant Administrator - Senate Liaison

Nicholas Coutsos

Deputy Assistant Administrator - House Liaison

Jordan Haas

Program Manager

Tiffani Cooper

Legislative Affairs Analyst

John Ford

Special Assistant - Senate

Will Bittinger

Special Assistant - House

Joseph Bastian

Program Specialist

Wanda Williams

Appendix 5

Overview of Declassification Program

In the interest of national security, some U.S. Government information is classified and requires protection against unauthorized disclosure. Government agencies may classify information only as permitted by Executive Order 13526, Classified National Security Information. Declassification means an authorized change in the status of information from classified information to unclassified information.

SBA does not deal with classified materials; therefore, no process for declassification of information exists. Generally speaking, information is available through a Freedom of Information Act Request unless it is subject to withholding by virtue of exemptions contained in the Freedom of Information Act or when other public laws prevent release.