Sneak Preview: FEMA Is Taking Steps To Improve Grants IT Systems

Jerry Ashworth
May 3, 2019 at 07:22:36 ET
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(The following was excerpted from a recent article in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) by the end of the year plans to contact grant recipients and other users of its information technology (IT) systems about how to adjust their business processes to transition to new grants management systems developed under FEMA’s Grants Management Modernization (GMM) program, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Because FEMA’s IT environment consists of many disparate systems, thereby hindering information sharing and reporting capabilities, the agency in recent years has attempted to modernize its systems. In 2015, FEMA initiated the GMM program aimed at streamlining and modernizing its grants management IT structure. The program established a standard framework that covers the entire grants lifecycle, from pre-award to award closeout, as well as continuous grant management activities such as analyzing data and producing reports on grant awards.

GAO explained that because the GMM program is intended to replace FEMA’s 10 legacy grants management systems, the agency will need to migrate, analyze and standardize the existing grants management data before transitioning it to GMM.

Since implementing the program, FEMA has successfully taken steps under the program to: (1) ensure executive leadership support for business process reengineering; (2) document the agency’s grants management processes and performance improvement goals; (3) define initial IT requirements for the program; (4) incorporate input from end-user stakeholders into the development and implementation process; and (5) take actions to improve its delivery of planned IT requirements, according to GAO.

Still, more work must be done. “Given FEMA’s highly complex grants management environment, with its many stakeholders, IT systems, and internal and external users, implementing leading practices for business process reengineering and IT requirements management is critical for success” GAO added. “Until the GMM program finalizes plans and time frames for implementing its organizational change management actions, plans system transition activities and maintains clear traceability of IT requirements, FEMA will be limited in its ability to provide streamlined grants management processes and effectively deliver a modernized IT system to meet the needs of its large range of users.”

(The full version of this story has now been made available to all for a limited time here.)

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