Modernizing government grants management: Reuse or re-write?

government modernization
To truly modernize, stop the redundancy of building stand-alone systems, and start architecting systems by reusing shared processes and information.

Think about the number of government programs funded through grants – disaster relief, social services, healthcare, research, and much more. The U.S. federal government distributes money through more than 25 agencies, 900 programs, and a multitude of funding vehicles. Many of the agencies managing these programs are doing so on legacy systems that are expensive to maintain, update, and scale. They use an antiquated approach where a new program means yet another custom-built system, another large appropriation, another long wait until go-live. And this pattern is repeated over and over, throttling efficiency and impeding citizen services. To truly modernize, stop the redundancy of building stand-alone systems, and start architecting systems by reusing shared processes and information.

Think centralized logic, not custom-written code

Disparate agency grants programs can benefit from common business processes, centralized management, reusability, and flexible development capabilities. The modern approach is to build out a platform of common features – the common processes, business rules, and user experience required for all programs – as the foundation for your system. Once you have a solid foundation in place, you can define specialized applications that address individual program needs, including geographical and channel requirements. When you architect your system in a layered, logical, and unified fashion, it’s quicker to make system-wide changes, update rules, and scale to bring existing grants programs onto the modernized platform, plus support new work as it evolves—new disaster relief, new health research, and so on. In fact, our research shows it is 8 times faster than the traditional approach, and can deliver over 300% return on investment. Additionally, process and resource reuse represents good stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

Open architecture over open source

Open Source software still requires knowledge of code – meaning, only people who understand the code can modify the application. It doesn’t give organizations the rapid capabilities to deploy and change applications using a no-code approach. It also limits input and collaboration since non-coders are shut out of the process. To be more inclusive and adaptable to future needs, think open architecture and web services instead. Open architecture and web services allow for integrations with multiple vendors and products through standardized protocols (e.g., SOAP, REST, JSON), which is important for government organizations that still need to access data from legacy systems. Plus, open architecture prevents vendor lock-in.

Instant mobility

Worldwide, mobile device usage now exceeds the use of desktop computers. Don’t spend the money or time trying to manage separate programs for desktop and mobile devices. Field personnel need to have access to the same, relevant application data as office staff so they can serve citizens remotely. To be streamlined and responsive, your unified platform must include native mobile capabilities that allow you to build one app and deploy instantaneously across as many user devices as needed – smart phone, tablet, desktop, etc.

Be ready to solve your hardest, most complex challenges

For federal grants management systems, you will typically need a solution that can scale while addressing your toughest, most complex challenges. You also need to build a grants management program that is agile and can handle the unexpected. You’ll need the ability to scale physically to support several thousand users, and process hundreds of thousands – and even millions – of transactions every year. As noted earlier, you will also need the ability to support organizational scaling in terms of the number and variety of grants programs, different groups of users, etc. And in building a system that can support this large physical and organizational scale, you’ll also need the ability to scale the development platform to enable multiple development teams to work efficiently in parallel, while building a complex grants management system.

For big change, start small and move fast

Look to scalable, no-code platforms for development speed. No-code application development delivers apps faster than traditional approaches by using visual models. This means that organizations don’t need hundreds of coders to stand up a new application. Start with the outcomes, then map out the processes using model-based development, “what you see is what you get (WYSWIG)” tools, and smart shapes and forms. When you take code out of the equation, you empower your administrative staff to build in the exact processes that they need for all grant types – from static education grants, to fluctuating disaster response-type grants, to government healthcare research grants. You also enable your IT team to use their experience to fine-tune ideas into working processes. Bottom line – administration and IT work hand-in-hand so that the end result meets end-user needs.

Agency programs empower citizens, local governments, non-profit organizations, and other groups to do important work, and are ripe for rapid digital transformation. Government grant programs have an immediate effect on people’s lives, and yet there are so many common features to grants management. Why re-write when you can reuse?


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Doug Averill, Pega’s global government industry markets leader, helps governments around the world increase operational efficiency, improve constituent experiences, and respond more quickly to legislative change through digital transformation.