Why these 3 agencies won TMF awards (and how your agency can too)

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The Technology Modernization Fund Board favors projects that accelerate long-needed modernization and have clear metrics in place for assessment, according to reasoning for how and why it picked the first three award-winning agencies.

The seven-member board, which oversees the $100 million fund created by the Modernizing Government Technology Act of 2017, recently released a document elaborating on the reasoning for each the picks so far. Between the lines, the document offers some insight into what the board values in applicants.

“This project will improve the usability of systems for both government and non-government users by providing a central, human-centric approach to USDA program information,” the justification for a U.S. Department of Agriculture award, $10 million in total to improve farmers.gov, reads. What’s more, “major milestones for this project will be seen quarterly through program increments of system development.”

The $45 million awarded in this first round of loans (agencies must repay the fund within five years) is just a start — the board is still seeking more applications from agencies with discreet IT modernization projects in need of a little extra cash. And those agencies would do well to learn from those who have gone before.

The Department of Energy, which will use its $15 million to accelerate cloud email adoption, is going to get necessary executive buy-in and support from its participation in the fund, the board says.

“The agency is working towards having a single, flexible system from the current 64 separate email systems servicing approximately 184,387 mailboxes across the agency,” the board’s description of the project states. “This agency proposal accelerates a long overdue modernization of a mission serving technology, executive leadership support, and active Board management.”

The board also likes that Energy will be using commercially available software for the project. It will “serve as a model case for other agencies a core tenant of the criteria for TMF funding,” the award reasoning reads.

Finally, the Department of Housing and Urban Development won the biggest award — $20 million — for the purpose of legacy mainframe migration. The money will be used to migrate five legacy servers to the cloud.

“According to HUD estimates, the code modernization and migration will save $8 million annually, enabling payback and generating working capital to transform additional legacy systems,” the board justification reads. “This initiative will demonstrate a process that other agencies can use to modernize their similar systems.”

That leaves $55 million dedicated to the TMF for fiscal 2018 up for grabs. The board “strongly” encourages agencies to continue applying for funding. The hope is that in making the justification for the first three awards public, others will have a better understanding of the type of proposals the board is seeking.

And the ideas don’t have to be limited to basic but necessary modernization projects, like those that won money in the first round. Officials at the General Services Administration are encouraging agencies to submit proposals focused on emerging technology applications, like robotic process automation.

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Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Technology Modernization Fund, Technology Modernization Fund Board