What makes a good TMF proposal? Maria Roat has some tips

Maria Roat speaks Aug. 21, 2018, at FedTalks in Washington, D.C. (FedScoop)

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If you want to score money under the Technology Modernization Fund, you’re going to need to catch the attention of the TMF Board. And the best way to do that, Deputy Federal CIO Maria Roat says, is to really key in on a solid business case and get to the point.

“It’s about a business case, right — the CIO, the CFO, the mission and the alignment,” Roat said Thursday during IBM’s Think Gov 2021 event, produced by FedScoop. “And the initial project proposals need to get to the point.”

While the mission of the TMF is, broadly, to fund technology modernization projects, most of the evidence the TMF Board wants to see in proposals is relates to the business aspects, said Roat, who sits on the TMF Board as an alternate board member as deputy federal CIO. The TMF Board that evaluates proposals and awards funding is currently comprised of seven voting members and six alternate members.

“When you look at the questions [in the project proposal template], one of them is specifically about technology,” she said. “The rest of the questions are broadly about the business of what this proposal is, and what are those measures and what are those outcomes you’re trying to achieve? So the board is looking for the mission alignment, that it’s mission-focused — the partnership with the CFO, with the business owner. It’s not about an IT thing … it’s about solving a hard business problem. And this is where a thoughtfully crafted business case comes in.”

Often, the board receives proposals filled with extraneous information that doesn’t detail the actual work an agency hopes to get funded, Roat said. “Too often people are going on about their agencies. We know who your agency is, we know who you are. And if we’ve never heard of you, heaven forbid, we’ll go look it up. But you have to get to the point.”

At the end of the day, the initial proposal is meant to be a “low burden” so that the board can “maximize the number of projects” it analyzes, she said.

The TMF Board introduced an expedited process after the fund received $1 billion from the American Rescue Plan earlier this year, prioritizing selecting and funding projects “that cut across agencies, address immediate security gaps, and improve the public’s ability to access government services,” leaders announced in May. Along with that, it introduced new flexibilities in the agency repayment process built around those priority areas.

While the June 2 deadline for that expedited process has passed, Roat said the board is continuing to accept proposals and is “making sure that as those proposals are coming in, we’re doing very quick reviews of those.” To support that, the board has added alternate members so it can meet more frequently to assess proposals.

Additionally, the TMF Program Management Office has expanded to work more closely with agencies as they propose projects, helping them to come to the board with good proposals — again, focused on a business case — to save everyone time.

“They’ve done a great job over the last three years working with agencies and prepping those proposals, making sure that they’re in good shape even before they come to the board,” Roat said. “Having a good proposal coming into the board helps move things along a little bit faster. It expedites the board discussion.”

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IBM, Maria Roat, Technology Modernization Fund, Technology Modernization Fund Board, Think Gov 2021
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