For federal agencies looking to transform their systems, Software-as-a-Service offers many benefits from improved user accessibility, cost savings, scalability, strengthened policy compliance, and speedy upgrades, to name a few. And, at a recent AGA Financial Services Summit the Department of Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development showcased their success and shared their lessons learned with other agency leaders to help ease their digital transformation journeys.
“It’s a constant statistic – it doesn’t matter if it’s ERP, COTS, Platform-as-a-Service, Software-as-a-Service. These types of projects, 80 percent will fail, not because of the technology but because of the change management and the cultural management,” said Barbra Symonds, formerly a program manager at the Department of Health and Human Services, now a director with Grant Thornton. Her company is one of the awardees for the 10-year, $2.5 billion NewPay blanket purchase agreement to deliver payroll and work schedule and leave management SaaS solutions and services across federal agencies.
“There’s a different mindset, taking everyone through [SaaS], even the partners,” Symonds said, “making sure we’re best positioned for making everyone understand the benefits of a TurboTax-like system.”
Changing out the technology, changing back-end services, is complicated enough. But “you’re also impacting 2.1 million federal workers who are relying on accuracy and timeliness, that the calculations will get the right answer, and [they] aren’t constantly asking for corrections and audits,” she said.
Patrice Clement, senior technology advisor in the Office of the CFO, Department of Housing and Urban Development, said that one of the biggest changes to recognize up front is that the recompete process effectively becomes continual.
“Generally [the contract] has a one-year base and option years. In a SaaS environment, I own the data, I don’t own the system,” Clement said. “In the second year I’m thinking of recompeting [and] the possibility is that the incumbent provider’s system may not win, which therefore means implementation of another system.”
Clement said it is very beneficial to work closely with the contract office, not just during recompetes but during transitions. “A core accounting system implementation could be a year or 18 months, so you have to factor in that transition time” in order to keep up the funding associated with the current system while moving to a new one.
“We had a lot of challenges with a provider and the services they were providing, and the solution they provided had tons of challenges,” she said. “I was going to my procurement office – because we don’t own the system, we own the data, we can’t do a stop-work order because we don’t own the system.”
The long-term solution, Clement said, is to conduct due diligence and review the Service Level Agreements in detail, to know what the agency can demand in terms of performance and correcting issues.
Noted Jeff Estes, Director of Technical Solutions at Software AG Government Solutions, “Moving to a SaaS environment is more of a journey than a quick Lift and Shift…or at least it should be. Consider looking at the entire process, rather than just the destination. Services, Users, and Data will be on numerous hybrid platforms. Pieces will be in the cloud, some will be in transition, and some still on-premise. All still need to function, regardless of the platform or position in the migration. Knowing what you have, what is critical, and what order to move it, is another key to a successful migration. Make sure your strategy includes a scalable integration platform that can not only handle the end state, but the transition itself.”
Learn more about how Software AG Government solutions has enabled the IRS to move quickly on its digital transformation journey here.