HHS QSMO sees $6B more in grants handled through shared solutions this year

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The Department of Health and Human Services’ goal of becoming a shared service provider for agency grants management systems is coming into focus.

HHS’s Quality Service Management Office (QSMO) already has much of its basic infrastructure online. Next year, it will start offering select categories of QSMO-approved grants management solutions.

While HHS grants QSMO program office won’t reach full maturity until 2030, the agency is already seeing its work paying off. It projects an additional $6.2 billion in grants will go through shared solutions this fiscal year because five agencies have migrated to shared solutions.

The program office is also seeing improving the customer experience for federal grant recipients. It estimates Login.gov handles 59% of the current federal grants volume, giving grant recipients a single sign-on to manage their portfolio of funding from multiple agencies.

“The real key here is allowing and creating a landscape where these systems are more interoperable, where frankly, the technology will help allow the interconnectivity of the data that lies underneath,” Chad Clifford, the QSMO program office’s executive director, said Wednesday at the National Grants Management Association’s (NGMA) Annual Grants Training (AGT).

Andrea Sampanis, the program office’s solutions and services lead, said a single sign-in for grants management would save recipients the hassle of remembering multiple usernames and passwords for agency grants systems, and would save them the trouble of getting help from IT help desks when locked out.

“If you have a grant from Education, you have to sort of remember in your head, ‘OK, for Education grants, I’ve got to go to G5 to get my payments. If I have an NIH grant, I need to go to PMS to pull that down. If I have another grant, maybe I’m going to Treasury ASAP, or for an NSF grant, I’m going to NSF’s payment system.’ … With the portal though, you’ll be able to just click and it will take you to that system, based on the business rules and logic that we can code in the background,” Sampanis said.

Clifford said these agency grants systems and solutions will remain in place as the QSMO gets up and running, but said the portal will give grant recipients a single dashboard to manage their portfolio of federal grants.

“We’re really trying to create and drive toward a seamless user experience or interface for the applicants, where for them, it is seamless on the front end. But on the back end, we do expect that there will still be various, multiple systems and solutions for various parts of the process,” Clifford said.

Sampanis said this work will address some of the most urgent concerns in the grants community.

NGMA’s grant management survey last year shows that about 70% of respondents said their number-one priority was creating a unified portal for grants recipients.

“We took that to heart, we really listened and that’s what we’re working toward,” Sampanis said.

SAM.gov, Grants.gov, the National Institutes of Health’s Electronic Research Administration (eRA) and HHS’s Payment Management System all agreed to provide their data to Login.gov and went live in October. Sampanis said the QSMO office is working with other shared service providers.

HHS, meanwhile, has stood up a Grants QSMO Collaboration Site that will serve the “single source of truth for the Grants QSMO program,” Mary Beth Foley, the QSMO program office’s customer engagement lead, said.

Since 2020, the QSMO program office team has met with officials from 22 grant-awarding for feedback on how to make the collaboration site user-friendly. It has also held seven human-centered design sessions meant to provide feedback on the dashboard’s functionality.

The site currently hosts the 1.0 version of the HHS’s marketplace for grants system, and currently includes a static list of existing shared solutions aligned to the Federal Integrated Business Framework (FIBF) framework.

Clifford said Marketplace 1.0 currently doesn’t have any QSMO-approved solutions, but said it serves as a “snapshot of the shared solutions that are available to agency customers today.”

Clifford said the QSMO program office later this year will partner with other agencies to pilot award management solutions.

“One of the demand signals we’ve seen from our agency partners, particularly with the new influx of supplemental funding, including the [American Rescue Plan] funding is a real need for solutions at the award management space,” Clifford said.

Marketplace 2.0 will go live in 2022, and will include initial QSMO-approved solutions for select focus areas. This version will also include customer satisfaction scores and pricing information.

The QSMO program office expects to complete Marketplace 3.0 by 2026, which will provide QSMO-approved solutions for all parts of the grants management process.

The site is currently only accessible to federal employees and contractors who have a PIV or CAC card. Foley said the QSMO office will eventually make the Grants QSMO Collaboration Site accessible to the public

By 2030, the QSMO program office expect to have met its goals under three key pillars:

  • Easing the burden on grants recipients through standardized, modernized and streamlined technology footprint
  • Responding to customer needs though continuous engagement and robust feedback loops
  • Leveraging data as a strategic asset through the adoption of data standards and increase system connectivity.

The QSMO team is also standing up an innovation hub for federal and non-federal grant recipients to connect with one another, and share best practices and insights with the broader grants community.

“We noticed there’s a lot of amazing innovation going on out there that we are super supportive of — not all of it led by the federal government, a lot of it led by nonprofits,” Sampanis said.

Several groups, she said, are working on blockchain solutions for grants management. Other possible innovation hub topics include improving the recipient portal, open-source code and risk management.

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