The Need for Business Support of Federal System Implementations


Federal agencies have long recognized the need to have options in system implementations. Electing to go inside the agency for information technology solutions or to collaborate with the private sector is a difficult choice. Unlike the maintenance and support of production applications, big technology projects frequently require specialized business insights and experience that can be scarce in federal government. Regardless of technology solution source, agencies often lack the time and expertise needed to make big technology projects successful. The level of effort required to support internal technology or private sector vendor teams who lack deep customer operational experience quickly mounts, especially as the project encounters problems. All large software project have problems and resource scarcity leaves the government ill equipped to “drop everything” and fix the problems. Hiring specialized teams who are ready to provide independent advisory services and business support can be the difference between a project that meets cost, schedule, and scope needs and one that fails.

What is Business Support?

Unlike the services that technology teams provide to agencies during system development projects, business support teams fill the gap between technology and federal business lines. Qualified business support teams help agency leadership, stakeholders, technology teams, and business partners as they source and implement technology solutions. Business support teams must have in-depth knowledge of the agency’s mission, objectives of the technology implementation, and the perspectives and needs of both the benefit recipients and the industry partners who support the agency’s benefit program.

Independent Advisory Support

Business support teams work with leadership to document and refine the overall vision and scope for the program changes including strategy, vision, scope, phased approach options, constraints, and timeline.

Business support teams are independent advisors to the government, offering advice and insight on system design and implementation, development and management of business rules, large-scale conversions, situationally appropriate risk management plans, troubled project remediation techniques, and preemptive approaches to technology problems. Business support teams provide daily verbal briefings to agency leadership, as needed. The goal is to eliminate surprises.

Business support teams create executive briefings, advise on government deliverables, support government change processes, and provide ad hoc deliverables as needed. Business support teams foster a culture of collaboration with internal or external solution providers while also helping ensure the end solution meets the government’s needs. Business support teams participate in briefings in addition to preparing materials for the executive leadership team.

Source Selection Support – Internal or External

Business support teams provide advice on how to select a qualified solution provider, whether internal to the agency or external as a commercial provider. They help agencies evaluate technology options and providers against the business requirements, technology requirements, and procurement needs. Business support teams leverage their industry and technical expertise to assess agency or vendor suitability for the project.

To aid agencies in their decision process, business support teams work with end users, agency lines of business, stakeholders, and internal information technology teams to assess the pros and cons of a “buy versus build” approach. They perform objective analysis of financial, quantitative, and qualitative factors to create the cost benefit analysis allowing agency teams to make a more informed and balanced choice.

In the event the agency elects to procure a commercial product or vendor solution, business support teams observe and document vendor presentations and provide expert opinions and advice along with follow-ups, risks, and issue documentation. Business support teams work with all relevant government offices in their evaluation of the vendors. Business support teams help author line of business content for procurements and, upon execution of confidentiality agreements, support government’s business review of bidder submissions and offers. Business support teams support the government all the way through the selection and award process.

Integrated Program Management

Business support teams develop and maintain the integrated project management plan (PMP) and provide business oversight support for the technology implementation. Business support teams create the PMP, encompassing all major activities across the technology provider, agency, and contractor scopes of work. Business support teams work closely with the agency project manager to execute and update the PMP as needed. Business support teams help the government oversee the technology provider, internal or external. They verify performance against the integrated PMP, manage risks and issues, and help the agency project manager with course corrections to maintain focus. Business support teams help agencies monitor financial, service level, and other performance requirements for the project.

Depending on the methodology selected, business support teams serve an integral part of the change, sprint/release planning, prioritization, validation, and adaptation processes during the implementation. Business support teams maintain the risk, assumptions, issues, and dependencies log.

Business support teams spend a lot of time on communications. They help agencies create and control the flow of information around the project. Business support teams find and analyze problems, understand project status, create status reports, and develop standard and ad hoc project communications.

Working closely with agency leadership and execution teams, business support teams engage directly with the system provider to aid their team, help ensure appropriate government participation, and aid the government as they provide needed deliverables and content to the system provider.

Regulation Development Support

Business support teams work with the agency leadership to determine if they need to update the regulations. Business support teams help agency leadership understand needs and create draft regulation updates. They elicit and document feedback from appropriate stakeholders on the draft regulation changes. Business support teams help agency leadership with reviewing and incorporating feedback, and assist with creating final regulation language.

Business Process Management and Redesign

Even the smallest technology changes require process tuning. On a large-scale system implementation, agencies can expect hundreds or thousands of process changes. Business support teams help agencies assess the current state, design the target state, document gaps, and recommend practical solutions for the differences. Unlike typical process redesign teams, business support teams emphasize real life solutions and workarounds that agencies can actually implement.

Business support teams use a variety of tools including source document review, process mapping, stakeholder interviews, facilitated exercises, and industry expertise to create tailored deliverables for agencies that fit right into technology provider needs.

Business Requirements Support

Business support teams identify and collaborate with agency benefit recipients, agency users, industry partners, and other affected stakeholders to understand their needs. Business support teams facilitate focus groups or use other appropriate techniques to engage in a collaborative and exciting way with the stakeholders.

Business support teams apply knowledge of technology options and agency objectives to gather and document business and user requirements from project stakeholders. As part of vendor selection and system definition, business support teams perform additional requirements definition. Business support teams use expert facilitation techniques to elicit and refine stakeholder requirements in a format and frequency defined by the government, and coordinate with agency staff to validate requirements against project constraints before producing business requirements documents.

The requirements can include application, interface, and reporting requirements. Business support teams help ensure delivery of reports that incorporate old and new data, and that the reports are fully tested and available at go-live. This area is frequently overlooked or left to the last minute.

Business Partner Onboarding Strategy and Execution Support

Agencies often have industry partners who perform delegated duties on behalf of the government. Business support teams work with industry partners and agency leadership to develop strategies, approaches, and plans for a successful implementation. Business support teams leverage industry knowledge and technology implementation best practices to develop the partner implementation plan. Business support teams support the agency with plan execution including interactions and agreements with industry partners. Business support teams work collaboratively to define creative strategies that help agency leadership reduce risk and successfully transition the business partners to the new environment.

Organizational Change Management

Business support teams provide organizational change management services to engage with stakeholders and prepare them for the new environment. Business support teams prepare a stakeholder management plan and help agency leadership implement and adapt the plan. Business support teams also support the agency with stakeholder communications throughout the project lifecycle, with a focus on maximizing awareness and acceptance of both the technology implementation and its associated policy and procedure changes.

Business support teams update existing procedure guides for application users and develop a training curriculum and training materials based on the updated guides. Business support teams deliver “train the trainer” training, and provide subject matter expertise support while the agency’s trainers deliver training to end users.

Business support teams facilitate sessions with relevant stakeholders to develop, seek approval, and launch new operational metrics for agency management.

End User Acceptance Support

Business support teams help the agency accept the solution and coordinate user acceptance testing. Business support teams work with end users to verify the solution throughout the development process, not just at the end. Business support teams help ensure continuous end user involvement and business validation. This includes recruitment, selection, and training of acceptance testers; subject matter expertise support for testers during test execution; and documentation and communication of acceptance testing results.

Transition and Post-Transition Support

Business support teams provide conversion/transition and post-transition support services to facilitate a smooth transition to the new solution. Business support teams work closely with the solution provider and agency technology teams to develop a conversion plan that identifies tasks required for a successful conversion of data from the existing to the target solution. This includes data cleanup and mapping along with a plan for parallel processing of data and for reconciliation to ensure that the data is accurately mapping to the next-generation solution. Business support teams help the agency oversee implementation of the conversion plan and assist with managing issues and risks.

Business support teams also provide business unit help desk support during the transition period following go-live to help end users with questions and triage/funnel true technical issues to the technology provider. Business support teams coordinate with the technology provider to prioritize issues and track issue statuses, and provide information back to end users as needed until issues are resolved.

Domain Specific Data Analytics

Business support teams work with agency leadership to develop a data analytics framework to provide insight into agency mission and performance, operations, and risk. In conjunction with big technology projects, agencies frequently want analytics that will allow them to better understand the value they deliver to benefit recipients, increase their ability to explore, analyze, and justify policy scenarios, and to better understand and manage risk. Business solution teams develop business requirements specifications that agencies can incorporate as part of the solution, either in part or in whole. Like reporting, technology solution providers frequently overlook or underserve this area.

Key Personnel Experience Requirements

Personnel experience is the most significant factor for enabling successful advisory services. Successful business support teams should have hands on experience with, and understanding of, the agency’s mission, objectives of the technology implementation, and the perspectives and needs of the industry partners.

  • Knowledge of the existing agency technology environment.
  • Experience planning and successfully executing large conversions.
  • Knowledge and experience with agency policies and processes.
  • Experience writing and successfully achieving publication of federal regulations.
  • Experience managing commercial software products.
  • Knowledge and experience with agency system interfaces and the technology ecosystem.
  • Experience working directly with service bureaus for data integration.
  • Facilitation and stakeholder management expertise with teams of at least 50 team members.
  • Experience writing and approving software requirements for large federal systems.
  • Offsite planning and execution for user acceptance testing of agency specific systems.
  • Prior experience implementing large numbers of industry partners at the agency.
  • Prior experience rolling out servicing industry wide program changes on a national basis.
  • Prior experience developing data and analytics software requirements through prototyping.
  • Direct experience conducting system and user acceptance testing of domain specific data and analytics systems.