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Building the IAE User Experience

Building the best user experience for the federal award management community is part of the IAE’s key architectural principles.


The Integrated Award Environment (IAE)  is working to bring together ten United States government award management systems into a single environment housed in the cloud. The IAE will support a diverse user community of federal and private sector users who expect a user experience (UX) comparable with today’s popular websites. As more award management applications go live in the IAE unified environment, functions will become more centralized. 

According to IAE UX subject matter experts, the following qualities describe systems that deliver an engaging user experience:

  • Useful
  • Usable
  • Valuable
  • Desirable
  • Findable
  • Credible
  • Accessible

IAE’s Modernization Strategy and UX

The IAE’s high-level modernization strategy is to create a single, foundational Common Services Platform (CSP) in the cloud that hosts applications that provide:

  • Faster delivery of new software
  • Cost savings
  • Shared security
  • Increased software quality
  • Data integration across IAE systems

“The CSP enables IAE to focus on business needs rather than ‘plumbing of the platform,’” said Judith Zawatsky, director of Outreach and Stakeholder Management at the Integrated Award Environment. “Our focus on business needs of the award management community is changing the dynamic; it’s going a long way toward opening up United States government awards and financial assistance to large and small organizations alike.”

IAE developers can prototype software with users on an iterative basis using their direct feedback.

Interviews with Award Management Community Users

The IAE UX team conducted exhaustive interviews with a cross-section of the federal award management community:

  • Contracting Officers (CO)
  • Small Businesses
  • State Governments
  • Congressional Staffers
  • Labor Advisors
  • Compliance Oversight
  • Large Businesses
  • Universities
  • Foreign Contracting COs
  • Policy Makers
  • System Administrators
  • Business Developers
  • Grants Officers from Labor Unions
  • Agency Leaders           

UX Helps IAE Deliver on Award Community Needs

Our  UX team members speak directly to the federal award management community unfiltered to learn about their business, technology, and business needs for the IAE.  During these conversations, a few key themes have surfaced. 

  • Clear purpose and focus.  Understanding the overall purpose of our applications and the purpose of individual data elements is important to our users.  People care about accurately entering and interpreting information.  They want to know who is using our data and what it’s being used for.
  • Complete and accurate data.  People compare our data to data in other systems, rely on our data to evaluate policy, and track compliance with our data.  Data quality matters to our users.
  • Simple and effective search.  People want to be able to find exactly the information they are looking for, whether doing broad market research or looking for a specific contract, program, or other record.  They want to be confident that they are finding all of the information that is relevant to their search.
  • Flexible reporting.  People want to use our data in a lot of different ways and to combine it with data from other systems.  They want simple tools to visualize and export exactly the data they need.
  • Organizational management.  Both federal and non-federal organizations want to better manage people in our environment.  They need improved ability to assign permissions, identify points of contact, and track responsibilities; and to respond to organization and personnel changes.

Contracting Officer

Highlighted requests and big ideas from our conversations with contracting officers include:

  • A complete picture for evaluating vendors including their profile, set-asides, award and sub-award histories, and past performance.
  • Dashboard monitoring of my opportunities, awards, sub-award reports, and other responsibilities through the acquisition lifecycle.
  • Smooth and seamless integration with agency contract writing systems

Small Businesses

Highlighted requests and big ideas from our conversations with Small Businesses:

  • Quick and easy visibility into programs over time including past statements of work, award and modification history, and key participants
  • Automatically recommended opportunities based on my company profile (set-asides, NAICS codes, location) and my opportunity, award, and sub-award histories.
  • Assistance identifying teaming partners and sub-contracting opportunities.

Other than Small Businesses

Highlighted requests and big ideas from our conversations with other businesses include

  • Cross application links and comprehensive data to support a business development pipeline with detailed views of very large programs
  • Increased control over access management similar to the capabilities of federal organizations
  • Dashboards for tracking performance, sub-award report status, wage rates and other key records across my organization and, in some cases, my sub-contractors
  • Ability to identify and evaluate potential small business partners

Compliance Administrator

Highlighted requests and big ideas from our conversations with compliance administrators include

  • Ability to customize, save, and share reports across my agency so I can delegate responsibility for promoting and enforcing the same standards across all sub-agencies
  • Identify key elements (ex: contract number, office code) to include when linking data so they can be included in any report or record
  • Comprehensive organization management for keeping my organization and user accounts up to date and responding to access requests appropriately

Financial Assistance Coordinator

HIghlighted requests and big ideas from our conversations with financial assistance coordinators include

  • A comprehensive workflow that tracks status, contributors, and responsibilities throughout the listing creation/update, approval, submission, and publication cycle.
  • Better visibility into what has changed since the previous year
  • Streamlining the data entry process and clarifying the audience and use for each field

Researcher/Congressional Staffer

Highlighted requests and big ideas from our conversations with other researchers (ex: small business advocates) and congressional staffers include

  • A government role with increased access to aggregate data across agencies and offices
  • Easily customized standard reports, such as small business goaling reports, and increased export capacity
  • Improved ability to understand how federal money way spent - linking award information about what was spent to opportunity information about what was purchased

Financial Assistance Recipient

Highlighted requests and big ideas from our conversations with financial assistance recipients include

  • Integration between federal assistance listings and funding opportunities (ex: linking CFDA listings to opportunities on grants.gov)
  • Simple approach for helping ensure assistance opportunities aren’t overlooked or missed

UX and the Award Management Community

Here’re some examples of actionable feedback our UX team has received during interviews with the award management community:

Search results include hover-over explanations of terms like 'synopsis' and 'sole-source justification' in plain language with a link to the relevant FAR.

Enhancing posting standards for agencies creating notices to lead to more clear, findable and valuable solicitations and RFIs (yes we're working with policy and contracting folks to enhance the standards within policy).

Re-writing FAQs related to Recovery Act and Small Business Opportunities and other policy-related aspects of federal business opportunities so they are in plain language.

UX, IAE, and the User

Including UX as part of IAE development is another method to ensure that we design, develop and deploy award management software that’s usable and seen as valuable by our user community as they gain more data that provides critical business  insights into United States government award management and financial assistance.

Please email iaeoutreach@gsa.gov with any questions about the IAE’s UX work.


This post is based on a presentation delivered by Judith Zawatsky to the American Council for Technology (ACT)  Industry Advisory Council (IAC)  Fall 2015 Executive Leadership Conference (ELC).


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The Integrated Award Environment (IAE) is a government-wide initiative administered by GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). We manage the suite... More

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