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IAE Hosted Subaward Reporting Focus Groups

In April and May 2014, the Integrated Award Environment (IAE) hosted a series of subaward reporting focus groups. Designed to engage subaward stakeholders as IAE transitions to a more user-centric development approach, these focus groups were the first step in driving a ground-up redesign of subaward reporting. IAE used the focus groups to develop subaward user personas, subaward user stories, capture user goals, pain points and big ideas.


Nine sessions were held including 43 Federal and 45 non-Federal participants. The sessions grouped individuals with similar roles, targeted actual system users, encouraged participants to engage and draw ideas from each other in addition to their own experiences, and allowed for “no limitations” to encourage the discussion of big ideas.


The seven Federal focus groups brought together representatives from contracting policy, contracting staff, contract and system administration, grants policy, grants staff, small business in government, and congressional oversight. The two non-Federal focus groups brought in participants from industry, state government, health care and universities.


Pain points in the areas of usability, operations, identity management, roles, core subaward processes, common subaward services, data, oversight/compliance, and support were identified, as were goals for using the subaward systems and big ideas for the future. IAE is analyzing the thoughtful input received, grateful to the participants, and looks forward to working with future focus groups in additional areas as we transform our Environment.


An Interview with the Integrated Award Environment (IAE) Team About the Recent eSRS and FSRS Focus Groups

Good afternoon to the IAE Team, and thanks for taking the time to speak with us today.  Recently, your team conducted a series of focus groups specifically centered on the Electronic Subcontracting Reporting System (eSRS) and the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) Subaward Reporting System (FSRS).  These are two of the ten systems that the General Services Administration (GSA) Integrated Award Environment (IAE) is charged with managing and integrating to create a smoother, more efficient federal award environment.

  1. Q: Recently IAE held focus groups to discuss two of these systems.  What was the purpose of the focus groups?

A:  Users of the Electronic Subcontracting Reporting System (eSRS) and the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) Subaward Reporting System (FSRS) participated in working group discussions to better understand the users’ current issues, goals for using the systems, and big ideas for the future.  The goals of the focus group discussion are to: engage subaward stakeholders, transition to a more user-centric development approach that includes Federal and non-Federal representatives, and drive a ground-up redesign of subaward reporting. These focus groups allow the business operations experts to hear the needs and thoughts of the users.


  1. Q: Who participated in the focus groups?

A:  A total of nine focus groups were held throughout April and May 2014, with participants who were volunteered from every federal agency through their senior leadership.  The discussions included frank conversations with dozens of users and representatives of the subaward systems.  Representatives included: federal agencies, contracting and grant officials, the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Congressional committee staff, the Congressional Research Service, State Governments, the Small Business Administration, and industry experts who are most familiar with the subaward systems.


  1. Q: What were the biggest take-aways from these discussions?

A: Data accuracy and completeness was the single greatest issue raised in the focus group discussions.  As a byproduct of data entry limitations, participants validated that data accuracy across the systems needs to be improved and that current deficiencies undermine confidence..  This results in difficulty understanding and qualifying data (Where did the money go?) and the inability to get credit for subcontracting achievements. (Who did the money go to?)  In addition, users from all sectors want greater control over how they access and manipulate the data. (How can I improve my compliance? How can I monitor compliance?)


  1. Q: Drilling down into the results a little further, what can you tell us about the findings regarding eSRS & FSRS?

A:  The findings were very similar for both subaward systems.  From a reporting perspective, users expressed a need for improvements to leverage data from internal/external systems, automate notifications for reporting, and provide a more intuitive design (such as dashboards).  Government users had a specific interest in improving the ability to track subaward compliance.


  1. Q: How do you plan to translate these findings into action?

A:  We’re currently analyzing and categorizing the raw comments from the focus groups and translating the pain points and big ideas into user stories.  Once the data is consolidated into meaningful categories, we’re going to share the findings with stakeholders, to include those who participated in the discussions.  Next, we’ll build a roadmap for prototype development, which includes defining the experience for each persona, developing user stories from captured issues and ideas, and aligning “to-be” epics  and user stories with the “as-is” environment.  Finally, we’ll develop prototypes, using an Agile methodology, solicit and schedule participation for prototype feedback, and incorporate the user feedback as part of the system’s future design.


  1. Q: If there are users of eSRS or FSRS who were not involved in the focus groups, or if there are other interested parties who have comments or suggestions, how should they relay that information to you?

A:  The focus group participation was excellent and we definitely got robust feedback and information to move in a positive direction.  We encourage all subaward stakeholders to participate in the process.  We’ll be soliciting participation for the upcoming prototype sessions and we envision new ideas will emerge as well.  All are encouraged to post thoughts, ideas, and suggestions here in the IAE Interact community online.  You can also write us directly at IAEOutreach@gsa.gov.


7.  Q. Will you be holding focus groups on the other IAE systems?

A. Absolutely. We are looking forward to holding focus groups on common services such as [Search] and Identity Management as well as the functions embedded in all of the IAE systems.


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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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