An upcoming workshop will teach feds how best to pitch projects to a board of administration officials.
The General Services Administration wants to help agencies cash in on newly available funds to chip away at IT modernization wishlists and get those moonshot tech projects off the ground.
On Thursday, the agency opened registration for a workshop aimed at teaching government techies how to boost their chances of tapping into the Technology Modernization Fund. The event, scheduled for June 8, will focus on crafting initial project proposals and include hands-on help from GSA emerging tech specialists and TMF program managers.
“A combination of bold and innovative emerging technology solutions including Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Process Automation piloted and tested by agencies across government with the operational rigor and funding of the Technology Modernization Fund holds the potential to drive to incredible performance advancements in public services,” GSA wrote in a blog post.
Created under the Modernizing Government Technology Act, the TMF offers agencies upfront investments in initiatives to upgrade critical legacy IT, which they would repay in increments over time. Congress allotted $100 million to the fund for fiscal 2018, with the option to reallocate more money next year.
To access funds for a particular project, agencies must first pitch their initiative to the seven-member TMF Board, led by federal Chief Information Officer Suzette Kent. Initial proposals should include a general overview of the project, which the board evaluates on feasibility, return on investment and ability to repay in a meaningful timeframe.
If approved, agencies would draft a more in-depth proposal that includes detailed timelines, financing information and an in-person presentation to the board modeled after the TV show “Shark Tank,” said TMF Executive Director Liz Cain in a webinar on Tuesday.
And the turnaround time is quick—agencies can get through both rounds of proposals and receive funds within two to three months. Within five weeks of launching, the board already moved four projects to the second round.
Proposals requesting $2 million to $10 million hit “the sweet spot” for approval, and the board is particularly interested in projects that show results within the first year, Cain said. While people sometimes get hung up on repaying funds, she assured the audience the board will work closely with agencies to ensure their efforts are successful.
“The board has some skin in the game on these projects—we’re there with you the whole way,” Cain said. “We’re not going to be a predatory lender where we’re giving you more money than we think you can pay back.”
Agencies can sometimes be reluctant to invest in emerging tech projects because there’s a higher chance of failure, but TMF can provide the much-needed boost to get those initiatives up and running. Still, Cain said funds are open to all types of projects, including legacy IT upgrades, and there’s no limit on how many proposals a single agency can submit.
However, she added, “every project does have to pay for itself somehow.”