Case Studies

FEMA GMM

March 31, 2020

Background

Excelicon works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on its Grants Management Modernization (GMM) project providing Program Management Office (PMO) support services. The goal of the project is to modernize the way FEMA manages and administers grants for disaster survivors, allowing survivors to apply for and receive aid faster and with more confidence. For FEMA grants management specialists, the project is streamlining internal administrative and reporting processes, ensuring internal compliance and leading to decreases in fraud, waste, and abuse in the grants management process.

Challenges

  • FEMA faces multiple challenges in completing its mission with the GMM, including:
  • Each FEMA Region manages grant programs differently, leading to discrepancies in how grants are administered to state, local, tribal, and territorial partners.
    Stakeholders are spread throughout the country and often disengaged from the collaborative nature of this program.
  • As an Agile Pilot program within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the GMM project has additional administrative burdens to meeting governance and reporting requirements.
  • The agency is understaffed and many federal employees on the program are handling multiple responsibilities.
  • The IT systems FEMA was originally using to administer grants are outdated and dispersed across multiple platforms.
  • The contractors originally working with FEMA on this project were not able to perform consistently or deliver work in a cohesive format, leading to inconsistencies and the inability to make informed decisions.
  • FEMA employees weren’t able to do their original jobs since they had to spend time on rework of prior work products.

Solutions

The Excelicon team developed multiple approaches to solve the toughest challenges that the GMM team was facing. The Excelicon team used their expertise and previous experience with similar projects to develop the best solutions, including enhancing existing Project Management Institute (PMI) practices through the adoption of new tools and techniques. Working with the FEMA team, Excelicon looked at similar programs, including FEMA’s Disaster Assistance Improvement Program (DAIP) and National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) modernization initiatives. The teams also looked at tools in existence, including the Atlassian suite of tools, and conducted a gap analysis to determine what would be most applicable to the challenge at hand. After this research and analysis, the Excelicon team was able to implement agile project management tools to enhance GMM’s operations.

From a project management perspective, the Excelicon team enhanced overall program maturity by tailoring project management best practices to an agile development environment. Specifically, Excelicon enhanced the program’s risk management framework, identifying a gap and migrating the entire structure to Jira to better align with development activities and allow management to make strategic decisions to proactively mitigate risks. The team developed and enhanced other project management tools, including automating action tracking to allow the federal program manager to make more informed decisions and free up employees to focus on their jobs without roadblocks.

From a technology perspective, Excelicon led the development and maturity of several tools that are better enabling GMM to successfully design its target solution and iteratively gather user feedback. By helping FEMA identify the need for and then design and implement a change control tool, in conjunction with a robust stakeholder registry, the team is enabling the government to organize feedback mechanisms across all grant programs and stakeholders across in a way that makes sense, is more efficient, and avoids duplication. All of these accomplishments align with the FEMA mission of reducing complexity and streamlining the grants management lifecycle.

Additionally, the government had a need to standardize the management of contracts across the program, spanning over 200 contract employees and $100 million dollars. Excelicon developed and iteratively enhanced a Contract Utilization Tracker to allow the government to strategically deploy obligated dollars to program areas in the most need.

After demonstrating expertise, and as an example of the trusted partnership Excelicon built with the government, the Excelicon team was trusted by GMM leadership to attend meetings with federal leadership from other programs and to speak on behalf of the program, which is typically only done by federal employees.

Results

The main mission of FEMA and the Excelicon team is to get relief to disaster survivors more efficiently. As a result of the Excelicon team’s implementation of tailored project management solutions, the program’s systems and processes were streamlined to allow federal employees to better focus of the delivery of aid to disaster survivors.

Excelicon started on this project with two requirement analysts. Based on the team’s performance and past performance supporting the agency, FEMA has expanded Excelicon’s contract to manage their entire PMO with a staff of over 10 and was given a direct award contract, demonstrating the strong relationship the Excelicon team has built with FEMA on this project.

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