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Executive-Level Planning Office Mulls New Online System

In a request for information, the state office wants to hear from vendors that can assist it in moving a portion of its work from manual to automated and online.

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Officials at a highly placed state planning office would like to hear from IT companies regarding standing up a new online system.

In a request for information (RFI) released Jan. 9, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR), an executive-level planning agency, wants to hear from vendors about a “Grant Management Solution” (GMS). Per its website, OPR studies “future research and planning needs, fosters goal-driven collaboration, and delivers guidance to state partners and local communities.” It focuses on “land use and community development, climate risk and resilience, and high road economic development.” Among the takeaways:

  • OPR has three main budget programs, according to the RFI: the State Policy Program (SPP), which has most “core planning and research functions”; the California Strategic Growth Council (SGC), which “coordinates and works collaboratively with public agencies, communities, and stakeholders”; and California Volunteers (CV), which aims to boost the “number and impact of Californians involved with service and volunteering throughout the state.” The GMS should address the SPP and the SCG program, but not CV. The SPP and SGC “invest in both capacity and capital infrastructure, with a focus on improving outcomes in California’s most under-resourced and over-burdened communities.” OPR needs a “robust, cloud-based, flexible GMS” — a “cradle to grave grant management life cycle solution” for its various grant programs and recipients. The new solution must “streamline, integrate, and automate process workflow” so that users internally and externally can track and manage grant applications, projects, funds and agreements.
    “The ultimate resolution would be a cohesive grant management business model based on a single grant management solution to effectively manage and monitor the portfolio of OPR and SGC grant programs and projects,” according to the RFI.
  • Currently, OPR receives grant applications and reviews them manually. There’s no automated, centralized way to receive applications, and those that come in aren’t stored in one single solution or database. Reviews and approvals of documents also are done manually via emails, shared folders and with “little or no collaboration.” If staffers have questions or concerns, “they independently reach out to the applicant to request clarification or updates,” so “paired with those challenges, documents and applications often lead to version control issues.” Updates, too, require manual processes and applicants are unable to view application statuses during the review. There’s no standard, centralized way to communicate with and update applicants; the administration and monitoring of awarded grants also “does not enter a state software system.” At this time, “multiple departments are also tasked with reviewing and approving documents, and recordkeeping is currently dependent on Microsoft Office tools” without a central reporting or tracking system. Duplicated “accounting of grant account balances and deliverables tracking by the state, grantee, and the subcontractors” can yield “multiple versions that may need to be reconciled.” “Dispersed tracking systems” mean staff can’t see a “program-wide report on project status, location or other details.”
  • On requirements, OPR seeks a GMS with capabilities including being cloud-based; having role-based access; supporting document automation; capable of accepting, processing and tracking invoicing, expenditures, and billing; and doing complex evaluations. It must also be able to track the scope of work, deliverables and project data; support multiple grant programs simultaneously; centralize the “grant management life cycle solution, from intake to grant management”; and have reporting systems for project status, location, and applicant identity. The GMS must also meet specified information technology and security standards. Respondents must describe how their solution will solve the challenge statement; how it’s unique, innovative and different from others out there; offer a technical description and describe the product and associated modules included; explain whether it’s off-the-shelf or will need customization or configuration to target the challenge statement; and whether it can integrate with necessary modules and with the Financial Information System for California. A proposed timeline and a Rough Order of Magnitude on cost are also required.
  • The RFI’s intent, OPR said, is merely to understand available products and services, and to use cost information provided for “informational budgeting purposes.” The intent is not to actually choose a proposed solution or supplier but to “investigate alternatives to modernizing the current processes with a robust, cloud-based, flexible Grant Management Solution (GMS)” and to help the office in developing a procurement strategy that will facilitate any subsequent refresh. Questions are due by Wednesday; a Q&A webinar will be 9-10 a.m. Wednesday; OPR’s responses to questions will be Jan. 24. Responses are due by 3 p.m. Feb. 6. The OPR, at its own discretion, will invite the top selected respondents to conduct a demonstration of their grant management solution, presentation of their approach, and explanation of the costing model. Demonstrations are anticipated for Feb. 13-24.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.