FMS requirements debate goes online

With critical decisions being made about the government's use of commercial financial management software (FMS), a government group this month has set up a site on the World Wide Web where agencies and vendors can find information and provide feedback.

The Joint Financial Management Improvement Program (JFMIP) unveiled Knowledgebase ( as part of a plan to improve the process for changing the requirements that vendors must meet to sell financial management system software to the government and the process for certifying those products.

The requirements are going through several changes in preparation for the new FMS Software (FMSS) schedule being developed by the General Services Administration. It is JFMIP's responsibility, under the control of the newly created program management office, to develop these requirements.

One problem in the past was the inability of vendors and agencies to determine relationships between requirements and the issues they were developed to solve.

The Web site, run on a Lotus Development Corp. Domino server, is intended "to ensure we could maintain those relationships and quickly identify links between those relationships," said Joel Henson, a member of the Logistics Management Institute, the consulting group that JFMIP contracted with to help it with the new requirements.

The Core Requirements category, of course, is the main draw, but the site also covers categories such as Reference Materials, Software Certification Test Materials and Best Practices/Lessons Learned, although the last two sections still are under construction.

JFMIP has developed a well-organized site, giving users the ability to drill down into specific areas, especially in Core Requirements.

The default listing is by major category, but the requirements also can be listed by author; whether they are mandatory or value-added; the date they were created or changed; whether they are new, changed or unchanged; and by test trace. There is also a search engine that will search the site by each of the above categories or by requirement number.

The site lists all these options on the left side of each page along with links to the other sections of the site, making it easy to navigate the site without getting lost in a trail of hyperlinks.

When drilling down to the actual list of requirements, users get each requirement's number, the source, whether it is a mandatory or value-added requirement and a short summary. Clicking on the number brings up the complete description, including the dates of all changes and links to the tests at different agency and vendor sites to which that particular requirement is linked.

When something has changed within a requirement, the changed text is put in a colored italicized font. This way, users do not have to hunt down the old version and then compare the two, word by word.

Perhaps the most important part of the site is the public discussion area, which serves as a forum for vendors and agencies to comment on requirements and the certification process. To get involved in a discussion, users must register "because we want to have documentation," Henson said. But users who just want to browse through the discussion do not need to register.

The Reference Materials category includes a document that shows how the requirements came into being, with links to download the document in either zipped Microsoft Word 6.0 or PDF format. Other documents, sorted by subject, date and category, include the recommendations for changing the current core financial system qualification process and the briefing slides from a recent meeting on the same topic.

Full descriptions of the current and future certification process for the FMSS schedule are available under the Certified Software heading, along with links to GSA's FMSS schedule site and the Treasury Department's FMSS guide for the rest, in order "to avoid duplicating information," Henson said.

Another section provides links to Favorite FinanceNet Pages, from which users can jump to Web sites for everything from the Chief Financial Officers Council and federal finance offices to General Accounting Office reports and testimony as well as a page of links for federal electronic commerce Web sites.

JFMIP is considering including a way for people to be notified of changes to the site, such as an e-mail alert, for which users can sign up separately from the discussion registration.


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