Bar raised for accounting software

Joint Financial Management Modernization Program Web site

Changes to a program for better federal financial management could make it harder to sell back office software to the government.

The Joint Financial Management Improvement Program-an undertaking of four federal departments-is adding more criteria that vendors of accounting programs and other financial software must meet to be qualified to sell to agencies.

"It answers the question 'Does the software meet the core requirements we specify?'" said Stephen Balsam, a senior associate for the program. "After the last round of testing, we studied the process and came to the conclusion that we could test more thoroughly."

Government agencies must purchase software from a certified vendor if the application is only being used to satisfy one of the financial management program's "core" requirements. If an agency has a requirement that is unique and is not in the core criteria, it can buy software from any company it chooses.

More criteria are being added as agencies contact the program, Balsam said. Currently, qualified software must meet 1,500 benchmarks spread across several areas.

So far, only three companies — SAP, American Management Systems and Digital Systems Group — meet the joint program's requirements. Oracle Corp., PeopleSoft Inc. and Savantage Solutions Inc. are testing now or are scheduled to do so by the end of September.

Certification expires after three years to ensure software keeps up with agencies' needs.

"The fact that vendors have to take and pass these tests means they're getting educated," said Jeffrey Hoge, director of the accounting systems division of the Treasury Department's Financial Management Service.

Any company can test its software to see if it qualified for certification, but the preparation can cost millions of dollars and take thousands of man-hours.

The Joint Financial Management Improvement Program is a cooperative venture of the Treasury Department, General Accounting Office, Office of Management and Budget, and Office of Personnel Management.

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