SBA looks beyond small businesses to modernize systems

The Small Business Administration recently widened its search for a systems integrator beyond small businesses in an effort to bring its loan management and accounting systems into the 21st century, an agency official said today.

“We are willing to listen to any vendor who can offer a solution, and we’re going to go with the company that offers the best approach to meet our needs,” said Joanie Newhart, SBA director of business operations, in an Oct. 2 statement.

SBA is looking for an integrator to modernize and manage its loan management and accounting systems, and replace its 50-year-old mainframe computer, which hosts an $83.5 billion portfolio of loans, Newhart said.

A request for proposals could come in early November, according to a presolicitation notice published in September. SBA anticipates awarding the contract in early 2008. The contract could be worth as much as $125 million for the system modernization in the next three to five years and managing the system in the next 10 years, the notice states.

SBA started an initial search in April for small businesses to handle the modernization, but the agency decided to expand its options. It’s researching the market now to find what other companies can offer.

The economic recovery efforts stemming from Hurricane Katrina exposed problems with the agency’s systems, Newhart said. SBA responds to disaster areas such as the Gulf Coast to assist small businesses in the area, but it could not process loan applications as quickly as officials would have liked.

Officials realized the agency relies heavily on mainframe-based loan processing systems that are inflexible and obsolete, according to the presolicitation notice.

The agency is pushing for more modernization throughout the agency, too. In its strategic plan that looks ahead to fiscal 2013, SBA envisions electronically transferring applications and documents with customers seamlessly via agencywide systems.

SBA is starting to plan for investing in information technology systems to ensure that the investments complement existing systems, the plan states.

"SBA will continue to simplify the interaction between small businesses and the federal government through the use of the Internet and information technology," it states.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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