TMF looks to measure more than just cost savings

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The board of the Technology Modernization Fund is looking to support projects that impact the public through improved customer experience, Executive Director Raylene Yung said Thursday.

The board of the Technology Modernization Fund wants to see a return on investment for the money it gives agencies for upgrades, but that doesn't necessarily only mean money saved – the board is also interested in benefits like making digital government services easier to use, said Raylene Yung, TMF executive director, during a NextGov event Thursday. 

"I really think that end-user facing improvements is an area that we are really excited to see," she said. "We're really excited to see what TMF proposals could look like and improve that end-user experience, something that directly impacts the user and makes their experience better."

TMF has gotten about $1.175 billion in total since it started in 2017. The fund's board is still allocating the $1 billion investment from the American Rescue Plan last year and has made around $400 million in awards so far. During a May Congressional hearing, Yung told lawmakers that the goal is to allocate the remainder, over $700 million, this fiscal year.

More investments are likely going to be announced this month, said Yung, continuing to say that TMF is now on a "rolling, continuous" pattern for announcing new projects. The board has "a few hundred million" in "active proposals" that have "neared the final stages and are just putting on their finishing touches and are going to be brought before the board in the coming months," she said.

One "big focus" is customer experience projects – "how can TMF investments and agencies make a large impact on the federal customer experience, so that's really how can we most improve the experience of a regular person, of the public, interacting with government," Yung said.

She also pointed to cybersecurity and implementing the 2021 cybersecurity executive order as another big priority.

As to showing a return on investment for TMF projects, the fund had strict reimbursement requirements when it was established. 

The Office of Management and Budget and GSA relaxed payback requirements for some projects in 2021 in a move they said would facilitate cross-agency collaboration and allow a focus on cyber, modernizing high-priority systems, public-facing digital services and cross-government services and infrastructure.

"The board really does look for return on investment and what is the impact of that investment," something that can take "many forms," said Yung. "It's not just cost savings … but it's also impact on the public." Different projects might warrant different levels of repayment because the return on investment might not be a direct cost savings, she continued.

For customer service investments, Yung pointed to projects that cross agency boundaries such as GSA's Login.gov, digital services improvements and projects among agencies dubbed "high impact service providers" by the administration due to the scale and impact of their services. 

Many shared service projects don't only benefit the agency getting the award, she said. For Login.gov, a shared sign-on service at GSA, Americans will also benefit as more agencies use the service, said Yung.

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