Modernizing Small Business Certification for Government Contracting
Small Business Administration (SBA)
The federal government, the largest procurer of goods and services in the world, is required to set aside contract opportunities for small businesses. The SBA works to expedite small businesses’ access to these opportunities by helping them document and certify their status. However, because most of these status determination applications had not been updated since they were first implemented, and because much of the underlying hardware and software is now obsolete, the user experience has become drastically worse. For example, some services require businesses to download the forms, fill them out, print them, rescan them, and upload a long list of documents, while others require mailing reams of paper. It is costly and very difficult for SBA analysts to review this volume of paperwork and transfer paper across offices while using multiple systems to perform analysis.
The certify.sba.gov (Certify) platform is a critical priority for the SBA. USDS began working with the agency in February 2015 to develop the platform while streamlining certification processes. The Certify system replaces current legacy systems, eliminating paper based mailed applications, creating a more effective and efficient structure to determine eligibility for small business applicants. Additionally, the new system will enhance search and reporting capabilities, allowing other federal agencies access to small business communities across the nation.
By the end of 2016, USDS had worked with the SBA on six major product launches on certify.sba.gov and more than 32 product updates. Every launch and update incorporated user research, automation, Section 508 compliance, and the U.S. Web Design Standards. One of these launches, the Women-Owned Small Business certification system, resulted in a 176% increase in participation thanks to the modernization effort, with more than 8,000 firms now participating. In November 2016, the new All Small Mentor-Protégé certification program was incorporated into certify.sba.gov and started accepting applications. By early 2017, SBA started accepting electronic 8(a) documents, and more than 144,000 documents have now been electronically submitted across all programs.
Additionally, a brand new version of the Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) map was soft-launched in March 2017 and launched for public preview in June 2017. The HUBZone map, which helps small businesses in urban and rural communities understand if they qualify for a HubZone preference for Government contracts, now features Qualified Disaster Areas, GeoSpatial open source technology, Section 508 compliance, and ensures map updates take weeks rather than months. A new advanced street view in the HUBZone map provides additional detailed information to SBA analysts in advance of site visits, allowing them to know whether a site visit is necessary, and if so, when and how best to conduct them.
This project was previously chronicled in our 2016 Report to Congress.