Fall 2017 Report to Congress

Modernizing Small Business Certification Programs

Small Business Administration (SBA)

The Challenge

The Small Business Administration (SBA) aids, counsels, assists, and protects the interests of small businesses. SBA’s contracting programs support more than 537,000 jobs and provide a gateway for small businesses to compete for up to $100 billion in government set-aside contracts annually. The process of certifying a small business owner, however, was in need of technological modernization. In fact, the process created an unnecessary burden on small businesses and limited the Government’s ability to review applications in a timely and efficient manner. In short, a paper- and mail- driven process needed to be replaced by an online platform, and SBA analysts needed a modern solution to support the review of a large volume of application paperwork.

The Solution

USDS began working with SBA in February 2015 to develop online solutions that would streamline and simplify certifying small businesses. The modernization effort, known as Certify.SBA.gov, replaces current legacy systems, eliminates paper- and mail-based applications, and creates a more efficient process to determine small business eligibility. The new system will enhance search and reporting capabilities and allow other Federal agencies to find small businesses for government contracts. Additionally, USDS has worked with SBA to modernize the Historically Underutilized Business Zones Map (HUBZone), which helps small businesses in rural and urban communities determine if they are eligible for participation in the HUBZone program.


The 8(a) Business and Development Program assists firms with at least 51% ownership and control by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. USDS, in partnership with SBA, is working toward the launch of the online application process for 8(a) businesses through Certify.SBA.gov in early 2018. This new online application will join the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) and All Small Mentor Protégé programs already available on Certify.SBA.gov. With this new 8(a) launch, small businesses will now be able to:

  • Determine eligibility for SBA’s multiple contracting programs
  • Complete SBA forms directly online
  • Upload and manage documents across multiple programs
  • Receive email notifications, such as expiration and renewal notices
  • Check case status online rather than calling or visiting an SBA field office

USDS and SBA are working to enhance this application, replacing paper questionnaires with online forms and integrating a secure messaging platform to protect personally identifiable information from the risks of transferring data via email. USDS is adding functionality for small businesses to upload documents and reuse them across multiple certifications rather than submitting the same document multiple times. Finally, an internal notes section will allow analysts to append notes and information inside the online case file, providing continuity during staff turnover and empowering SBA analysts to refer a case to a colleague without having to physically transfer paperwork. These tools increase efficiency and security.

The Certify.SBA.gov platform will soon incorporate the HUBZone application and 8(a) annual review. These projects will support advanced data analysis to inform meaningful outreach and program evaluation.


The new version of the Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) map was launched in June 2017. The HUBZone map features the latest regulatory changes, provides an enhanced address search, an accessible user experience, and uses modern open source and geospatial technologies. Map updates now 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 check whether a site visit is necessary and if so, when and how best to conduct them. With the recent addition of Qualified Disaster Areas to the map, businesses in newly designated areas can now better understand the length of time an area might remain as a HUBZone.


  • 4 → 1 Systems consolidated
  • 230K+ Documents submitted electronically
  • 3x Increase in WOSB participation since launch
  • 180 Labor years redirected annually

This project was previously chronicled in our July 2017 Report to Congress.

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