Looks like the mainstream press has caught wind of Grants.gov’s electronic forms Mac compatibility problems: The Washington Post’s Federal Page features an article about it tomorrow. The article is unfortunately sensationalist and is factually incorrect as a result — Grants.gov is not costing “tens of billions of dollars” and Northrop Grumman’s contract is not for “$22 billion” — but otherwise it reflects the information I and others have previously reported.
The crux of the problem is that the electronic forms product that Grants.gov is using (provided by IBM which bought the developer, PureEdge, and rebranded them “WorkPlace Forms”) are only available on the PC platform. They’ve been promising a Mac version since Grants.gov was stood up.
Interestingly, on Friday Grants.gov released an RFI (Request for Information) to potential bidders on the recompete of Northrop Grumman’s contract. The RFI includes the following:
The government is open to replacement of some or of all major COTS [commercial off-the-shelf] and/or proprietary components of the current system if that provides the best overall value.
I’m pretty sure that the e‑forms/Mac compatibility issue is the major driver behind that statement, and indeed there are several excellent alternatives nowadays. (As I noted back in November, such alternatives weren’t available when the Grants.gov systems development contract was first competed.)
Grants.gov remains an excellent solution for those who have the technical capability to use it. I sincerely hope that the successes it has had are not thrown away by some politico looking to demonstrate “hard management”. That would effectively eliminate the large investments the 26 grant-making agencies have already invested in Grants.gov, throw the Grants Management Line of Business for a complete loop, and put the whole objective of grants streamlining back to around the year 2000.