New certification effort for financial software takes off

New certification effort for financial software takes off

By Patricia Daukantas
GCN Staff

Joint Financial Management Improvement Program examiners have finished testing the first of nine financial software systems whose makers are seeking a new federal stamp of approval.

JFMIP will not announce until Oct. 1 whether any of the nine meet the new requirements, which supersede those of the General Services Administration's Financial Management System Software Schedule.

Momentum, a client-server financial application from American Management Systems Inc. of Fairfax, Va., underwent certification testing early last month, said Zipora 'Zip' Brown, AMS' vice president for federal financial solutions.

JFMIP executive director Karen Cleary Alderman said she could not comment on the AMS testing or identify the other financial software under review. Nine products are scheduled for testing through September, she said.

The nine financial software vendors on the FMSS Schedule are AMS, Computer Data Systems Inc. of Rockville, Md., Digital Systems Group Inc. of Warminster, Pa., ICF Information Technology Inc. of Fairfax, Keane Federal Systems Inc. of Rockville, KPMG Peat Marwick of New York, Oracle Corp., Orion Microsystems Inc. of Piscataway, N.J., and Rel-Tek Systems Design Inc. of Monroeville, Pa.

At the core

Agencies must buy their core accounting systems from the mandatory FMSS Schedule unless they receive a waiver from the Office of Management and Budget, Alderman said. Starting Oct. 1, however, any new financial management software buys must meet the JFMIP requirements mandated by the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act of 1996.

One impetus for changing the government's approval process was the ongoing migration from mainframes to client-server and Web technology, Alderman said.

Also, GSA procurement integrity rules prohibited sharing details of the FMSS Schedule approval process with vendors and agencies, Alderman said. The new rules separate the certification and solicitation steps, allowing greater disclosure of test procedures.

The Federal Supply Service's Information Technology Schedule will list all software that receives JFMIP certification, Alderman said, but agencies can buy the certified software from any federal procurement schedule they choose.

JFMIP has set up a site on the Web, at www.financenet.gov/financenet/fed/jfmip/pmo.htm, detailing the new requirements for human resources, payroll and core financial systems. Some sections of the site, such as a listing of the certification test materials and a best practices page, are still under construction.

'While we do a compliance test, we're testing on the vendor platform. We're not testing in the agency environment,' Alderman said. She said she encourages agencies to try software in their own computing environments before committing to buy it.

JFMIP compliance certificates will be valid for three years, Alderman said. After the initial round of testing, new products will be tested on demand as upgrades come out or as vendors seek to enter the federal market.

Although the JFMIP test has questions about the year 2000 rollover, it does not constitute a comprehensive certification of year 2000 readiness, Alderman said.

Before the test started, Brown said, JFMIP examiners gave AMS a set of reference data to enter into the system. The 40-hour, week-long test took the system through the types of transactions that make up the lifecycle of a financial office, she said.

In addition to the JFMIP core requirements, the testers evaluated some value-added capabilities that vendors can choose to include in their software, Brown said, such as foreign-currency support and Web browser accessibility.
Brown said she believes the JFMIP standards are stricter than those of the FMSS Schedule.

Fifteen federal organizations, including the Patent and Trademark Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, use Momentum, which was released two years ago.

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