Federal IT Assessments: Small Business Concerns

TRAs and TRLs

How do federal agencies know when a new technology is mature enough or safe enough to implement? Worse than remaining stagnant with antiquated software can be the disastrous consequences of investing in an immature new tech. For branches of the military and NASA, these risks are well known and have been accounted for throughout the last few decades.

With the continuous rapid increase of technology of late, other federal agencies and program management offices are looking for a solution to the question, “When is technology safe to implement?” That answer has been provided by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) with the release of their “Technology Readiness Assessment (TRA) Guide,” and more recently by the Air Force Research Laboratory who developed a “Technology Readiness Level (TRL) Calculator.”

Using the guide provided by GAO, agencies can generate a report that can help decision makers decide whether or not a prescribed TRL goal has been achieved, or highlight areas of potential risk. These methods may prove to be critical for the success of future projects and missions. They may also prove critical for those government contractors looking to provide tech solutions to federal agencies.

Implications for Small Businesses

It would behoove small business government contracting firms to understand this process which is becoming more commonplace in a better-connected federal marketplace. Previously, cyber-security certifications had been discussed as potential barriers-to-entry for small businesses looking to compete in government contracting, but now the ability for agencies to utilize these new methods of evaluation for technical solutions may prove to be an additional hurdle.

The moral of the story is that the landscape is always changing. To remain competitive, small business contractors have to play to their strengths and use the responsiveness enjoyed by small organizations to get out in front of the growing technical hurdles that are so frequently materializing. Knowledge is power, so small businesses should strive to stay in-the-know and leverage that to win contracts.

Author: Paul McVeigh