Fortune Media and Great Place To Work Name Highlight to 2024 Fortune Best Workplaces for Millennials List

Fairfax, VA — Great Place To Work® and Fortune magazine have honored Highlight as one of the 2024 Best Workplaces for Millennials. This is Highlight’s 3rd time being named to this prestigious list, this year coming in at 79th. Earning a spot means that Highlight has surpassed rigorous benchmarks, establishing itself as one of the best companies to work for in the country.

To determine the Fortune Best Workplaces for Millennials™ List, Great Place To Work collected nearly 510,000 responses from millennials at companies eligible for the list. To be considered, companies had to be Great Place To Work Certified™ and have at least 50 millennial employees in the U.S.

“Studies have shown that what matters has evolved for younger generations entering the workforce, and quality of life is now equally important as salary and benefits,” said CEO Aarish Gokaldas. “Highlight is proud of the tangible benefits and leadership we provide that ensure holistic coverage for both our employee-owners’ professional and emotional well-being.”

The Best Workplaces for Millennials list is highly competitive. Survey responses reflect a comprehensive picture of the workplace experience. Honorees were selected based on their ability to offer positive outcomes for millennial employees regardless of job role, race, gender, sexual orientation, work status, or other demographic identifier.

“Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce, and their experience is a strong indicator of overall company health,” says Michael C. Bush, CEO of Great Place To Work®. “These workers demand what every great workplace should provide: credible leadership, meaningful work, and a respectful, fair place to do their jobs.”

“Congratulations to all of the Best Workplaces for Millennials finalists,” says Matt Heimer, executive editor for features at Fortune. “The expectations of this age cohort are setting a high bar for employers. Millennials place an unusually high priority on purpose-driven work and an equitable workplace. These companies are in step with these expectations, and they’re setting themselves up for continued success by committing to workplaces and environments that attract this pivotal generation of business talent.”


Looking to grow your career at a company that puts its people first? Visit our careers page at:

Highlight’s Previous Great Place to Work Achievements

In 2023, Highlight was recognized as:

#35 on 2023 PEOPLE®’s Companies that Care List

#28 on Best Medium Workplaces List 2023

#15 on Best Workplaces for Technology 2023

#25 in Best Workplaces for Millennials™ 2023 (Small And Medium)

In 2022, Highlight was recognized as:

#2 in Fortune Best Workplaces for Women™ 2022 (Small And Medium)

#10 in Fortune Best Workplaces in Technology™ 2022 (Small And Medium)

#16 in Fortune Best Medium Workplaces™ 2022

#33 in Best Workplaces for Millennials™ 2022 (Small And Medium)


About Highlight

Highlight Technologies (“Highlight”) is an award-winning, 100% employee-owned, ISO® 9001, ISO 20000, ISO 27001, ISO 44001 certified, ISO 56000 certified, CMMI-DEV Level 3, and CMMI-SVC Level 3 appraised federal contractor that provides Application Development, Business & Mission Operations, Data and Analytics, Hybrid Cloud and Automation, Cybersecurity, and IT Services to more than 20 U.S. federal government customers. Our customers include National Security (DHS, Army, Air Force, Intel), Health (USAID, NIH, HHS) and Citizen Services (FCC, GSA, SBA). For more information, please visit

About the Fortune Best Workplaces for Millennials List
Great Place To Work selected the Fortune Best Workplaces for Millennials List by surveying companies employing more than 8.2 million people in the U.S. with 1.3 million confidential survey responses received. Of those, nearly 510,000 responses were received from millennials at companies eligible for the list and these rankings are based on that feedback. Read the full methodology.

To get on this list next year, start here. 

About Great Place To Work
As the global authority on workplace culture, Great Place To Work brings 30 years of groundbreaking research and data to help every place become a great place to work for all. Their proprietary platform and For All™ Model help companies evaluate the experience of every employee, with exemplary workplaces becoming Great Place To Work Certified™ or receiving recognition on a coveted Best Workplaces™ List.

Follow Great Place To Work on LinkedIn, X, and Instagram or visit and sign up for the newsletter to learn more.

About Fortune

Fortune upholds a legacy of award-winning writing and trusted reporting for executives who want to make business better. Independently owned, with a global perspective and digital agility, Fortune tells the stories of a new generation of innovators, builders, and risk takers. Online and in print, Fortune measures corporate performance through rigorous benchmarks, and holds companies accountable. Fortune creates communities by convening true thought leaders and iconoclasts — those who shape industry, commerce, and society — through powerful and prestigious lists, events, and conferences, such as the iconic Fortune 500, the CEO Initiative and Most Powerful Women. For more information, visit


Check out the latest Bytes & Insights

Check out our all-new quarterly tech brief through our Technology and Innovation office, Bytes & Insights – Decoding the Quarter. This insightful report recaps the hottest topics, thought leadership pieces, and industry developments from the past quarter. Our inaugural edition is here, packed with valuable info you won’t want to miss. Stay ahead of the curve and stay informed on what matters most!

Messages in the Ether: Architecting Microservice Communication Protocols

This is part 1 of a multi-series related to how microservice to microservice communication can be improved through streaming platforms.

Microservice architecture one of the leading approaches to software development. Communication between these services is an essential component of modern software architecture. It enables disparate services to interact and function cohesively within a distributed system. Communication can be achieved through various methods, with REST and streaming platforms being two prominent approaches. While both approaches are valid and functional, both approaches scale differently. Let’s discuss some of the pros and cons including failure scenarios and technical complexity of the data flowing.


REST, or Representational State Transfer, is a widely adopted protocol for microservice communication. It operates over HTTP, using standard methods such as GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE to perform operations on resources identified by URLs. Each microservice exposes its functionality via RESTful APIs, allowing other services to interact with it through HTTP requests. REST’s simplicity and ubiquity make it a popular choice among developers, as it integrates easily with existing web technologies and frameworks. Tools such as Swagger UI make testing and adoption of these APIs easier through automated API documentation generation.

In a RESTful architecture, communication between microservices is typically synchronous. When one microservice needs to interact with another, it sends an HTTP request and waits for a response. This synchronous nature makes REST straightforward to understand and debug, as the flow of data is direct and predictable. However, this approach also has inherent limitations. As the number of microservices grows, managing the communication between these services becomes increasingly complex and complicated as the number of interconnections also grows.

Microservices can typically ask for entity information via REST to other services in batches or individual selections. If multiple services need similar information from another service, they must all make REST calls to that service which can result in increased queries to databases, number of transactions, higher latency and added performance implications. These performance implications are then exacerbated to each service making the requests. To try to be efficient you can try to cache the responses to have increased performance, but it comes at the cost of increased complexity and potentially maintaining multiple caching implementations across multiple services. This can be particularly problematic in scenarios requiring high scalability and low latency, such as real-time data processing. As you can see REST can be valid selection for batch processing but does not scale when it comes to using it for real-time data processing.

Streaming Platforms

Streaming platforms, such as Apache Kafka, provide a robust and scalable solution for handling high-throughput, low-latency communication. In streaming-based architectures, microservices publish messages to a central message broker or stream processor, which then distributes these messages to the appropriate consumers. Unlike REST, which is inherently synchronous, streaming platforms enable asynchronous communication. This means that services can produce and consume messages independently and asynchronously. This decoupling enhances the scalability and resilience of the system, as services can continue to operate even if some components are temporarily unavailable.

For example, in Kafka, services produce messages to data streams(topics), and other services consume messages from these data streams(topics). This publish-subscribe model allows multiple services to listen to the same stream of messages, enabling simpler data processing pipelines and real-time processing of events.

One of the significant advantages of streaming platforms is their ability to handle microservices dying during processing. In a RESTful architecture, if a microservice fails while handling a request, the client service may experience errors or timeouts, requiring additional logic to handle retries and error recovery. This can complicate the implementation and increase overall system complexity. In contrast, streaming platforms are inherently designed to handle such failures more gracefully. When a microservice produces a message to a data stream (topic), it is stored in the message broker until it is consumed. If a consuming microservice fails, the message remains in the data stream and can be reprocessed once the service is back online. This ensures that no data is lost, and that processing can resume seamlessly. Additionally, streaming platforms often provide built-in mechanisms for ensuring message ordering, delivery guarantees, and fault tolerance. For instance, Kafka supports various delivery semantics, such as at-most-once, at-least-once, and exactly-once, allowing developers to choose the appropriate level of reliability for their use case.

Another significant benefit of streaming platforms is their efficiency in handling scenarios where multiple services need to retrieve the same data. In a RESTful system, each service would need to send separate requests to obtain the same data, resulting in duplicated effort and increased load on the data source. Streaming platforms address this issue by allowing services to subscribe to data stream and receive messages as they are published. This means that once a piece of data is produced to a data stream, it can be consumed by multiple services without redundant requests to the data source. This approach reduces the load on data sources and improves overall system efficiency, especially in data-intensive applications where the same information needs to be processed by various components.

In conclusion, REST offers a simple and straightforward approach for synchronous communication, making it usable for applications with low-to-moderate scalability, small number of microservices, and loose latency requirements. For scenarios requiring high throughput, low latency, robust fault tolerance, and efficient data retrieval, streaming platforms present a superior solution. By leveraging the capabilities of streaming platforms, organizations can build more resilient and scalable microservice architectures that meet the demands of modern, data-intensive applications.

Part 2 we will explore how streaming platforms provide better security to access data from your microservices.

Data-Driven Decisions or Decision-Driven Data? The Rise of Decision Intelligence

In the age of information overload, organizations are drowning in data. The question isn’t whether we have enough data, but rather, how can we use it to make better decisions? In the era of big data, the concept of being “data-driven” seemed intuitive. The idea was to approach data with fresh eyes, letting it speak for itself and guide decisions. However, this approach often lacked context, leading organizations on misguided quests for “all the data,” plagued by biases and limited perspectives. While a well-modeled dataset can reveal patterns and inform responses, the reality is that data alone cannot always steer us towards optimal outcomes.

The Limitations of “Data-Driven”

Traditionally, organizations have strived to be data-driven, believing that data holds all the answers. A purely data-driven approach overlooks the crucial element of intent.

Organizations risk chasing after every data point without a clear understanding of the underlying business or mission problem or desired outcome. This can result in:

  • Analysis Paralysis: The inability to distill meaningful insights from a sea of information.
  • Misaligned Priorities: Focusing on data collection over solving the actual business challenges.
  • Lack of Contextual Awareness: Disregarding the nuanced human factors that influence decision-making.

Decision-Driven Data: A Paradigm Shift

Decision-driven data flips the script. Instead of starting with data and looking for answers, it begins with the decisions that need to be made. To overcome these limitations, a paradigm shift is necessary.

Decision-driven data places the focus back on the decisions themselves. By prioritizing the outcomes we seek, we can determine the RIGHT data to collect and analyze. This shift helps organizations avoid aimless data expeditions and ensures that all efforts are aligned with strategic goals.

Enter Decision Intelligence (DI)

DI is the answer to this new paradigm. DI is the bridge between the digital / data world and the human world of decisions. It’s a discipline that combines data, analytics, and technology with behavioral science and managerial expertise to improve decision-making processes. Or put another way, augmenting human intuition and subjectivity with the machine’s algorithms & data and objectivity.

It starts by defining desired outcomes and documenting them as measurable metrics. By identifying the levers that decision-makers control, as well as the internal and external factors influencing those outcomes, DI effectively connects the digital and data ecosystem with an organization’s strategic objectives. DI tools and platforms create a comprehensive map of the decision landscape, enabling organizations to:

  • Trace Cause-and-Effect: Understand the relationships between actions and outcomes.
  • Unify Data: Integrate data from disparate sources to create a single source of truth.
  • Surface Insights: Use advanced analytics and AI to uncover hidden patterns and correlations.
  • Simulate Scenarios: Explore the potential impact of various decisions.
  • Incorporate External Factors: Account for market trends, competitor actions, and other variables.
  • Collaborate Effectively: Break down silos and foster communication among decision-makers.

Why Decision Intelligence Matters

DI is not merely a buzzword – it’s a game-changer for organizations seeking to maximize their data and AI investments. By adopting a decision-driven approach and leveraging DI, businesses can:

  • Focus Efforts: Align data, analytics, and AI teams towards common objectives.
  • Improve Decision Quality: Gain deeper insights and context for more informed choices.
  • Drive Proactive Action: Shift from reacting to events to anticipating and shaping them.
  • Increase ROI: Realize the full potential of data and technology investments.
  • Make Better Decisions: DI provides the insights and context needed to make informed, confident decisions.
  • Improve Efficiency: DI streamlines decision-making processes and reduces the time spent on analysis.
  • Drive Innovation: DI enables organizations to experiment with and explore new possibilities.
  • Enhance Agility: DI empowers businesses to respond quickly and effectively to changing market conditions.

The Future of Decision-Making

The advent of decision intelligence is ushering in an exciting era for organizations. By embracing DI, businesses can move beyond reactive decision-making and embrace a proactive, strategic approach. As technology continues to evolve, so too will the field of decision intelligence. We can expect to see even more sophisticated DI tools that harness the power of AI and machine learning to augment human decision-making capabilities. The future of decision-making is not about replacing humans with machines, but rather about empowering humans with the tools and insights they need to make the best possible choices. DI not only enhances the quality of decisions but also provides decision-makers with a clearer understanding of the second, third, and even fourth-order effects of their choices.

Katmai Professional Services and Highlight Form Alaskan Native 8a Joint Venture

Katmai Professional Services (Katmai) and Highlight Technologies (“Highlight”) are proud to announce the creation of Katmai-Highlight Government Services JV (KHGS). This joint venture partnership directly connects to Katmai and Highlight’s SBA-approved Mentor-Protégé relationship. KHGS combines the strengths of both organizations, including subject matter expertise, customer relationships, core capabilities, and various delivery models to provide optimized, end-to-end digital, professional, and public health services. Together, KHGS has supported the federal government for over twenty years across the defense, national security, international development, and health sectors.

Managed under Katmai Government Services, an Alaskan Native Corporation (ANC) holding company, Katmai is a Small Business Administration (SBA)-certified 8(a) Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB). Katmai is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Ouzinki Native Corporation (ONC), an organization that directly giving back to its Alutiiq Native shareholders. Katmai offers a range of professional support services, including public health services, records management, Information Technology (IT) solutions, recruiting and retention, research and development, network administration, and training and simulation lifecycle support.

“We are excited to expand our partnership with Highlight into a formal joint venture, which will ultimately increase the capabilities and support that we can provide to our Government clients and their missions. Together, Katmai and Highlight create a formidable team with the right people, processes, and technologies that will provide high-quality, low-risk solutions to meet the needs of the federal government,” said Jerry Roach, General Manager and Vice President of Katmai Professional Services.  

Highlight is a 100% employee-owned federal contractor that has provided Agile Software Development, Business & Mission Support, and IT Services to over 20 federal government agencies for fifteen years. Highlight brings a mature management structure to support large-scale programs and expand digital services to Katmai’s portfolio of service offerings. 

“Given both companies’ commitment to stakeholder equity and client impact, our strategic partnership with Katmai Professional Services made perfect sense,” said Aarish Gokaldas, CEO of Highlight. “I look forward to bringing our joint capabilities together to serve our current and future government clients.”

Leveraging Katmai-Highlight Government Services will significantly broaden the offerings for both organizations to meet the unique needs of federal government agencies. This partnership enables us to provide tailored solutions and services that drive greater efficiency, effectiveness, and mission impact for agency clients.

About Katmai

Katmai, an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001:2008, AS 9100, and Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) Level 3 certified ANC organization, provides significant breadth and depth in the Federal contracting arena. The Katmai family of small business enterprises has performed over $1B in prime contracts for the Federal Government since 2006, and currently boasts 1,127 mission support employees across 47 locations nationwide.  Katmai is backed by the strength of 11 subsidiaries that are active in the SBA 8(a) program. Katmai profits are distributed back to our shareholder community with emphasis given to educational programs and non-profit organizations that enhance and protect the culture of the Alutiiq people.

About Highlight

Highlight Technologies (“Highlight”) is an award-winning, 100% employee-owned, ISO® 9001, ISO 20000, ISO 27001, ISO 44001 certified, ISO 56000 certified, CMMI-DEV Level 3, and CMMI-SVC Level 3 appraised federal contractor that provides Application Development, Business & Mission Operations, Data and Analytics, Hybrid Cloud and Automation, Cybersecurity, and IT Services to more than 20 U.S. federal government customers. Our customers include National Security (DHS, Army, Air Force, Intel), Health (USAID, NIH, HHS) and Citizen Services (FCC, GSA, SBA). For more information, please visit

Thriving in the Digital Age: Why the 5Ps Are Essential for Successful Digital Excellence

The federal landscape is undergoing a significant shift towards digital excellence. From streamlining citizen services to enhancing agency operations, digital initiatives are a necessity for government organizations to keep pace with the evolving landscape. However, navigating digital excellence, and by association digital transformation, can be complex. While many leaders focus on the technology itself, neglecting the human element and crucial operational changes can lead to project failure. The ripple effect of that failure is felt by internal and external users, stakeholders, the mission suffers, time is lost, let alone taxpayer funding is wasted. A successful digital transformation requires a holistic approach that considers five key pillars: People, Policy, Process, Partners, and Platforms, what I call the 5Ps.

The 5Ps: Building a Strong Foundation for Digital Transformation
Each P represents a crucial element that, when integrated effectively, fosters successful digital transformation. Conversely, neglecting any one of these Ps can cause friction and resistance, leading to a project that is incongruous, low-yielding, shortsighted, or even disintegrates altogether.

“When digital transformation is done right, it’s like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, but when done wrong, all you have is a really fast caterpillar.” – George Westerman | Principal Research Scientist, MIT Sloan Initiative on Digital Economy
Let’s delve deeper into each P to understand their significance and the potential pitfalls of overlooking them:

1. People: The Human Center of Transformation

At the core of any digital transformation initiative are the People. This encompasses leaders, employees, citizens, and other stakeholders. Their buy-in, skills, and capabilities are paramount. Effective communication, training, and change management are crucial to ensure everyone understands the digital project’s goals and how their roles will evolve.

What happens when you neglect People?


  • Resistance to change from employees who fear job displacement or whose skills are not aligned with the new technologies.
  • Lack of user adoption for new applications or systems.
  • Talent gaps due to a lack of upskilling or reskilling initiatives.
2. Policy: Setting the Guideposts

Policy provides the guardrails that govern how digital transformation is implemented. This includes directives, guidance, and procedures that address data privacy, security, and IT infrastructure management. Federal agencies must adhere to specific legislative and compliance requirements, and policies must be developed to ensure digital initiatives align with these requirements.

What happens when you neglect Policy?


  • Non-compliance with federal regulations leading to project delays or shutdowns.
  • Unclear decision-making processes hinder progress.
  • Security breaches and data leaks due to inadequate protocols.
3. Process: Optimizing Workflows

Process refers to the business workflows that will be transformed through digital initiatives. Federal agencies often have legacy systems and paper-based processes that can be inefficient. In some cases, they digitized a paper process, and now there’s an opportunity to improve the digital process through automation. Digital transformation is an opportunity to streamline these processes and leverage technology to enhance efficiency and accuracy.

What happens when you neglect Process?


  • Inefficient workflows that continue to burden employees and hinder productivity.
  • Incompatibility between new technologies and existing processes, creating bottlenecks.
  • Failure to realize the full potential benefits of digital transformation.
4. Partners: Collaboration is Key

Partners play a critical role in digital transformation. This includes internal and external partners, such as academia, industry experts, and technology vendors. Collaboration with these partners can provide access to specialized skills, knowledge, and innovative solutions. This collaboration also ensures their needs or requirements are incorporated into the digital transformation.

Federal CIO Clare Martorana emphasized “The success of digital transformation efforts will depend heavily on how well agencies collaborate across functions and with external partners.”

What happens when you neglect Partners?


  • Re-inventing the wheel by attempting to develop solutions in-house that already exist.
  • Lack of access to cutting-edge technologies and expertise.
  • Siloed efforts that hinder information sharing and collaboration.
5. Platforms: The Technological Foundation

Platforms encompass an organization’s existing technologies, software, applications, and infrastructure that will be leveraged or replaced during digital transformation. A thorough assessment of current IT infrastructure is essential to determine compatibility with new technologies and to identify any upgrades needed.

What happens when you neglect Platforms?


  • Investing in new technologies that are incompatible with existing infrastructure, leading to integration challenges.
  • Security vulnerabilities due to outdated or unsupported technologies.
  • An inability to scale digital initiatives to meet future demands.

“…we will be able to target the right investments to support digital delivery, consolidate and retire legacy websites and systems, work with our private sector partners to implement leading technology solutions, maximize the impact of taxpayer dollars, and deliver a government that is secure by design and works for everyone.” – Federal Chief Information Officer Clare Martorana

By focusing on the 5Ps—People, Policy, Process, Partners, and Platforms—federal leaders and buyers can establish a strong foundation for successful digital transformation and achieve digital excellence. A well-coordinated approach considering these interconnected elements will help ensure projects are implemented effectively, deliver meaningful benefits, and position agencies to thrive in the digital age.



Highlight Earns 2024 Great Place To Work Certification™

Fairfax, VA – Highlight is proud to be Certified™ by Great Place To Work® for the 3rd year in a row. The prestigious award is based entirely on what current employees say about their experience working at Highlight. This year, 96% of employees said it’s a great place To Work – 39 points higher than the average U.S. company.

Great Place To Work® is the global authority on workplace culture, employee experience, and leadership behaviors proven to deliver market-leading revenue, employee retention, and increased innovation.

“Great Place To Work Certification is a highly coveted achievement that requires consistent and intentional dedication to the overall employee experience,” says Sarah Lewis-Kulin, the Vice President of Global Recognition at Great Place To Work. She emphasizes that Certification is the sole official recognition earned by the real-time feedback of employees regarding their company culture. “By successfully earning this recognition, it is evident that Highlight stands out as one of the top companies to work for, providing a great workplace environment for its employees.”

“It is an honor to qualify as a Great Place to Work for a third consecutive year, but I’m prouder of the fact that employee satisfaction is at its highest point to date,” said Highlight CEO Aarish Gokaldas. “As Highlight continues to succeed, we commit to ensuring that all employees benefit from that success via our employee ownership model, strong compensation and benefits packages, and a culture built on camaraderie and meritocracy.”

According to Great Place To Work research, job seekers are 4.5 times more likely to find a great boss at a Certified great workplace. Additionally, employees at Certified workplaces are 93% more likely to look forward to coming to work, and are twice as likely to be paid fairly, earn a fair share of the company’s profits and have a fair chance at promotion.

Highlight’s Great Place to Work Achievements

In 2023, Highlight was recognized as

#35 on 2023 PEOPLE®’s Companies that Care List

#28 on 2023 Best Medium Workplaces List

#15 on Best Workplaces for Technology

#25 in Best Workplaces for Millennials™ 2023 (Small And Medium)

In 2022, Highlight was recognized as

#2 in Fortune Best Workplaces for Women™ 2022 (Small And Medium)

#10 in Fortune Best Workplaces in Technology™ 2022 (Small And Medium)

#16 in Fortune Best Medium Workplaces™ 2022

#33 in Best Workplaces for Millennials™ 2022 (Small And Medium)

Looking to grow your career at a company that puts its people first? Visit our careers page at:

About Highlight
Highlight Technologies (“Highlight”) is an award-winning, 100% employee-owned Application Development, Business & Mission Operations, Data and Analytics, Hybrid Cloud and Automation, Cybersecurity, and IT Services to over 20 U.S. federal government customers. Our customers include National Security (DHS, Army, Air Force), Health (NIH, HHS), and Citizen Services (SBA, USAID,

About Great Place to Work Certification™
Great Place To Work® Certification™ is the most definitive “employer-of-choice” recognition that companies aspire to achieve. It is the only recognition based entirely on what employees report about their workplace experience – specifically, how consistently they experience a high-trust workplace. Great Place to Work Certification is recognized worldwide by employees and employers alike and is the global benchmark for identifying and recognizing outstanding employee experience. Every year, more than 10,000 companies across 60 countries apply to get Great Place To Work-Certified.

About Great Place To Work®
As the global authority on workplace culture, Great Place To Work® brings 30 years of groundbreaking research and data to help every place become a great place to work for all. Their proprietary platform and For All™ Model helps companies evaluate the experience of every employee, with exemplary workplaces becoming Great Place To Work Certified™ or receiving recognition on a coveted Best Workplaces™ List.
Learn more at and follow Great Place To Work on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Introducing Highlight’s New Bytes & Insights

Highlight is thrilled to announce the launch of our all-new quarterly tech brief through our Technology and Innovation office, Bytes & Insights – Decoding the Quarter. This insightful report recaps the hottest topics, thought leadership pieces, and industry developments from the past quarter. Our inaugural edition is here, packed with valuable info you won’t want to miss. Stay ahead of the curve and stay informed on what matters most!

Historic Overhaul of Uniform Grants Guidance Announced for Federal Financial Assistance

Federal Agencies Must Apply Revisions by October 1

The White House has issued a groundbreaking nine-page memorandum (April 4, 2024) that sets forth new rules for the administration of Federal financial assistance. The initiative, “Reducing Burden in the Administration of Federal Financial Assistance,” includes significant updates and revisions in Title 2 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), otherwise known as Uniform Grants Guidance.

The guidelines impact the $1.2 trillion in funding provided by the federal government for thousands of programs that receive grants and other forms of financial assistance. The changes are meant to reduce complexity, administrative burden, and ambiguity. The new guidance also means new work for agencies to apply revisions by October 1, 2024.

In its April 4, 2024, announcement, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) called the guidance “the most substantial revision to the Uniform Grants Guidance since it went into effect ten years ago,” and noted that changes were based on input from federal, state, and local governments, tribal organizations, nonprofits, universities, and companies.

OMB Deputy Director for Management Jason Miller, in an OMB briefing, said the new guidance will simplify grant announcements with plain language and, as a result, will strengthen accountability and compliance, streamline implementation, and broaden the pool of potential recipients. As the most substantial revision to the Uniform Grants Guidance, since it went into effect 10 years ago, Miller called it “a new era in the management of federal funds.”

The final version of the Uniform Guidance will be posted in the Federal Register. OMB released a pre-publication version. Federal agencies must submit how they plan to implement the revisions by May 15, 2024. This includes submitting plans for simplifying Notices of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs). The guidance requires agencies to redesign notices to improve accessibility, readability, and clarity. Targeting underserved communities, the goal of the guidance is to reduce paperwork burden and compose NOFOs in plain language.

Other key federal directives and goals from the memorandum include:

  • Comprehensive Revision of Title 2: A key component of the memorandum is the extensive revision of Title 2 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which governs the administrative requirements, cost principles, and audit requirements for Federal awards. These changes, effective for all federal awards issued on or after October 1, 2024, aim to enhance the stewardship of federal funds, promote equitable access, reduce administrative burdens, and ensure effective oversight. Federal agencies are tasked with swiftly and consistently implementing these revisions to maximize their benefits.
  • Post-Award Accountability and Transparency Enhancements: The memorandum addresses the need for maintaining accurate federal financial assistance award and sub-award data, establishing standardized core data elements, and implementing post-award administration efficiencies. These measures aim to reduce burden while enhancing accountability, transparency, and program outcomes.
  • Consultation with the Grants Quality Service Management Office (QSMO): Federal agencies are reminded to consult with the lead Grants QSMO when updating their grants and cooperative agreements management systems. This ensures alignment with best practices and the provision of high-quality service offerings.

Roadwork Ahead for Federal Agencies

While the goal is to reduce burden, the new guidance requires significant changes in how federal agencies manage and administer grants and cooperative agreements.

  • Systems and processes must be upgraded and could be time-consuming. Staff will need training on new requirements and processes.
  • Enhancing post-award accountability and transparency means managing a vast amount of data accurately.
  • Agencies must ensure that they can collect, manage, and report subaward data effectively.

With guidance emphasis on improving access and equity for Tribal Nations and underserved communities, agencies will need to engage and target communication with these communities more effectively. This could involve outreach, consultations, and the development of specialized application processes. Agencies must navigate the complexities of these engagements sensitively and effectively, which may be challenging without prior experience or established relationships.

Key Actions Leaders Should Consider Today

  1. Build a Plan – Draft a Strategic Plan
  2. Identify Resources – Ensure you have an allocation of sufficient resources
  3. Develop an Agile Culture – Lead the way by committing to continuous improvement and adaptation

Requirements to consult with QSMO when updating grants and cooperative agreements, agencies must align management systems with QSMO guidelines and best practices. This coordination could be challenging for agencies with unique or specialized grant management needs.

Addressing these challenges will require strategic planning, allocation of sufficient resources, and a commitment to continuous improvement and adaptation. As federal agencies navigate these changes, they must develop new strategies, tools, and partnerships to successfully implement the guidance and achieve its intended outcomes.

Barry Lawrence is a Senior Communication Program Manager for Highlight. The opinions expressed in this blog are his own and reflect a commitment to compliance and fostering a more accessible digital world for all Americans.

Unlock Digital Agility: A Guide to a Flexible, Plug-&-Play Tech Strategy

The relentless evolution of technology demands organizations be ready for constant change. Case in point, over the past 18 months, we have all seen ChatGPT and other Large Language Models (LLMs) disrupt how we do a lot of things. To take advantage of this disruption and the next disruption, organizations must cultivate agility and flexibility within their infrastructure. A Plug-and-Play tech strategy is your key to unlocking that adaptability.

Future-Proofing with Plug-and-Play
Rather than investing heavily in on-premise IT assets, the Plug-and-Play approach emphasizes cloud-based subscriptions and easily interchangeable technology components. This “built to change” mindset overthrows the outdated “built to last” philosophy.

Building Blocks, Not Fortresses: Why Plug-and-Play Wins. 
Imagine building your tech infrastructure like a LEGO set, not a brick-and-mortar building. With a Plug-and-Play approach, individual components (data visualization tools, CRMs, etc.) are designed for easy integration. This lets you swap them out or add new ones as your needs evolve, fostering agility and adaptability within your organization.

Where to Begin?
A successful Plug-and-Play transformation goes beyond the technology itself. To ensure lasting success, consider these key areas:

  • The 5 P’s: People, policies, processes, partners, and platforms must be carefully assessed and aligned with your transformation goals. Early attention to these areas ensures smooth adoption and minimizes long-term disruption.
  • Follow a Four-Step Digital Transformation Process: A structured process to go from transformation into continuum:
    1. Discovery and Alignment: Define your vision, assess the current state (“as-is”), and articulate your desired future state (“to-be”). Look for alignment between system solutions and organizational objectives.
    2. Transformation Assessment: Analyze the gaps between “as-is” and “to-be”, developing your strategy, requirements, and infrastructure plan. Mitigate risks early.
    3. Agile Development and Release: Execute your plan using agile methodologies, with a strong focus on quality assurance and testing. Continuously evaluate and incorporate new tools or capabilities as needed.
    4. Sustained Digital Continuum: Shift focus to ongoing operations and maintenance, providing support, updates, and ensuring ongoing adaptability.

Key Considerations:

  • Risk Mitigation: Address potential risks like privacy concerns or integration issues early in the process.
  • Stakeholder Involvement: Engage stakeholders throughout the journey for better buy-in and adoption.
  • Metrics: Define clear metrics to track your progress and measure the impact of your transformation.

Real-World Implementation
Start with less critical back-office processes to build confidence before tackling core operations. Here’s how modern tech empowers your strategy:

  • SaaS (Software as a Service): Streamlines deployment and updates.
  • APIs: Facilitate communication between different software systems.
  • Microservices: Help create modular, easily swappable components.
  • AI and ML-Powered Tools: Enable faster decision-making and automation.
  • LLMs (Large Language Models): Facilitate natural language interaction, content generation, and knowledge extraction.
  • RAGs (Retrieval-Augmented Generation): Provide LLMs with access to external knowledge sources, enhancing their accuracy and the scope of their responses.

The Plug-and-Play Advantage

Embrace the mindset that all tech solutions are inherently temporary. A Plug-and-Play strategy lets you quickly adopt cutting-edge tools and drive better outcomes.

  • The Reality of Constant Change:  In today’s technology landscape, obsolescence is inevitable. What’s considered “best-in-class” today might be surpassed within months or weeks. Clinging to solutions for the sake of familiarity hampers your organization’s ability to stay competitive.
  • Leadership’s Critical Role: To foster an always-changing organization, leaders must:
    • Model an Embrace of Change: Leaders set the tone. Being visibly open to new technologies and experimentation signals that it’s safe for others to do the same.
    • Champion Continuous Learning: Encourage employees to stay up-to-date on emerging trends and provide opportunities for skills development.
    • Reward Adaptability: Recognize and celebrate those who successfully navigate change and pivot quickly when needed.
  • The Plug-and-Play Advantage: A Plug-and-Play framework anticipates change. It prioritizes solutions designed for easy integration and replacement. This means your organization isn’t shackled to outdated systems, allowing you to capitalize on the latest innovations.
  • Driving Better Outcomes:  Flexibility drives results. By quickly adopting cutting-edge tools, you potentially:
    • Boost Efficiency: Automation, AI-driven insights, and streamlined processes can significantly increase speed and productivity.
    • Enhance User Experience: Whether it’s an internal system for employees or a public-facing application, modern tools often deliver a superior user experience.

Example: Imagine the impact of staying committed to cumbersome spreadsheet-based accounting versus switching to a cloud accounting platform, automating processes, and enabling real-time financial insights. The Plug-and-Play mindset allows you to make these critical updates quickly.

Key Questions for 2024 and Beyond:

  • How does your strategy drive robust data-driven insights utilizing AI-backed analytics?
  • Are you effectively balancing cloud, hybrid, and on-premise solutions for optimal performance?
  • What percentage of your IT budget fuels innovation versus maintenance?
  • How do you track the tangible impact of new technologies on achieving your mission?
  • What are your plans to proactively identify and assess emerging technologies?

Remember, change is the only constant. By combining a Plug-and-Play mindset with a holistic transformation approach, you create a foundation for sustained digital agility.