Nobody Has a Monopoly on Good Ideas: How the IdeaScale Crowdsourcing Platform Achieved FedRAMP Status

When Joby Emmons arrived for his first day as general counsel at IdeaScale, he was told: “Your first job at IdeaScale is to get us FedRAMP authorized.”

Emmons, writing in a blog post earlier this year, said he went back to his desk and googled F-E-D-R-A-M-P. He found out that attaining Federal Risk Authorization and Management Program (FedRAMP) status is mandatory for companies like IdeaScale doing business with Federal agencies. It’s also a challenging process. Six months later, IdeaScale reached its goal, and on Dec. 5 officials announced that the company had become FedRAMP authorized. Company officials said IdeaScale is the first crowdsourcing platform to gain FedRAMP authorization.

IdeaScale is a cloud-based crowdsourcing tool that helps agencies generate innovative ideas to solve problems. They use the platform to solicit ideas from a specified community, whose members collaborate with each other as they suggest ideas, while voting and commenting on the ideas of others. Once a promising idea is identified, a team is formed around the idea. The team can add more data to the idea, refine it, and propose it to leadership. Ideas are then evaluated through IdeaScale’s decision-matrix technology.

Emmons said that he quickly learned that gaining FedRAMP status is “not a one-person job or something that would happen overnight. The heads of all IdeaScale departments hopped on board and provided support and resources.” At that point, he said, security became the top priority for IdeaScale.

IdeaScale’s system administration department fortified system borders and supplied personnel dedicated to the deployment of security controls and the performance of system scans, Emmons said. A compliance team then added an information-system security officer to the mix to perform continuous system security reviews and worked with outside professionals to architect the FedRAMP solution. The developers even overhauled their system development life cycle process to make the application even more secure.

Emmons underlined the importance of its third-party assessment, a critical step in the FedRAMP process. “This means our security controls, policies, and procedures have withstood a grueling multi-month audit and gained a recommendation for FedRAMP authorization in our auditor’s security assessment report,” he said.

IdeaScale has a wide range of Federal customers, including the Department of Homeland Security, NASA, the Food and Drug Administration, the Energy Department, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Labor Department. Overall, the platform has more than 35,000 customers and 4.5 million users in the public and private sectors around the globe.

The Labor Department applied the crowdsourcing tool to ePolicyWorks, a web-based policymaking program that engages citizens to address employment issues for people with disabilities. Through the program, officials enlist the public’s input by channeling the brainpower of Federal partners, nonprofits and other stakeholders. More than 5,000 community members have produced more than 600 ideas and 13,000 votes across all dialogues staged using IdeaScale.

Tim Sussman, vice president of public-sector initiatives at IdeaScale, said that FedRAMP status will “make it easier for customers to move their crowdsourcing initiatives forward with the full confidence of their information technology teams behind them.”

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