Need for Speed

Posted by Ed O’Hare
on January 24, 2010

First off, I would like to thank everyone for their interest in my blog so far.  I think the fact that this space has already received many thousands of hits shows how much interest there is out there in this type of open government initiative.  Please keep the comments coming, I like to read them!

While everyone has an idea on “the next big thing”, the Administration is pushing for change and pushing for it quickly.  My first introduction to this “need for speed” was in late 2008 when, as the FAS CIO, I was asked to stand up change.gov for the presidential transition.  We were expected to have the website up and running the Wednesday following the Tuesday election…and we did (with a lot of help from many offices in GSA and little sleep). I was thinking about that adventure, when I came across this article highlighting the Administration’s push for IT projects that are both faster and cheaper.  This certainly resonated with me – my organization’s mission is to make IT acquisitions faster, easier and less risky for the Federal government.  Let me briefly explain how.

The acquisition life cycle can be broken down into three large segments; (1) requirements development, (2) contract sourcing and award, and (3) contract administration.  When agencies use GSA they can cut the time and resources spent in the second segment and reduce the risk of protest and/or selection of an unqualified contractor. That’s because we already have contracts with more than 6,000 world-class qualified contractors offering IT products and services that cover the entire IT spectrum.  It simply takes less time to source and award a contract against an existing acquisition vehicle as opposed to an open market buy.  Anyone who has ever prepared a proposal for both types of contracts knows this very well.  And while a protest can always be filed for any award, we are finding that this happens less often against established contract vehicles.  Our Alliant contract, for example, has been operational for nine months and not a single protest has been filed.

We continue to engage with our customers to produce new acquisition solutions that allow government agencies to focus on their core mission while we focus on our mission of making acquisitions faster, easier and less risky.  I would like to point out that GSA’s Assisted Acquisition Service, run by Mary Davie, supports agencies with the first and third segment if they need assistance.

Another way we’re making IT acquisitions better and faster is through strategic solutions like GSA’s SmartBUY program.  While agencies often prefer custom implementations over Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) Software, the pace of technological innovation is beginning to make that tradition outdated.  Custom systems sometimes end up being so complex and taking so long to implement, that they end up being obsolete by the time they go live. This means that federal agencies will need to start focusing on common requirements and the capacity to customize pre-developed solutions. Our SmartBUY program negotiates better prices for COTS software for the entire government.  The program has already saved the taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars.   I expect that figure to grow; especially since we’re looking into providing services like C&A and Data Center Services through SmartBUY.

The development of clear requirements has a big impact on the timeliness and success of IT procurements.  That is why I will be focusing on ways to make sure my organization has the necessary program, acquisition AND technical knowledge necessary to effectively engage with our customers.

So what do you think?  Do you have other ideas on how to achieve faster and cheaper acquisitions across government?

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