Modernizing Federal IT Acquisitions

Modernizing Federal IT Acquisitions

A visit to the Federal IT Dashboard is a reminder of the critical need to bring innovation and agility to federal acquisitions. Although significant changes and improvements such as strategic sourcing, IT-based GWACs, and large agency-specific IDIQ contracts have been made to the federal acquisition of IT products and services over the last ten years, the rapidity of change in the IT environment makes it challenging for federal procurement to keep up. Given the vast federal IT expenditures annually, as well as the speed of technology change, there is an acute need for more innovative acquisition methods. Federal acquisition lead times can often be longer than IT development cycles, resulting in lengthy procurement of IT and delays of outcomes to support agency missions.

The Health and Human Services Buyers Club (HHS Buyers Club) is focused on modernizing the federal acquisition of information technology (IT) and related services, as well as promoting federal-wide acquisition collaboration. The HHS Buyers Club exists to improve the acquisition process by developing more effective models and strategies. Collaboration will involve engaging all stakeholders through mutually beneficial interactions and testing new methodologies for IT product and service acquisition.

The HHS Buyers Club aims to:

  • Achieve greater success in every IT service acquisition
  • Develop more collaborative acquisition processes with agile-oriented service implementation models
  • Mitigate risks and increase success with less reliance on text-based proposals and more reliance on innovative, rarely-used procurement methods

Initiatives of the HHS Buyers Club include goals and action plans related to process improvement, communication and outreach, and experimentation with innovative procurement methodologies. One of the actions of the Club is to develop, obtain feedback and update iterations of an Acquisition Decision Diagram.

The modernization of acquisition practices at all federal agencies will offer benefits for a variety of key stakeholder groups. Each stakeholder plays an important part in the acquisition process and therefore, should also have a role in the improvement process. All stakeholders can, and are encouraged to, participate in experimentation and provide feedback with new models. Following are ways stakeholders can participate in acquisition collaboration:

  • End users and program staff provide information about needs or requirements while receiving effective guidance and information regarding all available options.
  • Procurement officials participate in the process early by providing permissible guidance and advice. In exchange, they enjoy improved understanding of needs, increased interaction with other stakeholders and more involvement in the ultimate outcomes of initiatives.
  • Financial management’s role is to provide effective advisory services early in the acquisition process. Benefits financial managers receive include a better understanding of mission needs, more interaction with stakeholders and more involvement in project outcomes.
  • The role of IT staff is to provide essential guidance and advice with regard to emerging technology, clearances and other important issues. Through their participation, the IT staff is able to better understand the mission’s purpose and become more involved in its execution.
  • Executive leadership should support the use of new acquisition methods, models and practices for improved success. Improvements will result in increased organizational effectiveness and maximized taxpayer value.
  • The legal department will provide legal advice and valuable guidance when appropriate throughout the duration of the process.
  • The role of vendors and contractors is to provide the effective delivery of services and contribute feedback. In exchange, they receive financial compensation, as well as the opportunity to interact with federal stakeholders.

In addition to the HHS Buyers Club there are several other initiatives and resources available to improve federal IT procurement outcomes:

  • U.S. Digital Service – This service addresses digital weaknesses and works to resolve them.
  • Digital Services Playbook – This document offers guidance for agile implementation and can be used to increase project success.
  • TechFAR Handbook -This handbook works in conjunction with the Digital Services Playbook to help agencies maximize the efficacy of the software development process.
  • Innovative Contracting Case Studies -This material can be used to develop new, more effective acquisition models.
  • Federal-wide Buyers Club– This project facilitates community and interaction among all federal employees who are interested in innovative acquisition.Check frequently for updates to the Acquisition Decision Diagram, use case studies and opportunities for education and engagement by subscribing to the mailing list at the HHS Idea Lab website.