A Federal-wide Initiative

The White House just this week launched the U.S. Digital Service, a new team of America’s best digital experts who are dedicated to improving and simplifying the digital experience that people and businesses have with their government. To advance that mission, the team released a TechFAR Handbook that helps Federal agencies buy agile software development services that follow the new Digital Services Playbook.

Taking a step further, the White House Office of Science Technology and Policy (OSTP) released the first version of Innovative Contracting Case Studies (PDF) compiled from federal agencies who have successfully applied a variety of innovative acquisition methodologies. These include, but aren’t limited to, efforts to discover novel solutions, test innovative solutions, and scale proven solutions, all while providing detailed information on specific contract methodologies. At HHS, we have taken acquisition on locally through the launch of the HHS Buyers Club this past June.

First Buyers Club Innovative Acquisition

Last week, the HHS Buyers Club announced its first solicitation (with the Program Support Center’s acquisition group) testing an innovative, two-stage acquisition process for IT services in conjunction and based on the need of the Office of Planning and Policy Support (OPPS) in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE).

What makes this different?

  • Streamlines the process and minimizes traditional offeror burden
  • Shift from traditional lengthy paper-based to proof-of-concept proposals
  • Provides ‘a look under the hood’ at current system infrastructure, allowing vendors to get a feel for the existing system
  • Utilizes a two-stage, down-select selection process allowing offerors to:
    • Showcase their abilities and expertise via short concept papers (stage one) and functional prototypes (stage two) plus cost/price proposals (both phases)

ASPE’s Objective and Purpose

ASPE’s overall objective is to implement a world-class web presence, content dissemination strategy and brand recognition for the Secretary’s policy development and related activities in policy coordination, legislation development, strategic planning, policy research, evaluation, and economic analysis. ASPE intends to utilize various output methods, responsive design principles and social sharing functionality to increase its digital presence by making content more findable, usable, searchable, and sharable by targeted audiences.

The purpose is to:

  1. Implement a modern platform and technical infrastructure supporting ASPE websites, databases, and software development environments;
  2. Implement a web content management system and software package;
  3. Redesign ASPE’s public website and intranet website;
  4. Migrate these websites and associated databases to a web content management system; and
  5. Modernize two database applications.

Note: Those interested in doing similar work like the ASPE example above, we’ve released an Alpha-stage acquisition process diagram and corresponding narrative below. We welcome your feedback and participation as we further develop our materials with greater detail to deliver stakeholder value.

Acquisition Process Diagram (an effective decision tool) and Narrative

This diagram is designed to assist program offices and other stakeholders in exploring new methods of acquisition. It has been created to consolidate information into a one-page format with all necessary high-level information.

A lengthy decision tree that walks a user through various steps to determine the proper acquisition method. Please see narrative found below.

Download Diagram (PNG) | Download Diagram Narrative (PDF)

We are looking for feedback and participation, and here is how you can get involved.

  • HHS Buyers Club (Yammer Page)
    • HHS-only collaborative platform page
  • Buyers Club (Federal-wide Listserv)
    • All Federal government employees with an interest in this topic are invited to join a community of practice around innovative acquisition by signing up for the new “Buyers Club” email group (open to all .gov and .mil email addresses).
  • Google Groups (Open to the Public)
    • Public forum for anyone interested in discussing the newly-released Innovative Contracting Case Studies.

HHS Buyers Club

The HHS Buyers Club is a HHS IDEA Lab sponsored project focused on addressing a critical problem in government: effective and efficient acquisition of information technology. Given the expansion and impactful role of digital services throughout government, there are many opportunities to improve existing acquisition methods used to support government services directly benefitting the public. It has been widely recognized that government access to and use of technologies that support data and information management are lagging behind the private sector. According to the 2013 Chaos Manifesto from the Standish Group, of all IT projects in excess of $10 million, 52% were found to be  challenged and 48% failed. Innovative strategies to leverage federal acquisitions processes are needed to seek both better value and outcomes for the services we provide the public.

With that in mind, the HHS Buyers Club focuses on:

  • Testing innovative procurement methodologies for IT service acquisition (and sharing the results through case studied for everyone to benefit).  Some current examples include a website re-development including a new technology platform, and a large-scale, mission-critical enterprise platform.
  • Developing newer, easier, and more effective acquisition models and processes.
  • Engaging all key stakeholders with effective mutually-beneficial education and outreach.

All of the aforementioned is part of a federal-wide initiative to transform acquisition to better meet the needs of the federal government and provide better value to taxpayers.

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