November 25, 2015

Overcoming the Challenges of Acquiring Agile Digital Services in Government

Written by Ron Peterson

On November 5, 2015, Phil Fewell, Managing Director at CC Pace, and I attended ACT-IAC’s Emerging Technologies Community of Interest sponsored workshop held at GSA Headquarters on the topic, Overcoming the Challenges of Acquiring Agile Digital Services in Government.  I moderated the panel of experts on the subject which included Traci Walker from US Digital Service, one of the original architects of the TechFAR and the Digital Services Playbook; Eric Cho from DHS’ Procurement Innovation Lab; Navin Vembar, the IT Director for the Integrated Award Environment (IAE) who we work with at GSA; and Dave Zvenyach with 18F, a GSA entity that provides digital services, including some Agile development to other Federal agencies.

The discussion centered on how the acquisition process and the contractual language of the Request for Proposal (RFP) can be structured in order to better facilitate acquiring Agile digital services, while still adhering to the Federal Acquisition Regulation known as the FAR.  Attendees heard what others are doing in the government to support their agency’s adoption of Agile methodologies and frameworks.

Traci Walker, who has 15 years of experience as a Federal Contract Officer, emphasized that the TechFAR document, of which she was a key contributing author, should make it clear to all agencies that the FAR in no way prohibits the adoption of Agile development practices in government.  In fact it encourages such innovation.  Eric Cho outlined some of the experimental approaches that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been implementing to acquire Agile services in their component agencies.  David Zvenyach from 18F shared some of their recent awards to industry and how 18F interfaces with government agencies interested in their services.  Navin Vembar discussed the advancements at GSA in using Agile development on their large IAE program.

The response to this topic was so strong that we had to turn some people away.  So ACT-IAC will be doing two more of these sessions, one on December 10th and another on January 21st.  We are suggesting that the December and January sessions both limit industry attendance to no more than 50% of the total in order to allow for more government participation.  I expect to moderate the January panel and hope to see you there.

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