Calling Agile Contractors: Come Show and Tell for 18F

joreks/Shutterstock.com

Officials at the General Services Administration and 18F are now sending a message to the traditional contracting industry: We need your help, too.

The Obama administration has ambitious plans to embed a full-scale digital-service team within each agency to help overhaul the way government delivers IT projects.

But the teams won’t do it alone.

Officials at the General Services Administration and its in-house digital shop 18F are now sending a message to the traditional contracting industry: We need your help, too.

That was the takeaway from Tuesday's joint GSA-18F industry day where officials and industry representatives mulled over plans for a new agile-only contracting vehicle that will eventually help agencies purchase services specifically from companies that specialize in quick-turnaround software deployments.

18F has been doing its part over the past year to help agencies revamp citizen-facing services. All told, the office has agreements with about 18 agencies to perform development and design work, officials said.

The relatively small shop -- its staff size currently hovers around 100 -- has faced “explosive” demand for its services and can’t keep up, said Greg Godbout, 18F’s executive director.

The agile blanket purchase agreement envisioned by GSA would eventually allow agencies access to vetted agile-certified services, including agile architecture and software, user-centered design, and DevOps.

But companies looking to get into the agile action will first have to prove themselves to GSA and 18F. The beginning stages of the procurement will include a 24-hour tech challenge during which companies will have to produce and turn over to GSA a lightweight software prototype for evaluation.

And at first, companies selected for awards will only be providing work directly to 18F to help with its slate of projects.

However, firms that ultimately earn the 18F agile seal of approval will get a chance to compete for governmentwide work by year’s end.

Here are the specifics of the agile BPA laid out at Tuesday’s industry day:

By the end of February, GSA will release a request for quote for the agile BPA. If you want to get specific, it will fall under the special-item number for professional services (SIN 132-51) under IT Schedule 70.  

GSA officials said they planned to release a draft solicitation this week to give contractors a preview.  

That RFQ will cover the “alpha phase of the project,” during which the BPA will only be open to 18F to use for assistance with its projects.

By April or May, GSA plans to award BPAs for the alpha phase to about 15 to 20 companies.

The 18F-only holding period allows the smaller team to kick the tires, so to speak.

"We're not going to go governmentwide and say, 'Hey, we think this is the best of the best,' before we've had a chance to use (the BPA) and sort of put our name to it,” said Noah Kunin, director of delivery architecture at 18F.  

An RFQ for the beta version -- covering governmentwide work -- will be released by September. Awards, again to about 15-20 vendors, are expected in December or January.

It's likely that companies that win awards under the alpha phase will "graduate" to the governmentwide level, Kunin said. But there's no guarantee, and companies will have to recompete for the work.

"We're not going to say that, 'Hey, you do one evaluation, now we're set for five years," Kunin said.

There will be periodic on-ramping and off-ramping of vendors, "based on simple and transparent performance metrics," according to one of the slides presented at the industry day.

Kunin said the "cadence" of those off-ramps -- quarterly, annually or some other period of time -- remains to be worked out.

Details of what exactly GSA and 18F are looking for from companies will be available in the RFQ later this month. But if contractors want to get a head start, they should look to the Digital Services Playbook, Kunin said.

The administration launched the playbook last August, coinciding with the creation of the U.S. Digital Service digital fix-it squad. The playbook contains a how-to guide for building effective digital services.

"If you look at the playbook . . . that pretty much mimics more or less the evaluation methodology we're going to be using when we look at the software” generated by companies during the 24-hour challenge, Kunin said.

The administration has made agile acquisition a key part of its strategy for delivering better digital services.

An increased focus on breaking up large IT projects into smaller pieces has allowed agencies to deliver functionality an average of 21 days faster since May 2013, according to details presented in the White House’s fiscal 2016 budget blueprint published this week. Projects that followed agile-development concepts were nearly as likely to deliver on time than those using the traditional “waterfall” development technique, according to the administration.

The ultimate goal of the new agile-only contracting vehicle is to continue driving improvements in the way the government develops and acquires technology, said Adam Neufeld, GSA chief of staff.

"For too long, we've been a one-trick pony when it comes to technology development,” he said Tuesday. “People sit in a room and write requirements; they throw it over the transom at some point ... Sometimes, it's a raging success and everyone's very, very happy. But other times, it's not. It becomes late. It goes over budget. The customers are unhappy. And that's not good for the government. It's not good for the taxpayer, and it's not good for industry as well."

(Image via joreks/Shutterstock.com)

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.