When I read the announcement of the White House Innovation Fellows, I was quickly drawn to the Project RFP-EZ
Building a platform that makes it easier for small high-growth businesses to navigate the federal government, and enables agencies to quickly source low-cost, high-impact information technology solutions.
What I like best about is really simple - we need more innovation in acquisitions. As they say - if you want to make change, follow the money. And if we can improve how government buys, we can fix a lot of the big issues in government.
Last week I wrote "7 Ideas on Project MyGov" - so this week here are my 5 Ideas on Project RFP-EZ
1) IGCE Creator - I love the tool they created to build statement of works. Next step, would be if they created a tool that could quickly create an independent government cost estimate.
2) Yelp for Government
I've talked about this a number of times but it is still way to hard to find past performance information nor is it 20% as helpful as Yelp or Amazon reviews. It would be great if government buyers could quickly get good reviews on past performance of vendors in as easy to use a format as Yelp or Amazon.
In 10 seconds, I can find a rough ranking of top mexican restaurants in DC. What if I could quickly find some of top 8a PM contractors who've worked at DHS before. That'd be truly game changing.
3) Change the Culture - The hardest part with making innovation in acquisition is often the culture isn't there to take risks. Contract specialists are often swamped with work and they have no incentive to choose a risky new way - faster or cheaper could be perceived as potentially riskier so it's easiest just to do as told and go simplest way (often these day it's just lowest cost).
To change the culture, we need to empower acquisition specialists. Like any cultural change, it's a mix of change management techniques - strong leadership, strong incentives (could we create an incentive pool with money saved and distribute part as bonuses to best COs?), good communication and marketing (need a simple, clear prominent campaign).
4) Acquisition Data Hackathons -
I hope RFP-EZ is the beginning of a push to build new technology tools to improve the buying process. There's a ton of acquisition data that could be used to build new tools and resources to help acquisition professionals if brought together in challenges and hackathons. A lot of great data has been released in good formats but other important data (like labor rates are buried in PDFs). Already RFP-EZ have improved some data by creating APIs of EPLS and DSBS - would be great to get PPRS, CPARS, FDPS as well as pricing information from GSA Advantage
Just think of all the advancements in buying in your personal lives - from mobile commerce to amount of peer reviews to great aggregate analysis of products like TVs. All that can be built - acquisition.gov already hosts a number of tools (like newly released SAM) but could improve their ability to quickly develop great tools through challenges/hackathons.
5) It's all about Adoption - The core RFP-EZ tool of running procurements under $150k through this channel is awesome. Once built, the issue is all about adoption. If enough procurements are run through it, the companies will come. If the process really does save a lot of time and meets all the needs, agencies will adopt it. So at the beginning, I strongly encourage to spend most of time on the adoption (which is a lot of just promoting). I'd look at common procurements under $150k and encourage them under this route - such categories often include training, short consulting projects, web-based tools, meetings, printing/flyers/etc, among others. And just get out there talking to as many COs and project managers as you can
There's my 5 ideas - what's your idea?