Best Practices: Moving to Agile Acquisition

Data silos. Increasing customer expectations. Acquisition complexity. Rapidly changing market solutions. Limited resources. Shifting policy and compliance requirements.

This is the landscape that contract officers in government face today. Clearly, it’s not an easy one. Today, agencies must move to a collaborative, flexible and agile procurement solution that can go beyond existing tools and processes and enable government acquisition officers to realize their strategic vision.

Here are five best practices to move on from long cycle times and inefficiencies to transparency, agility and technology that meets customers’ demand.

1. Evaluate the solidity of your current acquisition strategy:

Does your agency have a leader or champion driving the transition to a more agile acquisition strategy, with buy-in from above? Have you clearly defined roles and responsibilities? Have you established cross-functional teams in which key stakeholders coordinate and execute the acquisition tasks, or work to identify metrics, assess performance, and provide feedback on performance to agency suppliers? All these and more are key to your acquisition strategy — and a healthy acquisition strategy supports innovative solutions and leadership.

2. Have clear communication:

Effective communication is ultimately about getting buy-in organizationwide, creating awareness and providing an influential voice for stakeholders — “The Voice of the Customer.” Agile requires constant communication and real-time collaboration. Having more information earlier, and having it presented straightforwardly at regular intervals and at key acquisition milestones, increases everyone’s confidence. Ways to achieve that may include multiple communication methods, but moving to an Agile methodology focuses on providing real-time access and visibility. Key stakeholders should not have to wait for a weekly or monthly progress update. They should be able to view key status indicators and have all critical information at their fingertips when logging into their procurement platform.

3. Focus on outcome-based solutions:

Agencies should adopt policies that emphasize outcome-based acquisitions as opposed to the prevailing specification-based acquisitions. This means agency leaders need to communicate their strategic objectives and goals to their participating suppliers. “When you move to outcomes- or solution-based acquisition, you’re really getting to the key, core needs of the agency and eliminating unnecessary steps in the acquisition process,” said Mike Cook, Head of Public Sector at Ivalua.

4. Develop best practices through private-sector and internal collaboration:

“Some agencies have developed procurement innovation labs in which they’re able to think about Other Transaction Authorities and nimble ways of reaching out to the market and vendors, whom you wouldn’t typically interact with,” said Michael Arthur, Federal Business Development Leader at Ivalua. Labs such as these, plus collaborating with and learning from private-sector organizations that have Agile acquisition processes and technologies in place, can help the public sector get up to speed.

5. Partner with the right vendor:

Partner is the keyword. Vendors that can move agencies forward into modern acquisition will have adopted private-sector procurement best practices. They’re likely to offer predictive risk indicators and analytics, enabling proactive mitigation and realtime monitoring, and they’ll understand how to work within existing legacy systems. “The path to modern and agile acquisition processes is a journey and it is critical to select a vendor that will be a partner that is committed for the long term,” Cook said. “The platform you choose should provide the flexibility to scale up or scale down as your business changes or new features and functionalities are available to maximize the value of your organization’s investment in a procurement technology platform.”

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent report, “The Journey to Agile Acquisition.” Download the full report here.

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