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Commentary from the Wiki Phase of the BetterBuyProject (Chris Hamm)

Originally published by Chris Hamm on the BetterBuyProject Blog.

GSA FEDSIM has two BetterBuy pilots underway: Data.gov and ClearPath. The experience so far has been interesting. On my end, there was a tremendous amount of uncertainty leading up to the launch. Will the wiki work? Will people know how to use it? Can the server handle all the traffic? Will one or two voices dominate the discussion?

Several months worth of effort went into the launch. When we finally went live, I was anxious to see the response. And at first, nothing happened. . . . .

A few individuals created user names, but didn’t change anything.

A few more folks provided free ‘editing’ services, correcting typos, spelling out acronyms, and correcting verb tense.

Finally, after about a week, we started to see meaningful discussions and contributions on the wiki. I was curious about why it took so long, so I asked a few users about their process. It turns out that industry had the same questions that I had. No one was sure who was ‘authorized’ to speak for their company. Normal procedures for providing a response to the Government for these companies are established, and this wiki threw a wrench in the works. It took a few days for them to develop a plan on how to response. One company even wanted to know when we were going to lock down the changes so that they could post their info at the last minute.

From my perspective, the Data.gov use of the wiki was a resounding success. We received a substantial amount of feedback, and our resulting solicitation will be significantly improved as a result. It will, however, take us longer to review the feedback and judge what should go into the final version. Now I’d like to see more attention on the ClearPath wiki. . . .

Lastly, I’ll end my post with some wiki statistics:

(All pages in the wiki, including talk pages, redirects, etc.) -49
Page edits since BetterBuy was set up -373
Average edits per page -7.61
Registered users 152
Active users who have performed an action in the last 7 days -33
Views total 68,718 (misleading number – includes our testing)
Views per edit 184.23

Page Views
Main Page -46,304
MediaWiki:Sidebar -3,406
Background and Questions -3,143
Section B – 1,717
Section C – 1,694
RFI – 1,468
Section D – 1,097
Section F – 849
Section H – 714
FAQs 588

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Sterling Whitehead

Great info — I’d like to see how we can use the stats you provided (and suggest new metrics) to measure the success of future RFP wiki projects.

Dennis McDonald

I congratulate you on publishing this information — this is an excellent example and I look forward to more openness from other agencies when experimenting like this.

One way to approach the planning and management of an effort like this is to combine basic project management practices with basic market research and market planning (sound familiar)? In other words, going into the project define in advance high priority groups of potential vendors, customers, users, and stakeholders, and manage the project under the assumption that a mix of new media and old media will need to be included in the overall communication mix.

I’m certainly a firm believer in the value of applying collaborative technologies to efforts like this but I also look forward to an objective analysis that answers basic questions like “what impact does adding collaboration have on procurement costs” and “does adding collaboration opportunities increase or decrease the time it takes to manage a procurement”?

On my own I’ve begun development of such an evaluative framework (see “Justifying Collaboration in Complex Programs such as Federal Acquisitions” http://www.ddmcd.com/complex.html ) and look forward to discussing this with others interested in acquisition reform.