Imagine What A Network Perspective Could Do for Acquisition 2.0

In 2005 the Department of Defense established the Defense Acquisition Performance Assessment (DAPA) for the purpose of improving acquisition and procurement in major programs. The Department collected recommendations through narrative, video, documents and images – all through electronic outreach to vendors, department personnel, military colleges, and other stakeholders.

The process was highly inclusive and resulted in a report and actionable improvements in DOD procurement regulations many of which are used today. Why? – Because the DOD adopted a “network perspective”.

A Network Perspective

What is a network perspective? And how could government benefit from having one as it enters an era of demands for new efficiencies and streamlined process?

Having a network perspective means that organizations recognize that there are not one – but many – types of networks that can positively influence acquisition processes. And consequently there are multiple types of business services – combinations of technology and application logic that can help government agencies leverage those networks to make dramatic – even exponential improvements – in acquisition and procurement processes.

If one believes in the power of collective intelligence, acquisition 2.0 is a powerful example of where it can create great value. How?

Let me share three examples:

Destination communities. Professional associations and intra/inter-agency working groups.

Govloop is an example of a destination community. It requires profiling, ongoing, repetitive participation, calls to action, and multiple forms of narrative. It also fosters a collegiality built on a foundation of social relationships. Why wouldn’t every agency use a destination community, closed to only government procurement professionals, to conduct discussions, debates, and to share experiences? Govloop and this sub-group, Acquisition 2.0 have exactly the right approach. But practically destination communities work best as closed communities that can provide government professionals with a degree of freedom built on trust.

Public comment. Traditional public comment conducted electronically

Like the DAPA project, electronic outreach holds the promise of reducing participation costs for all – the public, vendors, agency officials and all other stakeholders involved in the acquisiton process. Sometimes listening is enough. Making it possible is the key. The ability to mirror a public comment process with referential information, attribution and identity, collection and reporting of multiple data forms, free of smart mobs and designed to discover constructive themes, alone, hold the promise of dramatic process improvement.

And in an electronic environment, public comment can be focused. In other words, one would never say “tell me what you think”. It would say – Do you approve of a choice – if so why? Do you disapprove – if so, why? Are there comments that would make the choice better if approved? Do you have any other comments? In other words, electronic public comment enables self-segmentation by user/citizens. Having a network perspective means that we understand that the purpose of the process is not necessarily to vote on suggestions or approaches, but to find that one really great, unique idea that makes processes better. Said a different way – we can expand solution possibilities.

Social collaboration. Working together.

Yet a third form of network organization is enabling groups to work together – to elevate ideas using meritocracy attributes. In social collaboration systems ideas build on each other. Every person in the network makes worthy ideas better. In networks built for social collaboration organizations can share solutions and ideas with other organizations – and rank them. They can also build narrative around ideas – narrative that leads to even better iterations. Social collaborations enable peer to peer exchange.

Applying similar logic to acquisition processes, imagine if agencies had the ability to suggest how solutions that any one agency uses, might work for each other. Imagine if vendors and prospective providers of goods and services to the government thematically built solutions on merit – through collective wisdom. Wouldn’t that be a big deal? And how much money could we save, how much faster could we make acquisition processes, through application of social collaborations?

Another idea: One permutation for use of social collaboration architectures, might be to enable networks of stakeholders to provide inputs on scope of proposed acquisitions – alternative ways to provide similar solutions for less costs.

A thought.

The point is that Acquisition 2.0 can and should represent real transformation. Social collaboration and even electronic outreach that mirrors traditional processes can make meaningful improvements for acquisition. New world collaboration can eliminate “old world” guess work and transactional barriers that encumber acquisition. Net result – cost savings, time savings, better products and services delivered at the right price. That is what “a network perspective” can do for Acquisition 2.0.

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The traditional approach to acquisitions will need to evolve and open up. Much as P&G opened up a lot of their R&D to a network of individual scientists(and general smart people) by leveraging the Innocentive platform. I hope that as acquisitions evolves the government also moves to not always create everything. I like the “government as platform” approach – provides the basic infrastructure/data/etc and lets private companies innovate and respond quickly to new needs.

Mary Davie

I love this post and your concepts. You capture perfectly the direction gov needs to be moving and I like the term “transformation” as that is exactly the intent of Acquisition2.0 – happening through innovative acquisition practices, changes to policy, use of web 2.0 tools, and incorporating your concept of the network through broad based collaboration and transparency. I’ve invited my friends at OFPP to join our Acquisition 2.0 group and sent them your blog post so they can see the caliber and creativity in thinking going on in this area. I told them we are hoping to make a difference and effect change. Thanks so much!

Melissa Naroski

I just joined GovLoop yesterday, but am very impressed with what it has to offer.

On this subject specifically – my defense agency (the Business Transformation Agency) has been working on acquisition reform specifically for IT systems for about 2 years. We are finally getting these changes into policy to make it easier, and quicker, to field IT in the DoD space. To ensure that we are getting information out to all of our user communities and to ensure that they can interact back with us, we created a Collaboration Center, which leverages Twitter, a Blog (using WordPress), and leverages Defense Knowledge Online (DKO) for Forums and a Document Center. We are going Web 2.0!

We are just starting to roll it out, and it is already garnering some excitement and user involvement. We hope that our users will create partnerships, swap ideas, and leverage these tools by implementing them in their own space to foster discussion and collaboration, and continued acquisition reform.

If you want to check us out, go to http://www.bta.mil/products/bcl.html. Scroll down the page and see the 4 links under “Collaboration Resources”. You can view the Blog and Twitter without any added permissions, but the Forums and Knowledge center are for DKO users.