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Project of the Week: BetterBuy Project – Ideas in Action

As described in an earlier blog post the BetterBuy Project was launched to bring collaboration, transparency and participation into the federal acquisition process through the use of collaborative processes and technology. Since last October, people from industry, federal, state, local government and private citizens have submitted over 130 ideas on the BetterBuy Project platform. Our team from the American Council for Technology/Industry Advisory Council (ACT/IAC), the National Academy for Public Administration, and GSA reviewed the ideas in January and selected several to implement on some real acquisitions.

The first thing we did was launch a twitter account (@gsa_fedsim) to keep people up to date on procurement status and associated activities and launched an “acquisition wiki” . We are using the wiki to post Requests for Information (RFIs) on each of the acquisitions to have an open dialogue, conduct market research and obtain feedback on our draft requirements, acquisition documents and acquisition strategy. You can imagine the conversations that took place internally with our acquisition, project management and legal staff to figure out how we should use this tool, how we track input while giving flexibility to and ability for the wiki registrants and participants to give us ideas without giving away competitive advantage, and how we comply with issues such as records management, 508 compliance, security, etc in this environment. We also wondered how many and what kind of responses we would get using this approach and how we might respond to and manage the input. We have been pleasantly surprised with the quality and type of responses received so far. As an example, there were many ideas submitted on the data.gov RFI that caused us to revisit requirements and engage in further conversation with our customer – a good thing! We believe that being more open and collaborative in the requirements definition/acquisition strategy planning process can mean taking more time upfront in the process but will also give us better outcomes and chance of success during the implementation of the project.

Our industry partners that participated by giving us input and ideas on the wiki have also given us lots of feedback on this approach. At first, we saw no action on the wiki and a day or so before the RFI for data.gov closed we received an overwhelming number of ideas and comments. Turns out, industry was having internal discussions trying to figure out how to respond without giving away competitive advantage and also how to control the response. In a traditional model, the company receives the RFI and divvies up the questions to the subject matter experts for response. The answers are compiled and sent through a couple of reviews and approvals before the company submits its response to the government. In this open wiki model, the company is also challenged with coordinating and controlling input. One of our industry partners blogged about their specific experience and challenges presented on our BetterBuy Blog.

While we have only implemented a few of the ideas submitted so far, the ACT/IAC Acquisition Management Shared Interest Group is working to identify additional ideas for action. They will be asking the Govloop Acquisition2.0 Group for help so if you’d like to participate, keep an eye on the group (and we love to have you join our Tribe!).

If your agency has implemented collaborative technology in the acquisition process, we’d love to learn how that’s working for you.

To hear directly from government and industry about their experiences, challenges, what worked, and ideas for improving going forward, join us for a panel discussion at the upcoming Gov2.0 Expo. Hope to see you there!

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Arvind Nigam

Honestly, I see this as a great initiative to overhaul the incumbent acquisition process. But the flip side is 200 odd ideas by 500 people is not a representative sample. Simply because crowd-sourcing in this instance is not balanced.

For example your community does not allow one to negate a particular idea or give an opinion that is contrariwise. So people with conflicting opinions have no attraction/incentive to join these discussions. In essence their voice is not considered, and are left out completely.

In such a scenario, what you’d get from these 200 ideas is a “bias” of those 500 people that’s gonna benefit them either monetarily or commercially or in some other way. Unless all of them are *angels*, which is again not correct to assume.

Think about it.

Looking forward to meeting you guys at the Expo 🙂