This is a key point and again, admitting my bias, requirements development (which is basically innovation and design) could be a collaborative and open process. This would provide the government with best of breed and innovative ideas and level the playing field. Also, a key point is that the best solutions are most often the combination of multiple memes building on themselves – not merely one idea. Why not enlist the assets of citizen, academic, and vendor networks to assist in idea generation and technical writing? Perfect area for social collaboration.
For some, but maybe not all requirements, social collaboration also provides the ability to reach into not simply the vendor community, but academia and pools of skilled retirees. One of the statistics that is relevant to the use of social collaboration in scope and definitional processes is this metric: 9 out of 10 new products fail. What if we reduced the failure rate by 10%? Even small reductions in failure rates often result in an increase in internal rate of return of up to 20%, Social collaboration properly applied can do that.
The other benefit of social collaboration in scoping – especially in government is compression of cycle times. This is important because technology especially has a limited useful life-cycle – often less than 24 months. For long scoping cycles government designs lead to functional obsolescence, simply as a function of time required in systems design and then implementation. We end up trying to solve today’s problems with yesterday’s state of the art solutions.
Functional obsolescence is most pronounced in communications technologies, although, it could be argued that it also exists in transactional systems. Standardization of rules across government would solve a great deal of this. But also, reordering unstructured communications structures to position them at early stages of design and decision making processes would go a long way towards early issue identification and collaborative solutions – all guided by program managers.
On a competitive level, an open process would level the playing field. Today, individual vendors essentially make their case, roll those ideas into an RFP/RFQ and predispose awards. You might find that a more open process would surface the small innovative and emerging companies willing to compete on the basis of ideas. The larger more centralized companies that often rely on their ability to aggregate assets to navigate myriad rules, and access to government officials, would have to compete on the basis of value added. This would have a secondary benefit of dramatically lessening transactions costs to government that are characteristic of highly complex processes.
Government should reward those capable of solving complex problems with simple solutions rather than those who take simple problems and make them complex.
On methodology of participation, there are many types of network services that will be appropriate for different types of business problems inherent in the process. Wikis might be appropriate to chronicle institutional memory for a design process, but 2 or 3 phased processes for structured communications and social collaboration might be better in for instance, a process that is built on alternative analysis. Those have different needs.
There are positives and negatives to each. Idea submission can also be closed if need be with submissions treated as confidential.
The key policy and practical question is whether gov would like to use its networks to provide accreditation and relevancy assessments to different possible solutions. Forward thinkers, like Yochai Benkler, Wealth of Networks, ascribe to this view and see public involvement in review and accreditation as a social good. Again, comes back to a policy decision in each case.
The other obvious benefit to program managers is free learning and education. This probably could work in both directions. The possibility of openness in design, scope and requirements is truly transformative.
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