I have been having an interesting discussion with Clay Johnson over on the LinkedIn GS-1102 Group forums, about the benefits or need of the RFP-EZ project (view the discussion here).
It seems like the discussion boils down to two camps, one being about technology solving problems, and the other trying not to solve problems already having an answer.
I think Clay and the first round of innovation fellows did a fantastic job with the first phase of RFP-EZ, by creating a very user-friendly technological tool to help acquire easy technologies, and encouraging small business participation, or non-federal technology companies from getting involved in federal contracting.
My issue, and my camp if you will, is that we have already so many tools and technologies to purchase goods and services that it seems like redundancy, and white noise. Only 10 purchases have been done through RFP-EZ, yet the program is being touted for cost savings and for innovative buying.
Another area of contention seems to be about the definition of “innovation.” To me, innovation in the acquisition process revolves around taking risks, such as Agile techniques, allowing for more competition from the small business IT community who may not have past performance at the federal level, but have a good track record commercially, and with a more narrow focus on buying smaller packages of requirements (i.e. modular contracting, and the “Agile” approach).
We need programs to focus on outcomes, develop effective, clear, and concise requirements through collaborative techniques with industry, and allow for innovative solutions that enhance government at a fair price.
If we were doing these things, would we need RFP-EZ? Can’t we do this now by allowing innovation and a focus on smaller scale requirements, combined with not punishing vendors who do not have federal experience (e.g. past performance requirements requiring similar size and scope projects, usually federal)?
We have Simplified Acquisition Procedures, and small business set-aside rules for procurements under the simplified acquisition threshold. Why can’t we just procure that way with what we have?
My fear is these initiatives reinvent the wheel, and take away focus on the real issues.
Perhaps I am being obtuse on the issue…
- Is RFP-EZ really “innovation”?
- Should programs like RFP-EZ continue to advance?
- What initiatives are out there, like RFP-EZ, that perhaps might help procurement personnel buy smarter, cheaper, and faster (and help include small businesses and expand competition)?