Two Ideas for Fixing SAM – Challenges & Open API Enrollment

There’s been a number of reports of issues with the SAM acquisition system at GSA with a recent report that GSA is sending extra resources (some awesome folks) to help fix the issues

It’s easy from afar to complain about problems and we all know how hard it can be to integrate 8 different systems (and generally how hard large scale IT projects can be)

But I thought I’d throw out two ideas to consider for fixing SAM:

1) Try a large-scale challenge – Netflix set up a $1million prize for the first team that could improve their algorithm their predicting algorithm by 10%.

Could GSA set up a $500k prize for the team that integrates the 8 different feeds? Or potentially 2-3 sub contests focused on key problems (one on data integration, one on front-end, one on solving customer service issues, etc)

Too often challenges are used for just fun projects (create a video contest) – let’s release that energy on hard problems like SAM. I’d specifically look at hosting the challenge on kaggle – a huge community of data scientists that does some fascinating work

2) Open Enrollment APIs / Let others bring in registrants – In election season, you can register to vote directly with your county. However there are also lots of new companies like TurboVote that make the process to register to vote super simply and they pass the information on to counties. This allows outside innovation in the voter registration process instead of just relying on the county to be good at voter registration.

What if SAM had open APIs, so they allowed other companies to create registration tools to allow companies to register for CCR or upload certifications (a Turbovote for CCR) – and incentivize those other companies by paying per registrant (GSA pays $5 per company that registers).

IRS successfully did this with e-filing – you don’t have to register/file with IRS directly and instead you file through partner companies that pass on the data (Taxcut, etc). Also during Groupon’s growth that’s how they worked, they told folks they’d pay $3 per new email subscriber and let other companies try unique test/techniques to grow that list and pocket the difference

Got suggestions? How would you approach solving this complex problem?

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Tracey Harriot

The challenge idea was discussed at a policy meeting in my agency recently. We reviewed this OMB memo and the website to enlighten acquisition personnel on the availability of this option. I love the idea, but in some cases I do not know that it’s feasible based on the number of applicable regulations and the amount of oversight required. With SAM, I think this may have been a great idea before implementation, but now that acquisition personnel depend so heavily on the accessibility and functionality of SAM, I do not know that we have the time that a challenge would require. (Although whether or not waiting out the challenge process would end up taking longer than what is currently being done… who knows!)

However, I’m not terribly familiar with the program other than the overview we received at the meeting, so the process may not be as lengthy or complicated as I understand it to be. If it is that challenging (pun intended!), perhaps we need to look at setting up new regulations to be used for this program which would allow us to use it in a less bureaucratic fashion. (One can dream!) If separate regulations do exist that I am not aware of, please pass along the information. I’m very interested!

Jaime Gracia

IBM has expended too much capital in business development and capture management (e.g. helping shape requirements they could never perform at the awarded price) to turn back now. They were issued a cure notice. What is the result of that? Why is that not made public and reported on?

Looks like business as usual…