The federal government spends a lot of money on information technology purchases, but doesn’t always receive the full value’s worth of that money. Fortunately, there are a number of proven practices such as human-centered design and agile software development that can help close the gap. But how can agencies adapt their acquisition policies, processes, and team structures to take advantage of these new and promising ways of working?
Introducing the Digital Acquisition Accelerator
Announced in March 2016 by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), the Digital Acquisition Accelerator is a pilot program aimed at helping agencies accelerate the adoption of digital acquisition practices. It’s funded by the General Services Administration, and is managed and delivered by 18F and the Presidential Innovation Fellows. Its purpose is to complement, not replace, the creation of an Acquisition Innovation Lab, per the OFPP memo.
We provide agencies with the skills, knowledge, and tools they need to succeed with digital acquisitions. We do this by helping agencies establish their own internal group of experts by working together on two real-world acquisitions that deliver valuable, high-quality products that users love.
Expertise is created over a series of training sessions, facilitated workshops, and access to expert coaches through five main phases:
Key to our approach is a “learn by doing” model, which is why we ask agencies to nominate two acquisitions to go through the Accelerator. For the first acquisition, we provide structured guidance to help scope and procure the required services. For the second acquisition, teams execute it on their own using their new-found knowledge from the first acquisition. We’ll still be around to provide ongoing coaching throughout, of course, because it’s important to us that agencies not only learn, but succeed.
We’ve designed the Accelerator program to help agencies institutionalize key principles and practices in the following areas:
A creative approach to problem solving that starts with the people whom you’re designing for and evolves into a solution that is crafted to suit their needs.
An empirical approach to creating products that relies on short, frequent feedback loops, enabling you to make more timely and informed decisions about what features truly satisfy the needs of the business and users.
A paradigm shift from closed to open innovation that encourages idea sharing and collaboration between internal and external stakeholders, including members of the public.
Increasing the likelihood of procurement success by breaking contracts into smaller, shorter-duration chunks of work to give you more immediate visibility into vendor performance.
Those who participate in this Accelerator program continue the cycle of learning within their agency by promoting the adoption of digital acquisition practices through teaching, coaching, and knowledge sharing.
This Accelerator program is currently running as a pilot, which means we’re still learning how best to design it. Toward this end, we’ve broken it into two phases—alpha and beta.
During the alpha phase, which we expect to complete toward the end of 2016, we’re working with two agencies — the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). These agencies will work on the following products:
The graphic below shows the current stage for each of the four acquisitions in the alpha phase:
|Treasury / Certificate of Label Approval Registry Modernization|
|Treasury / Auction.gov
|FBI / Mobile tagging and scanning of crime scenes|
|FBI / Project National Virtual Translation Center Redesign|
As we move into the beta phase in the beginning of 2017, we’re planning to invite another 3-4 agencies to participate. If you’d like your agency to be part of the beta phase, your agency must complete a brief application process. Once the application period is closed, a committee consisting of members from 18F, the Presidential Innovation Fellows, U.S. Digital Service, and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy will formally review, qualify, rank, and select applicants for participation. Here are some of the things that we’re looking for in an agency:
If selected, a dedicated team of digital acquisition experts from 18F and the Presidential Innovation Fellows will be assigned at no cost to your agency for a period of six to eight months.
To stay engaged, please follow our blog and mailing list for the latest updates, which is where we will announce when the next phase of the pilot program opens up to additional agencies. Also, if you’re interested in learning more, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.