With over thirty-five years of government sales experience, I have had a unique vantage point to see how industry sells and government buys. I have seen a slow cumbersome government procurement process begin to evolve from a laborious “tell us” RFP approach to a “show us” methodology based on government’s need to rapidly deploy product and services to modernize governments IT hardware and software infrastructure. I have also seen an industry/private sector that has historically found it difficult to invest (or know when to invest) in early discussions and demonstrations with the government. What is clear is that government and industry must continue to look for paths to communicate more effectively, and that policy and process changes must continue to evolve for the government to address future IT investment planning and procurements. There is still room for improvement.
Not long ago, I participated in an IRS procurement workshop with several government Contracting Officers and a few of my industry counterparts. It was an excellent forum to candidly share ideas and information about how the procurement process is viewed by the government and industry. What was clear from the workshop was that both sides must continue to find ways to communicate more effectively without the fear of “protest” or litigation if they are going to address the complex IT system development and modernization requirements that face the government. Industry must be willing to in invest in early discussions and demonstrations without the fear of being excluded. The government must be willing to provide the vendor community with important insight into their requirements that will enable the vendor community to submit a better proposal at a better price. Large laborious RFP responses are of limited value in today’s world when the most important decision factors are “show me where you have done this before” and “show me how”. Given the increasing use of agile/rapid IT development methodologies, it is somewhat ironic that some government agencies have not evolved their policies and processes to ensure that they are able to buy faster and smarter. Some have and I applaud their efforts and activities in so doing.
Bottom line… Evolving software development policies and capabilities will continue to increase the demand for private sector best practices to improve system development and modernization across the federal government. The willingness of both the government and industry to work together in a more collaborative manner can only lead to positive outcomes for both.
Mr. Ginsburg is the Founder and Managing Director of GinZink, LLC. Please note: all comments and opinions expressed in this commentary belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Of VA or Federal Business LLC.
Jack nails it. Procurement is often too slow to enable government to react to current needs. It is fundamentally risk averse and driven by outdated motives of preventing corruption rather than getting stuff done. The governance of procurement needs to be re-thought by departmental undersecretaries.