18F's novel agile procurement attempt is pushed back while the agency works to answer all the vendor questions pouring in.
Looking to hasten the spread of agile development throughout government, the General Services Administration’s 18F hit a speed bump.
The agency put out a highly anticipated request for quotes for digital services blanket purchase agreements last week, one that would gather 20 GSA Schedule 70 vendors into a single pool from which they could perform agile or DevOps work on 18F and partner agency projects.
Solicitations were slated to close June 26, but the deadline has been pushed to July 1.
The agency’s novel approach to the $25 million BPA prompted more questions than anticipated. Rather than just request paperwork, 18F’s RFQ called for real, working development prototypes using Food and Drug Administration datasets.
“Instead of looking at a company’s description of themselves, you look at what they actually produced,” Octo Consulting’s Joe Truppo told FCW.
Truppo and Vinay Katari are managing Octo’s bids at 18F’s BPA. And while they praised 18F’s results-driven approach, they haven’t been able to submit their work since they’re still waiting for clarification about submission guidelines.
In the original RFQ, 18F said it would respond to vendor questions by noon on June 24, but after being flooded with questions – Truppo said he’d heard 18F had received more than 100 vendor inquiries – the agency told vendors they would get their answers by the 26th, Katari said.
“They were supposed to respond to questions by today and I’m not sure if that will happen,” Katari said on the deadline day, raising the possibility that the deadline will be pushed even further past July 1.
“The BPA RFQ was pushed back to Wednesday, July 1 due to the amount of questions we received,” GSA spokesperson Kamara Jones told FCW. “We are in the process of responding to them.”
Despite the apparent hiccup, Katari said he was pleased to see a procurement process in which vendors actually have to “consume the data and do something with it” instead of just turning in paperwork.
“It forces people to deliver working software constantly,” Katari noted, “with modifications, additions and refinements on each sprint.”
Truppo cited the Office of Management and Budget’s call for digital services contracting officer training as an example of how federal procurement is being pushed to evolve in the face of agile and DevOps.
“There’s a conflict between ‘I need to do an agile procurement’ and the skill set of the average procurement officer,” Truppo said.
Yet, with an influx of Silicon Valley talent pouring into government and initiatives like the 18F BPA moving forward, Truppo said feds are catching up when it comes to agile.
“I don’t think they’re too far behind the private sector,” he said.
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