If at first you don't succeed...

Last week the National Institutes of Health concluded a procurement Chief Information Officer Solutions and Partners that is perhaps the most unusual in decades. Some participants even think it will redefine how the government buys products and services.

But awarding contracts even in record time is the easy part. The true test of whether the CIOSP procurement has worked will be whether contracting officials at NIH are able to get the best deal on every task for customers and taxpayers from a field of vendors that counting subcontractors seems to include every company of consequence in the federal marketplace. Sorting through marketing hype and steering customers to the best - rather than the most familiar - products and services among so many choices will be enough to make the heads of even the most seasoned buyers spin.

As if that weren't enough of a challenge NIH having made itself a test case for procurement reform is already feeling the pressure to succeed. Make mistakes contracting officials have been warned and they could ruin things for everyone else.

Procurement officials should hold themselves to high standards and we should expect the best not only from CIOSP but every other buy. But we should also be prepared to put any mistakes in this or any acquisition in perspective. Part of trying something new is learning how to do it better the next time.

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