Could online comments become part of procurement?

A weeklong online discussion on improving the Web site functioned similarly to a traditional request for information contracting procedure and offered additional benefits in comparison to RFIs, according to an after-action report.

The ideas and information provided by the 22,376 participants provided effective guidance for identifying information technology solutions, and visibility for information technology vendors, the report published June 15 said.

“In this way, the dialogue functioned analogously to an RFI process, allowing for the collection of information about, and comparison between, the capabilities offered by different solutions,” states the After-Action Report from the National Academy of Public Administration, a co-sponsor of the dialogue.

The Recovery Dialogue on IT Solutions held from April 27 to May 6 actually offered more benefits than a traditional RFI process, the report concluded.

“Its scope and format allowed the surveying of more potential solutions more quickly than is possible with a traditional RFI process; and the ability of other participants to ask probing questions of those offering products and services produced a more critical, informed assessment than would otherwise be available,” the report said.

The dialogue offered discussion on improving, which is the Web site for reporting on federal spending under the $787 billion economic stimulus law.

The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, which operates, sponsored the dialogue along with the Public Administration Academy, which released the after-action report.

Overall, 22,376 unique visitors spent an average of 7.5 minutes participating in the dialogue, the report noted. “Ultimately, the Recovery Board’s vision of a truly crowd-sourced analysis of potential recovery solutions was powerfully realized. The end result was not just a repository of good ideas, but a passionate, thoughtful community that can be engaged repeatedly as evolves to fulfill the President’s commitment to ‘unprecedented transparency and accountability,’ ” the report said.

Participants included 101 workers from IBM, Microsoft and Google, and a geographically diverse group of experts from several fields.

“Workers at multinational Fortune 500 companies interacted with the owners of 10-person businesses. Web designers came together with acquisition specialists, and financial services experts shared ideas with database specialists,” the report said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Thu, Jun 18, 2009 Peter G. Tuttle, CPCM

I think the conventional RFI approach is still of value as well as this new, more interactive, venue. Just because more people comment on a subject or present a certain approach, does not necessarily mean that those comments or approaches are more valid than the input that is received from a conventional RFI. Perhaps, both methods of gathering information can be utilized effectively at the appropriate time in the overall acquisition lifecycle. I see great value of early-on interactive communication for market research and the initial stages of requirements formulation/development. I look forward to seeing how this concept progresses and being part of the debate.

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