3 steps to a more flexible cloud procurement process

The federal government needs to implement flexible procurement policies so cloud services companies can become more agile to meet agencies’ unique requirements, a Unisys executive said at a recent cloud computing event.

The government could take three steps to improve the procurement process, said Steve Kousen, vice president of federal engineering and end-user services at Unisys, during a panel discussion on the Cloud Computing Act of 2011. The June 16 event was sponsored by the Brookings Institution.

Here is Kousen’s advice for the government.

  1. Implement an on-ramp acquisition strategy. Many agencies release solicitations for IT services once a year. However, new companies are entering the market every day. That competition can help drive down costs, so procurements must open up to allow new providers and offerings to be added to the government contract schedule on a regular basis.
  2. Allow for unique requirements. Service providers are trying to commoditize services to lower costs and provide the best value to federal agencies, Kousen said. However, it is not unusual for a unique requirement to arise. “The procurement solicitation needs to allow for one-off, unique contract line items to address things that come up, such as [issues related to] change management or communications management,” he said.
  3. Offer a more flexible compliance model. There must be flexibility to allow cloud services providers to become agile utility providers, Kousen said. When vendors provide services, agencies can begin to deprovision servers that are not in use, thereby saving money, he added. “When you change your structure like that, there are a lot of regulations you have to adhere to, [such as] operation and security compliances,” he said. Therefore, procurement solicitations must allow providers to adjust their services to give cost savings back to agencies without going back through many of the compliance requirements.

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Strategic planning

Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies and founding director of the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings, pointed out that pending legislation reportedly would require agencies to develop a five-year strategic plan for cloud computing. West asked Kousen if that development would be important for vendors and systems integrators.

“It is important for service providers to receive as long a road map as possible on new requirements that federal agencies are going to have,” Kousen said, adding that changes are happening every year.

If service providers are able to craft the right solutions to meet those requirements ahead of time, they can offer more efficient services at a lower cost, Kousen said.

In addition, it is important for providers to know where to invest their money and resources, whether it is in infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, software as a service or all three.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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