OFPP attempts to put acquisition on pace with technological change

The Obama administration plans to soon release guidance on modular contracting, as senior IT and acquisition officials find ways to live in the fast-paced world of ever-changing technology, an official said June 5.

“That’s the sweet spot of where the acquisition community and the IT community have to come together to be successful,” said Joe Jordan, the newly confirmed administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

The guidance is in the final stages of clearance but should come out in the next few days, he said.

The guidance aligns closely with the Office of Management and Budget’s 25-Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal IT Management, which came out in 2010. The plan describes the modular approach to project management as the best practice in the private sector, and says it is applicable to some areas of the government. Not everyone in government has taken this approach to their projects though.

Many existing government processes—from planning to budgeting to procurement—naturally favor larger, more comprehensive projects. OMB wrote in its plan that far too many IT programs span several years beyond the now accepted best practice. Officials recommend that programs last no more than 18 months to two years.

It’s a new way of thinking for some agencies, which, in turn, requires additional training and templates.

“We see a need, when we’re talking about managing IT projects, to break these up into component parts,” said Jordan, who was confirmed as the top procurement policy-maker May 24.

The government needs to do a better job managing these potentially complex projects by handling them in smaller parts that come with less risk for agencies and more options to adjust a project when necessary, he said.

Agencies need the ability “to course-correct or double down in some areas and stop procuring other things,” he said.

In an interview in May, U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel said officials will have hurdles to leap to bring about this change in thinking.

“It’s going to take a coordinated effort, I think, to do ‘myth-busting,’” he said.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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