Innovation fellows program to expand

concept art innovation

The Presidential Innovation Fellows Program has seen such good results there are now plans to scale up the initiative and seed similar programs at the agency level, according to federal CTO Todd Park.

During a Feb. 22 conference call, Park and members of the President’s Management Advisory Board discussed progress updates on past initiatives, such as the PIF, and upcoming focus areas for innovation in general.

While government innovation is growing, it is still occurring too infrequently and too slowly, the board concluded. Lack of incentive for employees to innovate, risk aversion, and statutory and regulatory barriers to innovation are among the main challenges.

Programs like PIF help spur innovation, and "there’s a lot of stuff happening, but there’s much, much more still to do," Park added.

"There are certain things we know we should do – like we should absolutely scale up the Presidential Innovation Fellows program at the agency level," Park stressed.

In addition to bringing in private-sector talent to work with government teams, several efforts are underway to promote federal innovation. Periodic, informal meetings are already taking place between the federal CTO, CIO and agency innovation officers governmentwide, and agencies have taken steps to encourage public policy outcomes through prizes and competitions.


President's Management Advisory Board meeting materials

But these efforts still require everyone to be on the same page about innovation, one board member pointed out. Elizabeth Smith, CEO of Bloomin' Brands Inc., said real transformation happens with a cultural shift "when everybody, no matter what their position is, views innovation as part of their job."

"I think you need a change management culture component in addition to these infusions of best practices – that’s my experience," she added.

The board also heard from other officials on the cost-savings initiatives launched in 2012, including use of strategic sourcing. Joe Jordan, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said the government may save several billion dollars in fiscal 2013 and again in 2014, based on analysis of the commodity areas, such as office supplies and domestic delivery services.

So far, the government has saved more than $200 million with unified, governmentwide contracts. In addition, agencies added to those savings figures by applying bulk-buying principles in their agency-specific spending, Jordan said.

Dan Tangherlini, acting administrator at the General Services Administration, said GSA plans to add five new general products, such as software, to the growing list of strategic sourcing solutions by October. He plans to announce more solutions in the next few months, and the goal is 10 additions by 2014.

Pushing the effort forward, in 2012, OMB created the Strategic Sourcing Leadership Council, which includes the seven agencies that spending the most money, as well as the Small Business Administration to provide diversity in the industry. OMB also required agencies to appoint an official to lead the strategic sourcing effort inside their agency.

About the Authors

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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


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