Innovation

18F is growing up fast

Shutterstock image: businessman grasping the light bulb of innovation.

The General Services Administration's digital incubator group is advanced for its age.

The one-year-old 18F has grown from 15 team members to more than five times that number, steered its parent agency into pursuing an "open source first" policy, and has fielded requests for help from more than 40 agencies, two of the group's key managers wrote in a March 20 blog post assessing its first year in operation.

Hillary Hartley, co-founder and lead designer at 18F, and Aaron Snow, principal deputy executive director and one of the first 18F team members, wrote that in the last year the incubator project had worked with 16 agencies on projects ranging from the creation of open data APIs, a service to collect donations, a purchasing approval tool that could save the government millions of dollars, and a platform to facilitate collaborative work among a distributed workforce.

Hartley and Snow said that in the coming year, the group intends to expand several projects and lines of business. They said plans are for an 18F consulting group that will provide on-demand, short-term technical expertise helping agencies acquire better software, as well as a program called 18F Talent, to help agencies identify and recruit new hires.

It also is working on FISMA Ready, a toolkit that provides federal information security compliance for open-source software, as well as an Agile Delivery Services BPA, a micro-market blanket purchase agreement to help agencies acquire better professional services.

The GSA's 18F project was launched March 19, 2014, with a 15-person team working out of the agency's headquarters at 18th and F Streets in Washington. That team now has 76 members spread across 12 locations in Washington, Chicago and San Francisco, according to Hartley and Snow, who said the group will add another 20 people "in the next few weeks."

The timing for those new employee start dates, Hartley said in an email to FCW on March 23, is an estimate based on 18F's current HR pipeline, and depends on things like background checks and fingerprint clearance.

"Like all our employees, they will be assigned to an existing or upcoming project. We've got some incredible designers, developers and product people joining the team," she said.

While new people are coming in, some of the early hires are moving on.

Greg Godbout, the Presidential Innovation Fellow who served as executive director of 18F, left GSA for another federal agency earlier this month. Snow will take over as acting executive director.

But the work keeps going.

18F launched its latest big-data project March 19, unveiling analytics.usa.gov.

The site provides a public view of the details of federal government website analytics for the first time. The data on the site is a window into how the public is interacting with the government online in almost real time.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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