Rethinking acquisition with the end user in mind

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The U.S. Digital Service tries to take the temperature of acquisition culture as part of an agency's journey toward digital transformation.

Originally designed for contract specialists and officers in the CIO Council, the Digital Service Maturity Determination tool is used to score various workplaces on how well they meet certain metrics when undergoing acquisition activities. USDS Digital Services Procurement Expert Florence Kasule explained at a Sept. 11 FCW event that the tool is designed to evaluate transparency, culture of delivery and focus on the user.

"You want and you need to understand what is that team that you're going to be working with," said Kasule. "Does that team track and measure feedback openly and honestly, are there intensive and frequent communications with the customer and/or end users of the system? So, when you go through [an] attribute, you're trying to assess whether that group has all of those practices adopted into the organizational culture or not."

Participant workplaces are scored on a range from novice to expert.

The Maturity Determination tool is particularly important in engaging end users, Kasule said in an interview following her presentation. "It's about giving people the tools to be confident in their jobs," she said. "In the past, a lot of the culture was about figuring out, on the contract side, how to assist our program offices with how to spend their money and meet their mission, but the acquisition workforce really has an important role in understanding our customers' role and how they [can be part] of the solution."

There isn't hard data on how often the tool has been used since its creation about two year ago, but Kasule estimated that at least 200 contracting specialists and officers across government have used it.

As a use case, Kasule cited, a website that helps service members and their families plan for when they're given relocation orders from the Defense Department.

"An agency team of USDS worked with service members and their families and civilian employees in order for that to be the first place where people go to when they are planning a move," said Kasule. "This came about through a lot of [working with] veterans, with their family members, to do actual user design and work collaboratively with them, as well as our different agency partners across the board."

About the Author

Lia Russell is a staff writer and associate editor at FCW covering the federal workforce. Before joining FCW, she worked as a freelance labor reporter in San Francisco for outlets such SF Weekly, The American Prospect and The Baffler. Russell graduated with a bachelor's degree from Bard College.

Contact Lia at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LiaOffLeash.


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