By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

Better Buy: Crowdsourcing at work in acquisition forum

I've been reading about the "Better Buy" project sponsored by the General Services Administration, the National Academy of Public Administration and the American Council on Technology/Industry Advisory Council. (I think the project may be the brainchild of the ever-creative Mary Davie of GSA, who also established the Acquisition Forum on Govloop.)

The basic idea behind the Better Buy project is so-called "crowdsourcing." The Better Buy Web site invites people to propose ideas for improving the procurement process. Others are then invited to vote on which ideas they like best -- each computer from which a person votes is allowed a total of up to 20 votes, of which up to three may be allocated to a given proposal. People may also post comments about the proposals.

The Web site is currently accepting proposals involving improvements to the pre-award part of the procurement process -- market research, requirements definition, pre-solicitation and solicitation.

Somewhat strangely -- I'm not sure this reflects the wisdom of crowds -- the idea that has received the most votes in the most popular forum is one that seems to me to be a bit in the weeds: to make it possible to enter information about courses and training one has taken into the electronic acquisition career management system.

There are lots of votes for various proposals about dealing with the end-of-year spending rush, which taps both concerns about poor and rushed procurement processes. Another popular topic is the increased workloads for contracting folks during the crazy September month. But that is a tough one to deal with without undertaking budget reform involving end-of-year money, which has occurred in many other countries (such as the U.K. and Canada) but unfortunately which seems a political non-starter in the United States.

There are a number of sensible proposals (which also share the virtue of being more feasible to implement) about various kinds of information sharing and repositories for solicitation documents and contract language, and as well as ideas for using wikis or other shared platforms to evolve solicitation documents. I like one idea that hasn't garnered too much support: to allow bidders to propose the contract type or types (fixed-price, cost-based) that they believe is most-appropriate. However, some will argue this will make proposal evaluation harder.

I am happy to see that a proposal I have made in an FCW column -- which Mary Davie entered into the voting -- to encourage potential bidders to propose solicitation changes that would save the government money, and provide evaluation credit for good suggestions, is doing pretty well in the voting, though not at the top. Hint to blog readers: Vote for it! There's still time!

Posted by Steve Kelman on Dec 02, 2009 at 12:08 PM


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