Micropurchases can smooth path to mobile

Federal agencies who want to get their feet wet with mobile might want to try buying a prototype for under $3,000, says a federal acquisition expert.

For federal agencies wanting to start small with mobile, the $3,000 federal micropurchase program might be the way to go, according to one federal acquisition specialist.

Under federal acquisition rules, certain officials may make purchases of up to $3,000 on a government-issued credit card with a great deal of flexibility.

Federal agencies can take advantage of that flexibility to buy prototype, or proof of concept, mobile websites or mobile applications from developers, said Chris Hamm, operations director for the General Services Administration’s Federal Systems Integration and Management Center. He spoke April 4 on a panel of mobility experts at the FOSE conference in Washington, D.C. FOSE is sponsored by 1105 Media, parent company of Federal Computer Week.

“If you are starting new, you can do a micropurchase without paperwork, without a statement of work, and without registration,” Hamm said. “The only challenge is that the recipient has to accept credit cards.”

For acquisitions from $3,000 to $25,000, there could be a “sweet spot” for small business developers of mobile applications and websites because the acquisitions can be simplified and made at a more rapid pace than traditional acquisitions, Hamm added.

For example, for the micropurchases, a single purchase would be acceptable for a proof of concept, and a second micropurchase could be used for an implementation, he said. Beyond that, a more structured purchasing agreement would need to be in place.

Governmentwide, Hamm said he has observed and assisted with many agency projects to develop mobile-friendly websites, primarily for their citizen-facing activities. The “vast majority” of citizen-facing mobile activity by federal agencies has been development of mobile websites, Hamm said.

At the same time, a small number of federal agencies have adopted mobile device management and “BYOD” policies and are moving toward developing, or purchasing, native mobile applications for their employees, he added.

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