Tech solutions for the changing acquisition landscape

Business process management software can aid agency acquisition processes, writes Appian's Evan McDonnell.

Evan McDonnell

Federal IT failures often happen when agencies force-fit commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) applications to meet government needs.  This is particularly true with the acquisition and contract writing systems in use throughout the federal government today.

A new class of technology allows individual government agencies to have affordable and flexible acquisition and contracting writing systems tailor-made to their unique needs. Agencies that want to capitalize on these advancements must adjust their approach to evaluating options. 

Before I can list the specific changes you need to make, some background is required on the underlying technology. 

The first computerized acquisition and contract writing systems were custom developed.  That’s because there was no other option.  Custom development is expensive and costly to maintain.  Entrepreneurs recognized this and introduced “off-the-shelf” acquisition systems.  The theory was great; rather than start from scratch, agencies could simply configure an existing application.  But the reality was very different.  Configuration was not so easy, leading to expensive software customization or agencies changing their work processes to fit the limitations of their software.  Agencies were not happy, but had no other choice.   

Today, forward-thinking companies have created flexible platforms for a next generation of federal acquisition and contract writing systems.  The components of these platforms are:

  •  Business Process Management (BPM) Platform – These new solutions offer a codeless development environment with drag-and-drop icons to create software functionality. Application users and designers communicate through flow diagrams that build program logic.  This leaves software engineers free to focus on new capabilities like social and mobile instead of writing specific application logic.
  •  Acquisition “Framework” – Implementation of these new systems starts from a framework with common acquisition process elements already in place.  This framework is a project accelerator, lowering implementation costs, shortening the go-live time, and increasing initial functionality.
  •  Native Mobile Clients – When the BPM platform is extended with native mobile clients, agencies can offer mobile acquisition process participation without ever investing in any mobile development.   
  •  Integrated Social Communication – Social media is becoming a common business tool.  Tying it directly to process events greatly increases its utility, which is a built-in capability with these types of platforms. 

If this type of solution is appealing, here are the most important steps to follow to ensure this new generation of solutions is included as part of your requests for information and requests for proposals  for a new acquisition and contract writing system:

  •  Ask for “COTS-based”, Not “COTS” – Limiting your search to just COTS products will exclude the new generation of systems.  These highly flexible solutions technically aren’t “off-the-shelf” – although the platforms they are built upon are.
  •  Rethink the Long Functionality Check List – COTS products are not flexible, so you need to test them for hundreds of specific capabilities.  New software products focus on flexibility, so you can add capabilities later with little cost or effort. Be sure to balance existing functionality with the ability to easily add or modify later.
  •  Evaluate and Score Architecture – With only COTS products, evaluating architecture was unnecessary since they were all proprietary.  But with new options built on open, flexible architectures, an explicit evaluation is necessary. 
  •  Require Demonstrations of Core Logic Changes – COTS vendors won’t demonstrate a core logic change during an evaluation because it’s complicated and would come with a large customization fee.  New architectures make rapid changes possible, so a demonstration of a core change is warranted to understand your options. 
  •  Require Scoping for an Incremental Build Out – Next generation systems built on BPM platforms can be extended for related functionality such as responding to a congressional inquiry on a specific procurement.  Be sure vendors state how they would meet such a request and what it would cost. 
  •  Require Native Mobile Clients and Social Communications – We’ve already seen specific “Cloud First”, “Shared First”, and “Future First” guidelines.  It won’t be long before “Mobile First” and “Social First” initiatives come out.  Get ahead of the wave by including evaluations for mobile and social technology. 
  •  Finally, evaluate end user license agreements from potential vendors early in the process. Restrictions may substantially increase the total cost of software ownership. Look for items like a requirement to purchase upgrades in order to stay on maintenance, ownership rights of any customizations you pay them to create, and other restrictions.

 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.