GSA takes a big step towards baking agile into federal procurement

The U.S. General Services Administration is working to make it easier for agencies to procure agile development services via a government-wide blanket purchase agreement, which could be finalized as early as the end of this year.

GSA initiated the effort with a request for information and an Agile Delivery Services Industry Day tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, January 27, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. eastern time.

According to GSA, the industry day aims to discuss “establishing a new, governmentwide Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA), which will feature vendors specializing in agile delivery services (e.g.; user-centered design, agile software development, and DevOps).”

To get a better understanding each vendors qualifications and understanding for the agile process, the RFI asks each to explain in 500 words how they would improve the federal government business portal, FedBizOpps. Responses are due by January 23.

From the RFI:

To ascertain your agile delivery capabilities, the government is requesting that you describe how you would approach creating a new and improved version of an existing government digital service called FedBizOpps (FBO).

FBO, which you can view at http://www.fbo.gov, is used by government buyers to share information on federal business opportunities with the public. The system is intended to serve as the central portal for federal agencies to solicit products and services from commercial vendors in support of their missions. Using FBO, vendors can search, monitor, and retrieve opportunities solicited by the entire federal contracting community.

Based on this brief description of FBO, how would you go about designing, developing, testing, deploying and/or operating a new and improved system that produces such outcomes as user needs being met, risk of overall project failure (in terms of cost, schedule, quality) being mitigated, the architecture being adaptive to change, and taxpayer dollars being spent efficiently and effectively? Please be sure to include a listing of all the labor categories your company would use in this effort.

GSA will start an alpha test phase within “2-3 months” that will include vendors currently on Schedule 70 and apply only to GSA procurement, particularly to help “18F’s burgeoning delivery services team.” Afterwards, within 6-8 months, a beta phase will work to establish a government-wide BPA for procuring agile services.

“To keep pace, software acquisitions need to move at the speed of agile development cycles,” write 18F’s Chris Cairns and Greg Godbout in a blog post announcing the effort. “Ideally, this means less than 4 weeks from solicitation to contract kickoff, and from there no more than 3 months to deliver a minimum viable product (MVP).”

Bonus: RFI tips

Here are a few ideas you can use for your RFI submission:

  • Start with “API first.” FedBizOps desperately needs a more useful way to access the information available, especially newly-posted RFIs and requests for proposals.
  • Push all the front-end code to GitHub, where you’ll publicly address interface issues.
  • For design inspiration, start with FBOpen. Emphasize you’ll make searching easier and less convoluted. If you’re not familiar with this project or its predecessor RFP-EZ, start here.
  • Put all support/FAQs into Zendesk, much like the Federal Communications Commission has done with its new consumer complaint website.

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh. He is also co-founder and CEO of ProudCity. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at luke@govfresh.com.

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