Sunday, March 27, 2011

Providing the Blueprints for Improved Government and Industry Communications in the Acquisition Process

As part of Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO) Vivek Kundra’s 25 point plan to improve the management of Federal IT resources, a vital component in need of attention is the poor state of communications between government and industry.

Although this fact was highlighted in Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFFP) Administrator Dan Gordon’s Mythbusters memo of February 2, 2011, this process is one of changing culture. This culture has two facets; an extremely risk-averse federal culture where the fear of liability is almost debilitating and prevents any meaningful industry input, and a culture from industry where enormous investments in status quo have created competitive advantage, coupled with the fear of disclosure and transparency.

Nonetheless, both sides agree that middle ground can be achieved to improve the ways each side communicates with one another, with ultimate outcomes that vital feedback from industry is given to the government on resource management, requirements development, and knowledge transfer on technology that clearly lies, and belongs, with industry. In conjunction with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the industry group American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC) hosted an online, moderated exchange of ideas to engage the government IT community to gather feedback and improve communications between government and industry. To host this dialogue, ACT-IAC created a dedicated website at with links from both the CIO Council and the ACT-IAC websites, respectively.

Ben Coit, chair of the Acquisition Management Shared Interest Group at ACT-IAC, and Tom Suder, the ACT-IAC lead for the Mythbusters dialogue effort, discussed the initiative on the DorobekINSIDER show earlier this month.

"The overall goal is to develop actual recommendations so the government can be more effective in their mission by improving the quality of proposals that come in through effective communications," Coit said. "The government's mission is going to be better served by industry."

To that end, feedback was received until February 28th, and asked users to focus on four different categories to post a myth:

1. Please identify "myths" that government acquisition professionals may hold that inhibit their ability to communicate with industry during the IT acquisition process.
2. Identify "myths" that industry may hold that inhibit their ability to communicate with the government during the IT acquisition process.
3. What are major impediments to improving government and industry's ability to communicate with each other? If you identify rules or regulations, please be as specific as possible.
4. Provide examples of Federal IT acquisitions that included good communication practices - by either government or industry - that resulted in better outcomes and better decisions. Explain what the practice or process was and why it was valuable.

This past week, ACT-IAC submitted a white paper to OMB, which summarizes some of the input from this information gathering initiative and provides some thoughts on next steps. As the dialogue with OMB and ACT-IAC continues, more will posted on this initiative, along with recommended action items for execution.

Although much work needs to be done to improve communications, only by breaking down barriers, which are normally created artificially, can improvements in outcomes be realized. I hope these initiative results is a robust forum for helping structure a new paradigm where industry input is actively sought and given in return, to the betterment of acquisition initiatives and the taxpayer.

Mr. Gracia is an active member of ACT-IAC and the Acquisition Shared Interest Group or SIG. He is providing leadership in the BetterGovernmentIT initiative and the BetterBuyProject as it moves forward with OMB in helping shape the dialogue between industry and government, and as it relates to points 24 and 25 of the Kundra memo.

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