Saturday, June 27, 2015

Agile Development Starts With Agile Contracting

The General Services Administration’s highly touted Blanket Purchase Agreement for Agile development, otherwise known as 18F, has been delayed until July 1. Perhaps GSA should think about delaying the solicitation some more. 
One issue that I have been discussing is the lack of capability in the acquisition workforce when it comes to Agile, in general. Their training and experience has been centered, for the most part, on large, multi-year contracts that use waterfall approaches to software development. Agile requires a new set of skills, and my fear is that 18F will face difficulties with implementation because the cart is being put before the horse.
To help alleviate this issue, the U.S. Digital Service and Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy has recently put up a Challenge; to teach the acquisition workforce how to contract for these digital services.
According to the Challenge announcement, the program, which is deigned to be six months or fewer in length (fewer is the hope), would be aimed at helping federal contracting officers and contract specialists navigate digital services procurement.
Per the announcement, a successful program will teach contracting professional how to:
  • Understand and procure digital services and supplies utilizing concepts such as those described in the Digital Services Playbook and the TechFAR (e.g, DevOps, UX, Design Services, Agile Software Development, Open Source, Cloud, Iaas, SaaS, and PaaS).
  • Appropriately measure the success of these contracts based on industry standards.
  • Accurately describe and define the value received.
  • Encourage the use of commercial practices and innovative approaches (e.g. modular contracting, broad agency announcements, challenges and prizes) to ensure procurements can capture flexible and rapidly changing technology advancements.
This Challenge demonstrates the reality that procurement shops across government do not have the internal capability to acquire these services. However, why was this Challenge not done a year ago? Why has capability for Agile contracting not become a top priority for the Federal Acquisition Institute, or the Defense Acquisition University?
The Challenge program is set to rollout January 2016, but I hope that agencies understand the capability gaps and fill them such that the 18F program does not get further delayed in its implementation.

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