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An Acquisition Retrospective

TTS continuously iterates on our acquisition practices to incorporate lessons learned and what we have seen in previous acquisitions across the public sector. Based on the 18F Agile Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) lessons learned, TTS knew we wanted to incorporate these lessons in the acquisition work with the Centers of Excellence (CoE)’s first two agency partners. The industry partners who helped with our initial Discovery work at those two agencies helped provide examples and “tests” based on industry best practices that the government as a whole (not just CoE) could use to identify quality contractors to work with.

18F and CoE wanted to build a vehicle that provided CoE the ability to staff new agency discovery teams, with industry partners who specialized in key functional areas. Additionally, it was important to provide our agency partners with greater flexibility to perform discovery work while providing CoE the ability to keep up with demand.

CoE and 18F worked together with the Region 1 Assisted Acquisition Services (AAS) to create the Discovery BPA, which will allow CoE to quickly staff the industry side of the CoE teams embedded at agency partners. Together, this team of federal employees and contractors, among other agency partner teams, will work towards completing the discovery and assessment efforts required to lay the foundation for enterprise-wide transformation.

The Discovery BPA team consists of acquisition professionals dedicated to securing the highest quality contractors to help the CoE achieve its mission, while providing transparency and plain language acquisition documents for our government colleagues and industry partners.

Region 1 Assisted Acquisition Service

Centers of Excellence

  • Omid Ghaffari Tabrizi
  • Michelle McNellis
  • Brendan Mahoney

18F Acquisition

  • Ashley Owens
  • Rebecca Refoy-Sidibe
  • Miatta Myers
  • Mark Hopson

Below are the aims that we hoped to achieve:

Healthy competition

We knew that due to the varied functional areas we were seeking partners in, and the industry feedback received from our draft RFQ, it would be a challenging feat for small businesses to participate if they had to first be found technically acceptable in three functional areas. We wanted businesses of all sizes and socio-economic categories to be able to compete for this vehicle which resulted in requiring changes to the minimum number of functional areas a contractor had to be able to provide solutions within.

Robust evaluation

Our assumption was that due to the amount of interest in CoE work, we would receive a substantial amount of bids. Therefore, we wanted to create evaluation criteria that would allow for those contractors who truly understood what CoE needs from their industry partners to be highlighted.

Speed

CoE requires a solution that allows for orders to be competed quickly and receive high quality bids. Our hypothesis is that by having a pool of contractors who have proven they understand what CoE requires and can provide best-in-class discovery and assessment work, we’ll be able to maintain healthy competition among awardees in the pools, which along with the speed advantage of using an established BPA will allow us to focus on taking agency partners to the implementation phase as quickly as possible.

After receiving 121 responses to the draft RFQ, we made significant changes based on what we heard from industry. The incredible amount of feedback from industry, which was incorporated into meaningful and innovative changes to the evaluation process to allow for greater small business participation. The Discovery BPA will provide the CoE with a contract vehicle that includes partners who demonstrate a fundamental understanding of the challenges—and solutions—facing IT modernization efforts. The partners demonstrated the capability to develop solutions that will allow CoE agency partners to begin implementing best practices throughout their agencies and use modern technologies and techniques.

One of the changes made to the evaluation process, based on the market research feedback, was the Technical Challenge Question. This involved limiting the amount of time to address the type of problem CoE faces in that particular functional area, and requesting a response in 1500 characters, which is about half a page. The fast turnaround time and the need for clarity and brevity is a very real example of the goal for the CoE effort – quick quality transformation.

“With just about 1 out of 3 of the agreements going to small businesses, we have achieved an impressive cross-section of not only American industry, but technological prowess,” said Executive Director of CoE, Bob De Luca. “We believe that each company will provide us with not only the ability to discover and assess issues related to the legacy systems and processes currently in place, but to develop recommendations that, once implemented, will provide modern day technological solutions to problems our citizens face when interacting with government services.”

This BPA was an enormous effort by teams across the Federal Acquisition Service and GSA as a whole, with agreements going to a total of 22 contractors. That collaboration and cooperation with our pool of contractors and across the government continues with the first orders. We’re excited to see the outcome of the first iteration of our BPA now that it is underway.

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