In 2015, 18F had an idea for a better way for federal agencies to hire private vendors to build products and services using agile development techniques. We wanted to see what would happen if we used an existing government process (called a blanket purchase agreement) and tailored it to the needs of agencies looking to update their digital services.
Contractors ready for modern development
The federal government spends over $80 billion dollars per year on information technology.
Many technology contracts rely on development and contract management methods that often produce products that are over budget, late, or don’t meet the needs of their customers. Even if an agency wanted to find a vendor that uses modern software development methods, historically it’s been difficult to know the difference between who claims to and who actually does.
Creating a pool of pre-vetted vendors who use agile development methods
18F and the GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service created a contracting vehicle called the Agile Delivery Services Blanket Purchase Agreement (Agile BPA). The Agile BPA helps federal agencies find vendors who are capable and interested in working in an agile way, and then helps make those projects successful. We selected 17 vendors that specialize in user-centered design, agile software development, and DevOps to be part of the Agile BPA pool.
Here’s what the process looks like for procurement officers who want to use the Agile BPA. The 18F team works closely with each agency to:
- Conduct scoping workshops with the project’s product owner, team, and stakeholders to understand what the vendor needs to build
- Write an agile-friendly statement of objectives
- Facilitate the procurement process
- Manage the vendor relationship post-award through delivery
We’ve already seen projects that use the Agile BPA include more users in the development process and deliver results faster than traditional contracting methods. We’ve even seen interest in this model from other levels of government agencies. The states of California and Mississippi have developed their own vendor pools based on our Agile BPA.
Related blog postsSee all posts about this project
The Technology Transformation Services (TTS) has been working with the Forest Service in an effort to move their permitting process online. We’ve previously written about how doing this work in the open can benefit other agencies with permit systems. In this post, we’ll focus on why it’s important to have a product owner, what that looks like from the Forest Service’s perspective, and why a product owner is critical to successful projects.
The Technology Transformation Services has been working with the Forest Service in an effort to move their permitting process online. In this post, we’ll focus on how taking a step back to check your assumptions can reduce the risk that your project will go off course.