All throughout the summer, we’ll be profiling members across the 18F team. Mark Trammell joined 18F in May 2016 after stints at Twitter, Sonos, Digg, Paypal, and Obama for America. He currently works on CALC, a tool that helps the federal contracting community make faster, smarter buying decisions.
General Services Administration
Better tools for better research
Streamlining a critical contracting task
The General Services Administration (GSA) plays a central role in helping the rest of the federal government hire contractors to perform professional services. This process requires contracting officers to research past federal contracts to determine a fair hourly rate, which often involves manually searching through stacks of paper contracts to find old labor rates.
Stacked paper to searchable data
When GSA asked 18F to help improve this process, we started by gathering the documents that contracting officers were using to conduct their research and extracting the data. Using that information, we built a searchable, interactive website called the Contract-Awarded Labor Category tool, or CALC for short. Now, anyone can search thousands of past government contracts for specific labor categories to find fair hourly rates. They can even refine their search by years of experience or education level.
GSA contracting officers have reported that the tool is vastly more efficient and accurate than the previous method, and has helped contracting officers save on labor rates by an average of .1 percent. While this may seem small, the size of federal contracting means a .1 percent improvement could help save the government hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
The CALC team is now working to make it easier to get new data into the tool and to expand the number and type of contracts in the database. As it matures, the tool gets more powerful and useful to a wider audience of contracting officers and members of the public.
The CALC team is an agile team of four — six if you count the Scrummaster and the Product Owner — building a simple means to load price data into the original CALC tool. They’re an Agile team, which means everybody pitches in on everything to some degree, and here, in their own words, is some reflection on what happened when they all scrubbed in on the discovery phase.
We hoped CALC, a powerful labor category and pricing research tool from GSA and 18F, would save federal contracting officers time and money. Turns out, it’s also saving cities time and money. In August, we found out the City of Boston has been using CALC to vet pricing they receive in response to a request for proposals.