Mary Davie leads the government-wide Information Technology Category as well as the General Services Administration’s IT Category. She recently held a discussion with 50 IT company representatives to chew over what works and what doesn’t in federal IT procurement. Davie said she wasn’t surprised by the takeaways, but she was in violent agreement with a few:
- “I’m here to tell you we have to find time to meet with industry,” she said. “And the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) encourages federal program and acquisition representatives to interact with industry as much as possible – they’ve issued three Mythbusting memos on the subject.” Mythbusting also will be the focus of a session at the June 13 Acquisition Excellence Conference, if you want to collect pointers.
- “Industry reported that they still see voluminous, prescriptive RFPs instead of simpler statements of objectives,” she said. “When government uses the prescriptive RFP, it makes it harder for industry to offer innovative solutions – yet the government regularly says that’s what it wants.”
- “If an agency is going to use an existing contract, there is no need for capabilities RFIs,” Davie added. “Agencies should be focused instead on asking for a few key pieces of information regarding the requirements themselves. Industry spends lots of time and money responding to general RFIs and then rarely ever get any information or response back from the government.”
- “Industry budgets a certain amount of money each year for bid and proposal costs. As government delays the process, it extends the time industry must spend to pursue the work,” she observed. “It also comes with opportunity costs for not being able to bid on other work. This isn’t helpful if we want highly qualified partners who can bring us innovative solutions.”
Her last point is worth emphasizing. Government should want highly qualified partners to bring innovative solutions. Attracting them should be the No. 1 job of everyone involved in acquisitions. That means other procurement goals should come lower down on the priority list. It also emphasizes the need not just to meet with industry, but to develop world-leading expertise in the markets and suppliers providing strategic goods and services to government. That is what category management is all about, after all, and the Trump administration has adopted it as a tool for focusing government on key missions.