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Behind the Buy #3: A Simple and Intuitive Approach for IT Procurement

Author’s Note: The "Behind the Buy" podcast features audio stories told by members of the Federal acquisition workforce who have successfully executed best practice IT contracting strategies from the TechFAR and Digital Services Playbook to help their agency meet its mission.

In this third Behind the Buy podcast, OFPP Administrator Anne Rung interviews Traci Walker, a founding member of the U.S. Digital Service’s procurement team.  During the episode, Traci explains how to make IT procurement simple and intuitive by using the TechFAR and Digital Services Playbook to drive strategies and implementation approaches for customer agencies such as the Forest Service, Small Business Administration, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Traci used Play #3’s simple and intuitive approach to enable tech companies to propose software support services to the Government on an incremental and iterative basis. This key play reduced administrative burden by reducing the Government’s commitment to contract solutions that fail performance standards. It also granted flexibility for contractors by enabling them to propose solutions that meet the Government’s objectives without having to incorporate predefined solutions. Traci worked with GSA to expand this approach across the Federal Government and satisfy agencies’ needs for agile IT services.

Contracting officers must communicate with key stakeholders throughout a procurement, including contractors and agency program staff. As noted during the interview, this Playbook approach allows for tailored communication to key stakeholders. Contracting officers use Reverse Industry Day events to hear best practice ideas and new solutions from contractors. For internal stakeholders, contracting officers use acquisition strategy sessions to engage customer’s concerns and teach them how to write effective solicitations. Traci tells listeners how to build flexibility into the procurement process by briefing all key stakeholders early and often and adapting to unforeseen challenges. 

  • The Digital Services Playbook outlines key "plays" drawn from private and public-sector best practices to help Federal agencies deliver services that work well for users and require less time and money to develop and operate.
  • The TechFAR Handbook explains how agencies can execute key plays in the Playbook in ways consistent with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), which governs how the Government buys goods and services from the private sector.

About Behind the Buy:

To share best practices from tools like the Playbook and TechFAR, members of the Federal acquisition community recommended we use more innovative communication channels. The workforce wanted an interactive way to send and receive solutions that enhance the value of IT procurements for customers and taxpayers.  Those suggestions led to the creation of the Behind the Buy audio series, or podcast, a human-centered design approach that allows procurement and program offices to listen and learn about innovative IT contracting strategies while carrying on their daily work responsibilities.

Both the Playbook and TechFAR are edited on GitHub, where they serve as living documents that can be shared and shaped by digital experts across the country.  If you have a “Playbook or TechFAR-related” experience, let us know! We’d like to hear about your success story and take the Federal community Behind the Buy

Anne Rung is the Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the White House Office of Management and Budget.