Signs of Procurement Revolution

The Senate confirmed Dan Gordon as the administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy in the Office of Management and Budget.  He comes highly recommended by Steve Kelman, a former holder of this job who was acclaimed as an innovator.

The procurement arena in federal agencies has been under a lot of attack in recent years with some calling it a “toxic environment.”  The Obama Administration has made contract reform one of its top management goals and it has issued lots of guidance in its first year.  In addition, the procurement community is facing major challenges in rebuilding itself in the wake of retirements and downsizing in the past decade.

But there are rays of hope! 

A recent article by Federal Computer Week’s Nick Wakeman, “Five Signs Procurement Is Ready for a Revolution,” cites John Nyce from Interior, who says “We are at a point where we can make some game changing decisions:”

  • Shared services organizations that support procurement activities have to get better at serving their customers;
  • The younger acquisition workforce expects technology to be there to get their jobs done;
  • Market analysis information will now come from multiple sources;
  • Agencies will have to be more efficient since there is a shortage of contract officers; and
  • Communication is increasing across agency contract shops, allowing for cooperation and the sharing of best practices.

A good example is the growing, self-organizing community of procurement officers on GovLoop, “Acquisition 2.0,” where they are beginning to trade ideas for how to improve operations.  The GovLoop champion, GSA’s Mary Davie, says she was inspired to launch a site to collect good ideas, called the BetterBuyProject.com, and she says she’ll try out some of the ideas offered on the site, within her own agency to see if they merit broader attention.

While a small step, the willingness of the contracting community to step up to the plate is an encouraging sign.  Dan Gordon will have a pool of innovators to inspire!

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2 thoughts on “Signs of Procurement Revolution

  1. All:

    Folks in government need to understand that sharing services almost always increases costs . . . it is a paradox. The uninformed fall into this trap sharing front and back offices and IT believing that money is saved, it is not. Without an understanding of the nature of demand we lock in waste. The biggest lever for improvement is the design and management of work.

    Please read:
    http://blog.newsystemsthinking.com/blog/shared-services-strategy/0/0/dos-and-donts-of-a-shared-services-strategy

    Regards, Tripp Babbitt
    http://www.newsystemsthinking.com
    http://www.thesystemsthinkingreview.com (Government)

    1. Thanks for the links, Tripp. In your article, you seem to assume shared services are always outsourced to the private sector. In the U.S. federal government, there is a form of shared services run internally called “franchise funds.” There, agencies purchase common administrative support services, such as payroll processing or human resource management services, from franchise funds operated by different agencies. They can choose to move to another fund if the one they are using becomes less competitive.

      Your articles on system thinking are useful reads; looking beyond stove pipes of different services is important!

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