The General Services Administration’s 18F is looking to pilot a marketplace of software tools for use by the burgeoning numbers of digital services teams elsewhere around government.
Part of a move to build more micro-marketplaces similar to the Agile Delivery Services Marketplace, which was developed in conjunction with the agile blanket purchase agreement pilot procurement launched earlier this year, the digital services marketplace will provide specific software tools uncommon to government for developers’ needs, Dave Zvenyach, management director for 18F Consulting, told FedScoop.
In the private sector, he said, “developers will use a particular tool for a particular need. If you’re a Ruby developer, you may prefer one type of continuous integration tool over another. If you’re a Python developer, you may prefer a different continuous integration tool over another.” However, “really allowing the developer or the designer to have the choice of tools that are most appropriate for them in government is actually a difficult thing.”
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18F envisions the digital services marketplace as portal in which teams have real-time access to software-as-a-service and pure software development tools. The GSA team came to the idea from facing its own similar struggles during its growth.
“We have those sort of needs at 18F,” Zvenyach said. “So trying to learn from our own needs and our own expectations around how to do this type of work, and using that experience, using those sort of data points to inform how we’re going to pursue these marketplaces is really important.”
“And we know that as other digital service teams pop up throughout the U.S. government…that there’s a ready avenue for them to get [these tools],” he added.
Digital services teams have been established at Veteran’s Affairs, and more recently at the Department of Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency as well. Other departments are working on them.
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The GSA digital team won’t stop there with the marketplaces, though. It plans to replicate what it’s done in the agile delivery space in other domains as well. 18F says it is looking into building micro-marketplaces in the following areas:
- Data management
- Financial tech
- Health IT
Unlike GSA’s schedule procurement vehicles, 18F’s marketplaces strategy is more about giving agencies very specified and vetted products and services for their specific needs, which is possible in the current environment, but a daunting task given the broad nature of offerings in traditional federal contracting.
“We want to be like Etsy, but for government,” Zvenyach told FedScoop. “We want to be able to get the right companies for a particular type of activity to the right customer.”
He added, “Providing sort of a curated set of vendors with particular expertise — vetted vendors that are doing really excellent work in a particular space — and not focusing on boiling the ocean, but focusing on sort of a smaller set of unique skill sets that are appropriate for a certain task at hand, is really what we’re focusing on.”
Zvenyach isn’t completely sure which marketplace might be the next to launch. “I think we want to do a little more research and talk to a few more potential customers and industry before we decide what the next marketplace will look like,” he said.
Like most everything 18F does, this is about experimentation and showing the innovation that’s possible within the confounds of the federal government, he said.
“It’s going to be explicitly experimental. We’re expecting to learn a lot. A lot of this will look and feel very different from how we’ve done things in the past,” Zvenyach said. “We expect that there’s going to be great things that come from it, but we also expect that there are going to be some points along the road where we have to reevaluate the direction and then pivot.”
Reach the reporter on this story at billy.mitchell@