18F celebrates explosive two years, sets sights on expansion

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The General Services Administration’s 18F saw even bigger growth in its second year than its first, and the digital team intends to continue that trend by scaling its services to new lines of business, and more agencies and levels of government. 

The 18F team, which started out with just a few co-founders and an idea to transform the way the federal government builds technology and interacts digitally with its customers, in now almost 170-strong. If you count the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, which essentially operates in-step with 18F in GSA’s Officer of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, there are almost 200 members.

“Year two’s been better than year one,” 18F Executive Director Aaron Snow told FedScoop. 

In the past 12 months, the team has signed more than 115 new agreements of work with 25 partner agencies — plus another 13 agreements for the PIFs. Recounting that time, Snow pointed to the agile delivery services blanket purchase agreement — against which 18F is now finally issuing task orders after several protests — and the launch of Cloud.gov as the year’s highlights.  

But it’s what’s around the corner that really excites him — opportunities to continue scaling the lessons learned over the past two years to new agencies and new markets.

For instance, in February 18F announced a pilot with the Department of Health and Human Services it had been working on to help the California Department of Social Services, which receives grant money from HHS, to modernize its Child Welfare System.

“We worked with them and together rewrote the one huge waterfall [request for proposals] into eight small modular RFPs,” Snow said, adding that the first two of those contracts are up for bid now. “We’re excited about the potential for not only helping hundreds of thousands of kids … but also the hundreds of millions of dollars we expect that refactoring and rethinking about how to do software delivery is going to save.”

More agencies from California, as well as other states, are now interested in following suit, Snow said.

“The federal government spends even more money on state and local IT in the form of these block grants than it does on federal IT,” he said. “So our new efforts to help agencies help the states and localities do a great job of spending that money is a huge opportunity for us to affect million and millions of lives.” 

18F is also at work with a couple clients on what it calls its “transformation service” — a team to help other agencies stand up their own digital services teams. The 18F Consulting team, as directed in recent administration guidance, will also take part in a governmentwide digital acquisition lab pilot to help agencies “stand up a digital acquisition innovation lab to help accelerate the development of digital acquisition capabilities within each agency.” 

With such a continual massive growth in demand and the addition of new business lines, Snow said his team is validating the need for digital teams in government. 18F got inquiries from hundreds of program offices of agency executive for its help this past year, and the team adds about 25 new employees per quarter to keep up with the demand.

“There’s a ton of interest and demand for a variety of kinds of help and services. We’ve sort of reorganized internally around that,” Snow said. His vision now, as the leader is to “take the lessons that we’ve learned about what is working and start to scale those efforts to as many agencies as we can.”

GSA Administrator Denise Turner Roth agreed that the continuous demand for 18F’s services demonstrates its value to the federal government.

“They had to demonstrate their worth to the federal customer and be asked back,” Turner Roth told FedScoop. “No one requires groups or teams to utilize 18F, but the work they’ve been able to deliver and the outcome is reflected across the federal government, and the energy and excitement around their work is well earned.” 

Contact the reporter on this story via email at Billy.Mitchell@FedScoop.com or follow him on Twitter @BillyMitchell89. Subscribe to the Daily Scoop to get all the federal IT news you need in your inbox every morning at fdscp.com/sign-me-on.

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18F, Aaron Snow, Agencies, Denise Turner Roth, General Services Administration (GSA)
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