Buyers Clubs in the works for all major agencies

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The Office of Federal Procurement Policy hopes to replicate the early success of the Department of Health and Human Services Buyers Club in major agencies across government.

OFPP Administrator Anne Rung, who first announced plans to create procurement innovation teams around government earlier this year, said Monday at the Professional Services Council’s ACQTECH Conference that her office will issue guidance on opening Buyers Club-like labs later this summer.

“We’d like all the CFO Act agencies to have these running in the next few years,” Rung said. “Essentially we want to save space for acquisition officers to try new approaches, even though they’re allowed in the [Federal Acquisition Regulation].”

The first of its kind in government, HHS Buyers Club acts as kind of a test bed for the agency to look for ways to improve how it acquires products and services. Mark Naggar, who leads the club essentially as a one-man shop, piloted the concept within the HHS IDEA Lab under the guidance of former Chief Technology Officer Bryan Sivak about a year ago. The club aims to apply innovative acquisition principles, like human-centered design, departmentwide collaboration and rapid iteration.

Rung said she wants to offer agencies a framework similar to what Naggar has deployed at HHS, but she realizes every agency has different needs.

“The idea is that we’re going to outline some principles that we would hope they would incorporate into these and then allow them the flexibility to set it up in a way that is attuned to their own agency,” she said.

She hopes the new labs would emphasize collaboration, “from beginning to end,” Rung said. “That’s how, I think, Mark Naggar and HHS was so successful, was he brought together the program team, the legal team, the financial team at the front end and worked with them throughout, which doesn’t happen today.”

Anne Altman, general manager of federal government and industries for IBM who joined Rung on stage, agreed that element would be pivotal for improving federal acquisition.

“This notion of bringing different cohorts together — procurement, mission, IT together — to think about what it is they’re trying to accomplish … that to me would be game-changing to have cultural shift within all of the agencies around how together they’re going to be more creative and they’re going to learn each other’s language and they’re going to think differently about the speed to outcome,” Altman said.

Before Rung’s earlier guidance, another department began creating its own safe space for innovative acquisition. The Department of Homeland Security recently launched a concept that it calls the Procurement Innovation Lab. DHS Chief Procurement Officer Soraya Correa said last week the lab’s genesis was part of a larger effort at the department called “Acquisition Innovations in Motion” to take advantage of the many things the FAR allows but are often overlooked.

“The Procurement Innovation Lab is about opening the door to a community that is procurement, but even the broader community that is acquisition … bring me whatever idea you have — and I’m going to open it up to industry as well — that you think I can implement to improve the procurement process,” Correa said. “Let’s see how we can … get things done a little quicker, a little cheaper and a little smarter.”

If these types of innovative acquisition labs can show success, the movement will spread even further, Rung said.

“I think when people start seeing results, though, that’s how you sort of build this effort,” she said. “But people have to see the results.”

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Anne Rung, Buyers Club, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Departments, Government IT News, Innovation, Mark Naggar, Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), Procurement
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