Obama acquisition chief: The future of procurement is all about the customer

Anne Rung (FedScoop)

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Anne Rung can’t help but marvel at the way the government is approaching technology and how to leverage it for citizen services.

A former administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy during the Obama administration, Rung was one of the key champions of using category management in government, saving the government more than $2 billion by streamlining its acquisition policies.

As the General Services Administration evolves its plans to craft a system that allows agencies to buy directly from e-commerce companies, Rung — who is now Amazon Business’ government sector director — said the direction the government is headed greatly mirrors that of her current employer: a customer-focused enterprise driven built on data-backed infrastructure.

“I haven’t been tracking category management that closely since I left, but I assume that it has evolved or will evolve as they gain greater insights and learn from how it’s being implemented and get feedback from the customers,” she told FedScoop last week. “But I could see it evolving to thinking about best-in-class solutions and solutions could be the use of an online marketplace like Amazon Business.”

That reflects a lot of what federal leaders have focused on in the Trump administration’s approach to providing citizen services, as well as how GSA plans to craft portals agencies will use to procure goods and services from e-retail companies like Amazon.

“I’ve been impressed with how it has transformed the conversation around government procurement,” Rung said of the e-commerce portal plan. “Two years ago we weren’t even talking about the use of an online marketplace and the use of those technologies to help governments with their purchasing requirements.”

But because companies have already developed some of the customer-facing features that the government both wants to streamline acquisition and seeks to emulate in its new user-centered approach — including digital tools that help make it easier for small businesses to sell to the government through Amazon’s portals and provide better spending transparency — Rung said she applauds GSA’s engagement with industry on how to design its e-commerce portals.

“I’ve been really impressed with how [GSA] has established formal and informal channels to gather that input,” she said. “They’ve had a really open-door policy in listening to industry and welcoming them into their agency to talk to them. We’ve been impressed with both GSA and [the Office of Management and Budget’s] outreach to industry and willingness to listen.”

Armed now with a wealth of both public and private sector insight, Rung said her advice to the next OFPP administrator is the same advice she’s observed on her current job.

“I would advise them to start with the customers,” she said. “I would advise them to reach out to federal buyers — civilian, defense, small agencies and large agencies — and really talk to them about what are your challenges, what are your pain points? But I would also view the customers as federal suppliers. I would have lots of conversations with federal suppliers about how they access the marketplace, what their challenges are, what they want to see in a sort of modified, new, streamlined federal marketplace. Fortunately, the new administrator comes in with a super-talented, super-smart group of people that have been there a long time.”

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Amazon, Anne Rung, e-commerce, General Services Administration (GSA), Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
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