GSA, 18F award first series of agile software contracts

A white board at the front of 18F's Washington, D.C., headquarters in the GSA building displays every employee based on the airport code they call home. (Billy Mitchell/FedScoop)

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The General Services Administration announced it has awarded contracts to 16 firms, using a new kind of contracting vehicle designed to streamline the acquisition of software development services for agencies.

The agile marketplace blanket purchase agreement, or BPA, developed by GSA’s 18F Consulting unit and GSA ITS, creates an acquisition vehicle for qualifying vendors to develop software in rapid development cycles, working with users in the design process. Previous contracts vehicles have handcuffed agencies and developers from being able to use agile software development methods commonly used in the commercial market.

The new contract vehicle is an outgrowth of efforts by GSA, and 18F Consulting, to help agencies modernize their IT services.

“Over the last few months, the demand for 18F to build products for agencies has been explosive,” members of the 18F team wrote in a blog posted Friday. “To meet this demand, we realized that we needed help from outside vendors who work the way we do — using techniques like agile development cycles and user-centered design processes. We’ve also identified the need for a contract vehicle through which agencies can gain access to a pool of vendors that work in this way as well.”

By finding design firms that can turn around a software prototype in just a few weeks, IT departments can survey users and gather feedback before moving to the next phase of development, typically in two-week development cycles. The process also relies on developers that use available open source code rather than designing software solutions from scratch. The process is expected to save time and taxpayer dollars, and lead to products that come closer to what users actually need.

GSA officials said the awards being issued Friday are for “Pool Three Full Stack” firms (open to businesses of any size), which includes Design and Development. Pools One (Design) and Two (Development), which are small business set-asides, are still being evaluated. Eighty-eight firms submitted proposals.

Vendors were required to submit a working prototype, based on a public data set — and then show their work in a publicly available repository, known as git.

The list of vendors who were awarded contracts includes:

“GSA strives to be a proactive federal partner to both agencies and the vendor community and this agile BPA is another great example of that,” GSA Administrator Denise Turner Roth said. “By allowing 18F to contract with companies that work in an agile, user-centered fashion, GSA will be able to continue transforming the way government buys digital services and better respond to the needs of customer agencies.”

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18F, Agencies, Applications & Software, General Services Administration (GSA), Government IT News, Procurement, Tech
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