Written byBilly Mitchell
Octo Consulting Group won an $11-million contract to give a facelift to the federal government’s central procurement opportunities portal.
Under GSA’s Alliant Small Business vehicle, Octo will help the general Services Administration modernize its Integrated Award Environment, combining several of the 10 different awards systems it manages into a single new and updated System for Award Management website, SAM.gov.
Octo’s work on the IAE modernization will specifically focus on designing and developing the updated functionalities for the Federal Business Opportunities system, the Electronic Subcontractor Reporting System, and the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act Subaward Reporting System, though the bulk of the work will be devoted to the FedBizOpps.gov website.
The contract has a 10-month base period with four one-year options to extend.
Using agile development practices, McLean, Virginia-based Octo is currently in the user-testing phase of the project, CTO Sujey Edward told FedScoop.
“What we are not doing is building a system just that Octo would like or just that the GSA folks as stakeholders would like,” Edward said. “We really are starting to engage some of our colleagues that are out there in the industry and the folks that are using this system daily and using this system all the time to really elicit the type of information they need.”
“A lot of times in government systems, the loudest person in the room really wins out and that priority gets shot to the top of the list,” he said. “This is different. We’re really crowdsourcing; we’re really trying to figure out how folks are interacting and saying, ‘Hey, empirically, we can prove which are the most important features.’”
Likewise, the team is “leveraging more modern technologies from open source tools to micro-services to really be able to deliver a system that will help as the world changes,” Edward said.
“When we built software back in the day, it really was there for 20 years. Now we build software that when changes come in, we can accept those changes and move forward,” he said.
The contract, Edward said, shows that federal agencies are really committing to agile software development in lieu of traditionally waterfall principles.
“I think one of the things it really tells you is from a Digital Services Playbook angle, if you think about that playbook, the government has — and GSA in particular — really understood the importance of implementing those plays on programs,” he said.
Edward continued: “Another thing that’s unique about this program is it’s a recognition from GSA that all agile programs are not the small, four-week efforts. This is something that has cascading effects across industry and across not only their agency but their partner agencies as well. Having that type of interaction and that type of enterprise look at an agile development process is pretty refreshing.”
Octo is also looking to the DevOps process to support rapid, iterative development — “baking security and compliance testing in the DevOps pipe,” Edward said.
The plan is for a gradual and incremental roll out of functionality over the next couple years. Octo hopes to have public data searchable for about half the applications by summer 2017.
“We believe in developing on cadence and releasing on demand. So the business users will determine when those release cycles will happen,” he said.
Because the Octo team, like other contractors, uses these systems — particularly FedBizOpps — every day, they’re excited to lead the needed improvements.
“It’s awesome that us in the service community that serves the federal government and works with them are getting a bit of love now and getting an opportunity to work with a service provider-facing app,” Edward said. “I’m excited about it from really being able to say ‘Hey this is an important system that a lot of people get to use,’ and then bringing it forward into a more modern look and feel, and also just a better way to develop and implement a system.”