One of the projects of the White House’s Presidential Innovation Fellows program was RFP-EZ, which aimed to make it easier for federal agencies to acquire goods and services by simplifying the request for proposal system.
The question, though, is how much did it actually help.
The answer, said Joe Jordan, administrator of federal procurement policy at the White House, is approximately 30 percent.
“We put the same RFPs on [FedBizOps] and RFP-EZ for comparison,” Jordan said Thursday at FedScoop’s 5th annual Lowering the Cost of Government with IT Summit at the Newseum. “And we found that the proposals we got on RFP-EZ were very similar in quality, but the entire process was 30 percent less expensive than on FBO.”
RFP-EZ is only used for procurements less than $150,000, and Jordan told FedScoop the trick is now finding how to expand that to larger procurements.
Perhaps Jordan’s biggest issue these days is around strategic sourcing. He said his office has had various initiatives around the issue to help cut costs in areas including office supplies and domestic delivery and is now looking at things such as software and commodity hardware.
“This is something we want to do with vendors, because working in this way will help cut company costs as well, especially in the bid and proposal costs that they incur,” Jordan said. “If we can drive those out of the system, we will all be able to share in the savings.”
Security by the fire
In a fireside chat with Gigi Schumm, Symantec’s public sector vice president and general manager, Department of Homeland Security Acting CIO Margie Graves said as the business models for security change to lower cost, it’s important for employees to understand changes in the technology infrastructure.
An example, Graves pointed out, is DHS being early an adopter of agile and the department has had to update contract language to support it.
“One of the biggest challenges of agile development is that procurement is unsure how to measure fulfillment,” Graves said.
Uncle SAM’S IT
Dr. Michael Valivullah, chief technology officer at the Agriculture Department’s National Agriculture Statistics Service, laid out his plan for cost savings he labeled Uncle SAM’S IT, which stands for simplifying, automate, modularize, standardize, innovate and train.
- Simplify: Valivullah said complexity adds cost and takes too many resources to manage and maintain, so keep things as simple as possible.
- Automate: Manual processes tend to be error-prone and expensive, he said, so the key is to remove as many steps out of the process and automate whenever the situation allows.
- Modularize: Use self-contained modules that are clearly defined and easy to manage and maintain. Think Lego blocks that allow people to plug and play.
- Standardize: Avoid customizations and proprietary architectures, protocols, interfaces and frameworks.
- Innovate: Continually improve processes, products and services.
- Train: Constantly educate and develop new skills in employees who grow along with new technologies.
The ‘Iron quadrangle’
Max Peterson, director and general manager for partners, capture and contracts for Amazon Web Services’ worldwide public sector, laid out his idea of the “iron quadrangle.”
The idea builds off the old Iron Triangle (better, cheaper and faster) and now security and joined in to create a fourth side, adding complexity for today’s information technology managers.
Mark Day, acting deputy assistant commissioner for the General Services Administration’s Integrated Technology Service, said agencies need a cloud service broker lay to manage multicloud environment and services.
“Security isn’t just about the moat,” Day said. “We’re doing a lot of work to build these moats when we should focus on new ways to protect data at rest.”
Day spoke on a panel with Dell Federal Chief Technology Officer Jeffrey Lush, NetApp Vice President of Federal Civilian Agencies and Inside Sales for U.S. Public Sector and Keith Trippie, executive director of the Enterprise System Development Office at DHS.
The ‘I’ in CIO
When it comes to the acronym CIO, the “”I needs to be about innovation and not infrastructure, said Doug Bourgeois, vice president and chief cloud officer for VMware’s public sector.
That innovation needs to come from sources outside of customer wants. Bourgeois quoted Henry Ford, who said, “if we had asked customers, we would have built faster horses,” because, in essence, the customer doesn’t always know what they want.
Instead, CIOs should take the ideas of Thomas Edison and look at rapid prototypes with low capital, fast builds with low risk that can be tried and tried until they are properly done.
Open source conversation
A number of technology leaders came together for a candid conversation on the value of open source. David Egts, principal architect for Red Hat’s public sector, moderated a conversation between Veterans Affairs Department Acting CIO Stephen Warren, Labor Department Chief Innovation Officer Xavier Hughes, NASA CTO for IT Sasi Pillay and Federal Communications Commission Geographic Information Officer Michael Byrne.
Byrne said FCC bench-marked open source and it outperformed proprietary solutions.
Warren compared open source to water, saying sometimes free is fine, but other times it’s worth buying in a bottle. He added the department’s need to build community around open source software to get the full benefits.