USDS procurement team, equity director join forces to improve contracting market research

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The U.S. Digital Service’s procurement team is working with its first diversity, equity, inclusion and accountability director to improve market research efforts.

Speaking at the AWS Public Sector Summit on Tuesday, Procurement Director Florence Kasule said she’s working with Bianca Escalante, the head of that new diversity and equity team, to rethink policies and behaviors like how USDS courts small businesses or shares requests for information (RFIs) with industry.

The results will have ripple effects across government because USDS’s 12-person, multidisciplinary procurement team is working with acquisition professionals at multiple agencies to help them modernize and digitize, she said.

“Meet the industry partners where they are, in order to bring in information in a more efficient way and in a more equitable way,” Kasule said.

While many companies learn about IT procurements through the federal government’s SAM.gov procurement database, some agencies also use LinkedIn and GitHub to get the word out, and USDS is evaluating the viability of such alternatives, she added.

Kasule’s team is also working on folding in the language, or at least the spirit, of the Biden administration’s recent Cybersecurity and Customer Experience (CX) executive orders into future contracts.

“We don’t want to sink money into solutions that, at the end of the day, are not secure and don’t meet the needs of the people they’re intended to meet,” Kasule said.

The Office of Management and Budget is in the process of developing cross-agency CX requirements, likely to find their way into contracts, across five life experiences: retirement, disaster recovery, leaving active military duty, childbirth and early childhood for low-income mothers, and financial shock requiring support.

Agencies are currently working with their customers to understand what their CX needs are and report them to OMB, which will create a CX roadmap and requirements to be included in some contracts.

The effort will require strong data and identity management across multiple platforms to make CX seamless for citizens engaging with government, Ross Nodurft, executive director of the Alliance for Digital Innovation, said at the summit.

But companies don’t need to wait for OMB to issue CX requirements to encourage agencies to include them during the RFI and request for proposals (RFP) question and answer phases of procurements, Kasule said.

“If you see any sort of contract language from the government that does not have customer experience language in it, I would push back,” she said. “I would ask, ‘Who is the customer?’”

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Acquisition, Alliance for Digital Innovation, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Bianca Escalante, customer experience (CX), Florence Kasule, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Ross Nodurft, U.S. Digital Service
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