“A little bit easier”… Idea: Government Procurement Tools & Scorecard
abhi nemani

Hey Abhi — Thanks for writing about this! Here’s a few thoughts for you, and for the innovation leader who entreated you to “Stop telling me to fix procurement, and start telling me what to do.”

There are some very good resources already available to get started. I think the problem is a bit of learned helplessness, and lack of curiosity or time to explore. The inspiration is out there!

Have you heard of the Open Contracting Partnership? http://www.open-contracting.org/ Some of the principles might inform your scorecard idea and add to the assessment criteria. Check out their global principles: http://www.open-contracting.org/get-started/global-principles/ and their data standard.


Here’s a blog from Sunlight Foundation and Open Contracting Partnership from October 2016 on their tour with Bloomberg What Works Cities: https://sunlightfoundation.com/2016/10/03/the-ocp-and-sunlight-take-open-contracting-on-tour-with-what-works-cities/

There’s already an incentive. Last year at the SXSW Civic Tech Pitch Competition, a company SmartProcure won with the hook “What would you do with an extra 1% of your overall budget?” Pretty good question! https://www.forbes.com/sites/annefield/2016/03/31/a-civic-tech-startups-system-aims-to-save-cities-big-bucks/#5054439e7d8f

I would also like to see some conversation amongst state and local governments around practices for agile software development. Perhaps this could go into your scorecard as well. What the U.S. Digital Service did with the TechFAR Handbook inspires me that we might not necessarily need reform to get started. Perhaps we need to merely highlight “key regulatory provisions” and explain how agile approaches can be supported with the tools we already have.

Tech Far Handbook: https://github.com/usds/playbook/blob/gh-pages/_includes/techfar-online.md

Of all the civic innovation problems, procurement seems the most thorny, yet when I look into these sources of inspiration, it appears to be more of an analysis problem than a true wicked problem.

So what are we really solving for? It needs time on task — something of which most of our purchasing and contract specialists have precious little. There’s a technical hurdle that could be solved with cross-pollination between technologists and procurement specialists. We’ve got to map or cross-walk their technical languages to a solution, as the Open Contracting Partnership has. Then there’s the strategic thinking hurdle — particularly when it comes to supporting agile software development through contracting. Agile is not a linear practice, but an iterative practice, which some see as not being rigorous enough for they kinds of key performance measures that normally go into contracts.

How might we carve out the time to analyze, cross-walk, and practice these types of solutions?

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