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FCW : November and December 2014
Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here? The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to. Alice: I don’t much care where. The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go. Like Alice, IT procurement reformers are searching for directions without a clear sense of where they want to go. Rather than continuing to spend billions trying to fix the current IT acquisition system, we must create a view of what acquisition can become, what value it should deliver and what strategic choices we can make now based on that vision. Since 2013, government executives, industry thought leaders and rising acquisition professionals have been meeting to create the Acquisition of the Future (AOF) movement to give life to that vision and suggest those choices. And we’re almost finished constructing a guide that government can use to take advantage of this new environment and its possibilities. Our personal experiences with digital services and products have raised our expectations for all institu- tions, including government. Today’s citizen expecta- tions already exceed what we can deliver, and they will be dwarfed by those of the new generations entering the workforce. Those true digital natives are accustomed to speed, transparency, joint creation, trust-based transac- tions and ubiquitous technology in all their relationships. Their impatience with anything less will only hasten the disruption that is upon us. Our online, interactive, data-rich, agile and value- focused era — which we refer to as the Collaboration Age — stands in stark contrast to our linear, information- hoarding, regulation-laden and process-driven government and acquisition systems, which were designed for the long- gone Industrial Age. If we are to harness the tremendous energy and opportunities created by the Collaboration Age, then government acquisition and IT procurement must be transformed. Yet we are once again awash in attempts to reform IT buying, not transform it. The House-passed Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act awaits Senate action. Meanwhile, the Reforming Federal Procurement of IT Act has been introduced in the House. Both proposed laws would give CIOs control of agency IT budgets, strengthen review of IT investments, push for greater sharing of IT services and make it marginally easier for innovative companies to enter the federal market. At the Pentagon, the third Better Buying Power initiative focuses on retaining the country’s technological edge by encouraging innovation via greater use of incentive-based contracts, reducing market barriers to new players and adding opportunities to compete by using open systems architecture. And at the Office of Management and Budget, the new U.S. Digital Service was born from the lessons learned from the launch of HealthCare.gov. Its TechFAR Handbook outlines flexibilities in acquisition regulations agencies can use to support more iterative software development. All those incremental reforms are laudable, but unfortu- nately, no jointly defined or broadly acknowledged vision unites and animates them. They aren’t shaped by a unified understanding of the current state of government or the effects of the new age we’ve entered. And few address A bold approach to transforming IT acquisition BY KYMM McCABE Without a future vision and an appetite for risk, reforms lead down a rabbit hole. There is a better way. 28 November/December 2014 FCW.COM AcquisitionMatters