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FCW : November and December 2014
what might be the key element of successful federal IT acquisition: the critical need to develop an appetite for appropriate risk taking. Building on a shared vision of a future based on Col- laboration Age possibilities, AOF is creating a guide to provide a common language about the new dynamics and opportunities, a way to understand the desired direction for federal acquisition, a menu of strategic choices that we need to begin making now in order to get to that desired state, and a way to measure how far we’ve traveled toward the goal. The AOF Transformation Guide is intended to be a community-owned and shared, continuously improving document. It is designed to describe, not prescribe, a vari- ety of options and levels of evolution. It is based on five critical dimensions of transformation: • Buyers — including individuals, programs and the whole of government. • Marketplace — the physical and virtual meeting space for buyers and sellers. • Acquisition ecosystem — encompassing structures and methods for all elements of acquisition (programs, agency and administration leadership, IT, financial management, legal support, oversight and Congress). • Culture — the values, organizational constructs, ener- gizing spirit, beliefs, mores and North Star that guide us. • External forces — the people and organizations that support, oversee, benefit from and advocate for acquisition. Central to envisioning acquisition’s future are imagining and describing those dimensions as shaped by Collabora- tion Age dynamics and opportunities because they look vastly different from the current Industrial Age state. For example, consider the lamentations and recrimi- nations about waterfall development of government IT projects. Long, linear, closed processes aimed at build- ing “exquisite solutions” to requirements that significant- ly morph from inception to the delivery of a system are destined to fall short. Yet we continue to default to this approach, in part because of existing processes and in part because our negligible national appetite for risk in government dooms us to it. So instead, we should imagine a future in which we agree to grant federal professionals the same opportunity that is provided by essentially every successful American company: to zero in on outcomes rather than processes and to iterate, test and adapt. Like industry, government must devote laser-like focus to the needs of its customers — the beneficiaries of federal programs. Programs could deploy data about their own and other agencies’ purchases to better understand the costs and contracts necessary to support agile develop- ment. Developers and program users could build light- weight solutions to limited requirements, deploy them for testing, learn from the results, improve them and then launch or even change course — secure in the knowledge that experimentation and even failure are encouraged and expected, and the cost of failing small is built into the deal. Open architecture could become the status quo in an November/December 2014 FCW.COM 29 The Acquisition of the Future movement is built on understanding Collaboration Age dynamics and trends affecting government and industry, such as those identified by Flextronics Chief Procurement Officer Tom Linton in this graphic by Bruce Van Patter. Want to be a part of it? Go to AcquisitionoftheFuture.com to join the movement.