Agile procurement and the modernization of federal health procurement

April 13, 2017

Prior to 2012, agile procurement was an unknown term to many within the federal government; however, over the last several years it has become a common buzzword that we continuously hear about. Increasingly, agile procurement trends are gaining traction through blanket purchase agreements (BPA), Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract vehicles and “clubs” organized across a wide variety of federal agencies. Throughout the Obama administration, agencies began to move away from the traditional way of purchasing products and services from vendors in favor of the transformation and modernization of procurement. The Trump administration’s new Innovation Office, which plans to improve federal government efficiency with a focus on modernizing technology and data, could play a role in transforming agencies’ procurement.

What’s the big deal about agile procurement?

Agile procurement allows for a more flexible way to conduct procurement, rather than just accepting standard written proposals and traditional solutions. Historically, agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) invested months perfecting a request for proposal, accompanying documents such as amendments and Q&As, followed by countless hours evaluating vendors’ submissions in the hopes that one might provide the requested solution. With the new method, HHS and other agencies are looking for shorter, written proposals and relying more on prototypes, with demonstrations that allow the customer to know if the offering matches their needs.

HHS’ Buyers Club

HHS was one of the early adopters of agile procurement methods with the start of the HHS Buyers Club. The Buyers Club has demonstrated how to work with vendors utilizing innovative acquisition methods, and several contracts have been awarded through this experimental idea. It was something other agencies were asked to take a closer look at and try to emulate across the government.

In addition to the Buyers Club’s contracts, other, specific contracts have come about through this trend, such as the GSA 18F BPA and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Agile Delivery to Execute Legislative Endeavors (ADELE) BPA. Throughout these processes, there have been some uphill battles and unforeseen issues with managing something so different from what we have traditionally known. However, many within the federal agencies see the promise of this method and the need for the change from the outdated models.

Moving the needle

CMS has already used the ADELE BPA, which features six small businesses that will compete for award task orders related to the Quality Payment Program implementation. In addition to the ADELE BPA and 18F, many traditional contracts are also incorporating more agile requirements throughout their Request for Proposal. The new administration will likely continue to move in the same direction, especially if agile procurement continues to demonstrate cost and time savings.

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