Public Spend Forum Content

For Federal Agencies: What’s the Big Deal with Big Data?

“Big Data” is the Big Buzzword in government tech circles these days. At the recent American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC) Executive Leadership Conference (ELC) in Williamsburg, VA, it was clear that yesterday’s hot topic—movement to the cloud—has already been assimilated into the general understanding of the tech landscape, and it was so-called Big Data that was piquing everyone’s interest. But the question we have to ask ourselves, as we’ve become enamored with this topic, is: What really is the Big Deal about Big Data?

Magic Bullet: How a Small Gift Shot Down a Huge Contract

It is one of the simplest ways to educate people about ethical behavior. Whether you are dealing with your employees or your kids, perhaps the most effective way to teach people about how to make the right ethical decision is have them think about a basic question: How would you feel if what you did was headlined on the local paper? Odds are many of us, and perhaps our parents, were taught to live our work and personal lives by answering this straightforward question over and over again. And of course, as an acquisition executive, no matter what specific code of ethics or legal requirements your jurisdiction may have in place, you hope that your staff thinks about this simple question when making decisions that may fall into a gray area.

MicroTech Story Exposes Holes in Federal Supplier Diversity Programs

Reading the Washington Post series on MicroTechnologies—a federal contractor that has benefited from its status as a “small business” despite raking in more than $300 million in contracts—it’s difficult not to just throw one’s hands in the air. As MicroTech said in a statement in the original Post story, “MicroTech has not broken any laws and has conducted itself in an ethical manner,” and it’s entirely reasonable to think that’s true. Assuming that the ownership questions the Post raises can be answered, MicroTech seems to have threaded a very lucrative needle, allowing it to take advantage of government programs for small businesses while far exceeding the definition of a small business.

The Differences Between Public and Private Sector Procurement

A while back, we took a look at the survey of public and private sector procurement pros that our friends over at Spend Matters UK put together. Well, they’ve just released the final installment, some interesting responses to their open comment call at the end of the survey. As they did in their story today, I thought I’d highlight some interesting ones. As we noted before, the survey asked public and private sector practitioners their opinions of their own path and the other. Public sector didn’t fare too well, not ranking low in the eyes of the private sector, but in its own estimation as well.

Big, Positive Changes Ahead for Small Businesses in Federal Acquisition

The U.S. Small Business Administration recently announced sweeping new guidelines, mandated by the 2010 Small Business Jobs Act, that will significantly enhance the ability of small businesses to pursue and win federal contracting opportunities. For the most part, analysts are in agreement that these new rules will serve to better the prospects of small firms and allow small business to compete for an even greater share of federal procurement dollars than ever before. And, as Alan Chvotkin, Executive Vice President and Counsel of the Professional Services Council recently commented, the SBA’s action “significantly changes how large and small businesses compete for and execute work.”

Collaborating for a More Sustainable Supply Chain in Public Procurement, Pt. 2

The concept of a community of practice can be traced back to the Institute for Research on Learning (IRL), a 1986 spin off from the Palo Alto Research Center. IRL was a nonprofit research organization of linguists, anthropologists, computer scientists and professional teachers who believed that people learn less through formal instruction and more through social interactions. Etienne Wenger, a teacher and PhD in artificial intelligence, joined IRL along with anthropologist Jean Lave and they developed the theory of “Situated Learning,” which they published in a 1991 book of the same name. Their concept, in a nutshell, was that communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.

IT Strategic Vendor Management: Achieving Savings and Improving Performance in Austere Times Pt. 3

Think outside the CLIN. Most cost-reduction efforts focus on upfront reductions to contract line-item pricing, often referred to as the Contract Line-Item Number (CLIN). Standard contracting practices are well known to IT vendors, and many take advantage of CLIN-level analysis to conceal true costs. Vendors may bundle CLINs to bury the prices of pieces or parts, or use “special CLINs” to hide specific item pricing.

Knowing the Customer Is Key to Government Contracting

Often times, businesses trying to crack into the world of federal contracting report that they feel like travelers landing in a country where they know no one and don’t know the language. Federal acquisition does sometimes seem like a strange land, with its own unique tongue that sounds completely foreign to those engaged in sales and business development efforts for the first time. Just as one who thinks he or she knows the language enough to “get around” abroad, sometimes you can hear things that make you scratch your head and/or play turista and ask for guidance and direction.

The Six Principles of Stakeholder Engagement, Part 4

If you’re going to take the time to ask stakeholders for their opinions or to open the doors for participation in a program’s development, make sure it counts for something. You’ve got to be open to receiving and incorporating stakeholder input—even if it doesn’t align with the program’s vision and goals. Further, you need to make sure your stakeholders know that their participation counts for something. Real and effective stakeholder engagement must be more than just a compulsory “check” on the list. It must be valued by all parties involved.

Improving Federal Procurement: Streamline the FAR and Leverage Technology

While the intent of the Federal Acquisition Regulation is to ensure stewardship of taxpayer dollars and a level playing field for suppliers, the morass of acquisition policies and regulations in many ways works against that very noble intent. Instead, purchasing processes have become so complex that only those in the know can compete for government purchases.

The Right Mindset: What Does It Take to Have a Successful Acquisition Career Today?

Recently, Tom Lovell, who is the group managing director for Reed, a leading online job site in the United Kingdom, spoke to the annual conference of the The Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS) in London. Lovell outlined nine characteristics that he feels are crucial for procurement professionals to possess in order to succeed in their careers in a recent article in Supply Management. Overall, Lovell stressed that the key to climbing the ladder of success in the acquisition field is to have “the right mindset,” as one can be taught procurement, but not attitude. His advice is equally good for those aspiring to rise higher in their careers and for those charged with hiring decisions.

Collaborating for a More Sustainable Supply Chain in Public Procurement

Government and private industry can work together to create more sustainable supply chains. That’s the foundational belief of a General Services Administration (GSA) initiative called the Sustainable Supply Chain Community of Practice. It’s a community in which key stakeholders share insights and information on how to create greener supply chains while reducing inefficiencies and risk. Here’s a report on the progress to date.