Will RFP-EZ Give Small Businesses a Leg Up on Federal Procurement?

The Obama administration recently announced a new procurement initiative (hat-tip Ryder Daniels). No, this is not one that promises a transformation of the GSA (replete with fewer shindigs in Vegas), however useful it would be to drop a spend-focused metaphorical savings bomb in the middle of that mess. No, this one is far simpler. And we think it's an idea whose time has come. Recently, the White House introduced its RFP-EZ program, the purpose of which is to enable "a platform that makes it easier for small high-growth businesses to navigate the federal government, and enables agencies to quickly source low-cost, high-impact information technology solutions."

Granted, we don't believe for a second that IBM, HP and others are quaking in their Federal IT contract belts just yet. But if RFP-EZ does prove to be even a moderate success, then all tax-payers will certainly benefit from creating more competition in the sourcing beltway as well as providing the best funding of all to
upstart providers -- revenue. As the White House notes, there will be two primary benefits if the program is successfully executed: "1) better and less expensive products and services for the federal government, saving taxpayer dollars and improving results delivered, and 2) easier access to the government marketplace for high-growth start-ups, helping to fuel job growth throughout the country)."

But don't rush out and think you can sign up for RFP-EZ right away. The White House is seeking a small core team to build it -- or at least a working prototype. However, the tragedy of such an approach is that it appears that the spend-powers-that-be which are so keen to see Federal acquisition change are also committed to building vs. buying technology to support their need. Now why in a time of dozens of outstanding sources tools in the market, many of which can be heavily configured to deliver on specific public sector objectives, the White House would attempt to build such a toolset on its own is a true mystery. Alas, perhaps the most important reform in Federal procurement that's necessary as a first step is an understanding of when to apply make vs. buy logic.

- Jason Busch

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Voices (3)

  1. Jaime Gracia:

    This is going to turn out to be yet another redundant federal IT application, that does not get used, or shelved. How are small businesses going to be able to be successful with any environment when the federal government does everything to make small businesses fail?

    Much lip service is given, but little accountability, oversight, or governance when it comes to ensuring small businesses can navigate and succeed in teh federal market.

    Lipstick on a pig. Again…

  2. Thomas Kase:

    It is always tempting to build – keeps (or expands! Yay!) your budget and head count levels. Large corporations and government alike suffer from not-built-here syndrome.

    When I hear this I am reminded of futile efforts in past lives of trying to sell best-in-class low priced SaaS procurement solutions to government agencies, aerospace & defense contractors and similarly bureaucratic organizations. If I had a dollar for each time I heard "we can build that in-house"….

    Even if I’d like to blame this on government ineptitude, I think it is human nature. Exacerbated when competition is reduced/removed.

  3. The Purchasing Certification Guy:

    Seriously? Since when is the White House in the business of building RFP software? Building a solution that you justify by claiming that it will be "saving taxpayer dollars and improving results delivered?" Quite ironic!

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