Public Sector Procurement Tech Success: Finding the Silver Linings

There’s an awful lot not to be proud of in public sector tech procurement. Consider the massive sums agencies and departments are leaving on the table not only in the sourcing process, but also in areas such as performance measurement, auditing, and compliance. And of course, anyone who wants to show the horrors of federal IT failures can point to as a shining example of how not to manage software, cloud, and complex IT projects. But there are silver linings in public sector tech spending.

NPR recently pointed out these IT procurement successes in a recent blog post covering a handful of implementations where government technology procurement actually works. Here are some of the highlights from the story:

  • In Philadelphia, IT procurement staff and consultants are using GitHub to post an “open data policy,” as well as opportunities for outside developers to see contracts up for bid.
  • Kansas City’s procurement director, Cedric Rowan, is “writing requests for proposals that can adjust to changing technology” using a more RFI approach, rather than rigorous-specification RFPs. This, in his words, gives providers “the opportunity to be innovative in their solutions” they propose rather than locking vendors into antiquated models.
  • In federal procurement, the authors cite the case of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where “technologists got an important seat at the table when the agency started from scratch in 2010.”

Ultimately, as the authors suggest, the silver lining in the failure may be new attention to the pockets of success in government tech spending – and how to elevate these silos of success into broader standards of expectation and results. But while there’s no doubt one should turn to public sector IT procurement use cases that work and deliver measured and tangible value, it will be equally important to look at private examples as well as those that sit on the periphery of the government and non-government world (e.g., Fannie Mae’s deployment of Ivalua to support all functional procurement areas).

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