DorobekInsider: The Better Buy Project — the liner notes

Tuesday - 12/15/2009, 1:42pm EST

I have mentioned that I will be moderating a panel on Wednesday morning talking about the Better Buy Project, which is an innovative collaborative platform for improving the government procurement process. Find more at betterbuyproject.com. There is more information on the ACT/IAC Web site here.

Here are the details:

We are pleased to announce the next IAC Executive Session featuring The BetterBuy Project on December 16th, 2009 from 9:00am – 10:30am at The National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), 900 7th Street, N.W., Suite 600, Washington, DC 20001.

The BetterBuy Project, a collaborative initiative between the General Services Administration (GSA), the American Council for Technology/Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC) and the National Academy for Public Administration (NAPA), has become front page news and has captured the attention of both government and industry acquisition professionals. The initiative is focused on collecting ideas that will make the federal acquisition process more open, transparent and participatory through the implementation of collaborative processes and collaborative technology.

Come and learn more about this dynamic project and how it could change – for the better – the way the government buys products and services.

BetterBuy Panelists:

  • Chris Dorobek, Managing Editor of FederalNewsRadio.com and Co- Anchor of the afternoon Federal News Radio program (Moderator)
  • Mary Davie, Assistant Commissioner of GSA’s Office of Assisted Acquisition Services
  • Peter Tuttle, Senior Procurement Policy Analyst with Distributed Solutions, Inc.
  • Chris Hamm, Operations Director of GSA’s Federal Systems Integration and Management Center (FEDSIM)
  • Esther Burgess, SVP and Deputy COO of Vistronix, Inc.
  • Lena Trudeau, Director of Strategic Initiatives for the National Academy for Public Administration (NAPA)

On Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we spoke with Davie about the Better Buy Project. Hear that conversation here.

Harvard Kennedy School professor Steve Kelman wrote about the Better Buy Project in his FCW.com blog The Lectern under the headline, Better Buy: Crowdsourcing at work in acquisition forum:

The basic idea behind the Better Buy project is so-called “crowdsourcing.” The Better Buy Web site invites people to propose ideas for improving the procurement process. Others are then invited to vote on which ideas they like best — each computer from which a person votes is allowed a total of up to 20 votes, of which up to three may be allocated to a given proposal. People may also post comments about the proposals.

Read more from Kelman here.

Some details of what has happened so far:

  • 88 unique ideas submitted
  • 223 voters
  • 761 votes cast

At the forum, we’re going to talk about how this came about and how difficult it was… and what has worked well and what can be improved.

I love this project because it is a group of people talking in the GovLoop Acquisition 2.0 community who decided to make something happen — and they are trying it. I think there will be many lessons learned.

If you have thoughts, I hope you will share your ideas.

Some FAQ information from the Better Buy Project:

Why the Federal Acquisition Process?

On his first day in office, President Obama challenged leaders in government to “use innovative tools, methods, and systems to cooperate among themselves, across all levels of Government, and with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals in the private sector.” The acquisition process represents one of the most important areas of collaboration between government and the private sector.

Unfortunately, it is also among the most complex and least transparent. The Better Buy Project is an experiment dedicated to the belief that there’s a lot of room for improvement in the way government buys products and services. We’re testing this hypothesis by asking for your ideas on how to make acquisition process more open, transparent and collaborative.

The best part of this project is that the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) GSA would really like to adopt some of your best ideas. Promising ideas will be selected by GSA to be piloted on an upcoming acquisition, where lessons learned will be captured for future implementation. But that really depends on us, and the ideas we’re able to produce.

What Topics Are At Issue?

This project is concerned primarily with the pre-contract-award stages of the acquisition process—the activities that take place before the government “signs on the dotted line” to buy a product or service. Those areas are:

  • Market Research and Requirements Definition Phase—Includes publicizing agency needs and requirements, and refining them based on further input and research about current capabilities.
  • Pre-Solicitation Phase—Includes web-based research, discussions with other federal agencies, meetings and open discussion forums with the private sector to discuss potential solutions, and requests for information soliciting input and ideas. The requirements are also further refined at this stage in the process.
  • Solicitation Phase—Includes the government notifying the private sector of the requirement through various channels such as E-Buy and FedBizOpps, holding open forums to discuss the requirement and answer questions (e.g., Industry Days), a review of the solicitation by interested companies, the written exchange between government and the private sector of questions, answers and clarifications on government requirements, and proposal submissions.