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As agencies continue to feel pressure to modernize their aging infrastructure, and find other avenues for completing their respective missions with restrained funding, several areas of interesting solutions seem to be working their way across government.

As blogged by Steve Kelman on Federal Computer Week’s The Lectern, several agencies are using competitive prototyping, and other innovations, as a step to encourage groundbreaking solutions by industry, combined with evaluating process over paper.

First up the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Flexible Agile Support for the Homeland or FLASH, which was designed to be a small business contract for a variety of Agile development and other DevOp services. The source selection process focused on the use of tech demonstrations, and forgoing the typical Request for Proposal process which is usually daunting for small businesses, especially newer entrants into the market.

This was an excellent approach to acquiring software development services, but was regretfully plagued with management errors in the evaluation and selection process.

A teachable moment for sure, but DHS has made a commitment to innovative, and will continue to find ways to improve its procurement processes and find the best ways to bring in innovative firms and solutions to the agency as discussed on Government Matters.

These tech demos are an excellent way to see how firms behave, think, interact with users, and of course, verify the quality of the products and services being developed. These are tangible factors for evaluation, and can simply not be done with paper-based approaches to selecting vendors.

Besides DHS and 18F from the General Services Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, used a tech demo to select a vendor for a task order for software development to support benefit appeals processing modernization. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has done tech demos, as has the Department of Health and Human Services, who have been pioneers in digital services through the Buyers Club, and the leadership of Mark Naggar.

This past week, the Office of Personnel Management issued a Request for Informationon innovative solutions to modernize their infrastructure, and how best to pay for it.

Perhaps a culture shift is underway across government, which is a good thing. A very, very good thing.

Let’s hope that these initiatives continue to spread across government, and that the days of reading through 100-page RFPs are at an end for both industry and the government.

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