GSA’s Rights and Wrongs

I really enjoyed reading Spence Witten’s piece about GSA’s handling of Alliant 2. Some really great insights, delivered with his trademark candor.

It has to be a heady time for GSA. They’ve opened up the Technology Transformation Service (TTS), had its commissioner leave shortly thereafter, then watched as more than one report questioned the effectiveness of its digital services team, 18F. Now they’ve hired a former Pixar exec to take the reins at TTS.

To that end, I’m glad Spence wrote about Alliant 2, as it’s good to hear some success stories to counteract some of the bad feelings generated by watchdog reports.

I’m curious to hear what people think about what’s happening at GSA these days. Personally, I’ve been impressed by the work 18F does, and I’m not convinced that “billable hours” is necessarily the best way to measure an organization that is intended—at least in part—to shepherd cultural change within the federal government. That’s not to say they should be allowed to skate on eight-figure losses, but perhaps with a bit more accountability, the ship could be righted easily enough.

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Jonathan Messinger
Public Spend Forum
Washington DC
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0

Replies

  1. Aaron Snow gave an interview to NextGov’s Frank Konkel about 18F, TTS, and what the future may hold. I thought it was a good read and worth sharing over here.

    18F Co-Founder on Why Tech Transcends Party Politics

    Nextgov remove preview
    18F Co-Founder on Why Tech Transcends Party Politics
    Aaron Snow began what would become a four-year term of government service as a member of the inaugural Presidential Innovation Fellows in 2013 and will end it in an advisory role at the General Services Administration, offering guidance to the new head of the Technology Transformation Service, Rob Cook.
    View this on Nextgov >

    ——————————
    Frank McNally
    Director, Learning & Content Development
    ————————————————————————-
    Original Message:
    Sent: 11-22-2016 17:20
    From: Jonathan Messinger
    Subject: GSA’s Rights and Wrongs

    I just wanted to hop in here and point everyone to Spence’s new piece on GSA, in which we can all see him beginning to adopt my line of thinking. 😉

    But seriously, it’s a great piece, and worth a read for anyone who’s interested in the fate of 18F. To my mind, it’s important to figure out how to salvage it and tell its story in the most effective manner possible, because the ideas and cultural shift it’s propagating within the government itself is too valuable to lose.

    We’ll see what happens with President-Elect Trump. I think it’s fair to imagine him being fairly unsympathetic to 18F and their losses to date, so the story GSA can tell will be bigly important.

    ——————————
    Jonathan Messinger
    Public Spend Forum
    Washington DC
    ————————————————————————-
    Original Message:
    Sent: 11-08-2016 10:29
    From: Vinay Katari
    Subject: GSA’s Rights and Wrongs

    Hoping this contribution is meaningful but my take on 18F is that it is/was great in theory but I think they may have rubbed folks the wrong way given some of the free reign they enjoy.  Also, the digital plays prescribed by the CIO playbook work great when you are designing and building simple citizen centric websites.  Given their strict adherence to those plays coupled with their rigid ways of doing work – I can’t imagine them pushing forward for too much longer.  My two cents…

    In regards to the article on Alliant II.  I couldn’t agree more.  Great piece and kudos to GSA for this innovative acquisition vehicle.  The government should demand more from  the vendor community and as such the Alliant scoring system should ensure that it in fact gets best value.

    ——————————
    Vinay Katari
    Director – Agile Practice
    Harmonia Holdings Group
    ————————————————————————-
    Original Message:
    Sent: 11-07-2016 10:03
    From: Jonathan Messinger
    Subject: GSA’s Rights and Wrongs

    It’s interesting. You and I had a great phone conversation about 18F, which I won’t recreate here, mostly because you schooled me. But I guess one thing I keep going back to is that this seems to be less an 18F issue and more a GSA management issue. Was 18F given too much free rein? Did it try to do too much, spreading itself too thin and in too many directions? Were the “marketing”—the “non-billable” activity it got dinged for in the IG report—a high priority for GSA management as it tried to effect a cultural shift?

    I guess this goes back to what you were saying about it needing a “reset.” My feeling is that 18F’s mission and its work toward that mission has largely been good and laudable, but it perhaps has strayed a bit from both. But it’s also very new within GSA, and perhaps the creation of TTS is an acknowledgment by leadership that what 18F is doing needs more organizational structure.

    All of which is maybe why a number of commentators are concerned they brought in Pixar exec Rob Cook as TTS commissioner. Is a guy who worked on Wall-E the one to do it? We’ll see.

    ——————————
    Jonathan Messinger
    Public Spend Forum
    Washington DC
    ————————————————————————-
    Original Message:
    Sent: 11-05-2016 16:35
    From: Spence Witten
    Subject: GSA’s Rights and Wrongs

    Thanks Jonathan much appreciated!

    18F’s latest IG report wasn’t too pretty huh? The celebrations in some corners of the contracting community following that release rival y’all’s cubs parade yesterday. While 18F has brought a good deal of cynicism upon themselves – which is worth a separate discussion – all the heat lately is ultimately a little unfair. 18F just ran headlong into the perverse business model realities of government contracting, which they were never structured to navigate. By rethinking their model (or deciding that they really shouldn’t even bother with one) I think they can reset expectations, silence the hatas and realize their promise to the federal community.    

    ——————————
    Spence Witten
    Director of Federal Sales
    Lunarline
    ————————————————————————-
    Original Message:
    Sent: 11-04-2016 01:47
    From: Jonathan Messinger
    Subject: GSA’s Rights and Wrongs

    I really enjoyed reading Spence Witten’s piece about GSA’s handling of Alliant 2. Some really great insights, delivered with his trademark candor.

    It has to be a heady time for GSA. They’ve opened up the Technology Transformation Service (TTS), had its commissioner leave shortly thereafter, then watched as more than one report questioned the effectiveness of its digital services team, 18F. Now they’ve hired a former Pixar exec to take the reins at TTS.

    To that end, I’m glad Spence wrote about Alliant 2, as it’s good to hear some success stories to counteract some of the bad feelings generated by watchdog reports.

    I’m curious to hear what people think about what’s happening at GSA these days. Personally, I’ve been impressed by the work 18F does, and I’m not convinced that “billable hours” is necessarily the best way to measure an organization that is intended—at least in part—to shepherd cultural change within the federal government. That’s not to say they should be allowed to skate on eight-figure losses, but perhaps with a bit more accountability, the ship could be righted easily enough.

    ——————————
    Jonathan Messinger
    Public Spend Forum
    Washington DC
    ——————————

    0
  2. I just wanted to hop in here and point everyone to Spence’s new piece on GSA, in which we can all see him beginning to adopt my line of thinking. 😉

    But seriously, it’s a great piece, and worth a read for anyone who’s interested in the fate of 18F. To my mind, it’s important to figure out how to salvage it and tell its story in the most effective manner possible, because the ideas and cultural shift it’s propagating within the government itself is too valuable to lose.

    We’ll see what happens with President-Elect Trump. I think it’s fair to imagine him being fairly unsympathetic to 18F and their losses to date, so the story GSA can tell will be bigly important.

    ——————————
    Jonathan Messinger
    Public Spend Forum
    Washington DC
    ————————————————————————-
    Original Message:
    Sent: 11-08-2016 10:29
    From: Vinay Katari
    Subject: GSA’s Rights and Wrongs

    Hoping this contribution is meaningful but my take on 18F is that it is/was great in theory but I think they may have rubbed folks the wrong way given some of the free reign they enjoy.  Also, the digital plays prescribed by the CIO playbook work great when you are designing and building simple citizen centric websites.  Given their strict adherence to those plays coupled with their rigid ways of doing work – I can’t imagine them pushing forward for too much longer.  My two cents…

    In regards to the article on Alliant II.  I couldn’t agree more.  Great piece and kudos to GSA for this innovative acquisition vehicle.  The government should demand more from  the vendor community and as such the Alliant scoring system should ensure that it in fact gets best value.

    ——————————
    Vinay Katari
    Director – Agile Practice
    Harmonia Holdings Group
    ————————————————————————-
    Original Message:
    Sent: 11-07-2016 10:03
    From: Jonathan Messinger
    Subject: GSA’s Rights and Wrongs

    It’s interesting. You and I had a great phone conversation about 18F, which I won’t recreate here, mostly because you schooled me. But I guess one thing I keep going back to is that this seems to be less an 18F issue and more a GSA management issue. Was 18F given too much free rein? Did it try to do too much, spreading itself too thin and in too many directions? Were the “marketing”—the “non-billable” activity it got dinged for in the IG report—a high priority for GSA management as it tried to effect a cultural shift?

    I guess this goes back to what you were saying about it needing a “reset.” My feeling is that 18F’s mission and its work toward that mission has largely been good and laudable, but it perhaps has strayed a bit from both. But it’s also very new within GSA, and perhaps the creation of TTS is an acknowledgment by leadership that what 18F is doing needs more organizational structure.

    All of which is maybe why a number of commentators are concerned they brought in Pixar exec Rob Cook as TTS commissioner. Is a guy who worked on Wall-E the one to do it? We’ll see.

    ——————————
    Jonathan Messinger
    Public Spend Forum
    Washington DC
    ————————————————————————-
    Original Message:
    Sent: 11-05-2016 16:35
    From: Spence Witten
    Subject: GSA’s Rights and Wrongs

    Thanks Jonathan much appreciated!

    18F’s latest IG report wasn’t too pretty huh? The celebrations in some corners of the contracting community following that release rival y’all’s cubs parade yesterday. While 18F has brought a good deal of cynicism upon themselves – which is worth a separate discussion – all the heat lately is ultimately a little unfair. 18F just ran headlong into the perverse business model realities of government contracting, which they were never structured to navigate. By rethinking their model (or deciding that they really shouldn’t even bother with one) I think they can reset expectations, silence the hatas and realize their promise to the federal community.    

    ——————————
    Spence Witten
    Director of Federal Sales
    Lunarline
    ————————————————————————-
    Original Message:
    Sent: 11-04-2016 01:47
    From: Jonathan Messinger
    Subject: GSA’s Rights and Wrongs

    I really enjoyed reading Spence Witten’s piece about GSA’s handling of Alliant 2. Some really great insights, delivered with his trademark candor.

    It has to be a heady time for GSA. They’ve opened up the Technology Transformation Service (TTS), had its commissioner leave shortly thereafter, then watched as more than one report questioned the effectiveness of its digital services team, 18F. Now they’ve hired a former Pixar exec to take the reins at TTS.

    To that end, I’m glad Spence wrote about Alliant 2, as it’s good to hear some success stories to counteract some of the bad feelings generated by watchdog reports.

    I’m curious to hear what people think about what’s happening at GSA these days. Personally, I’ve been impressed by the work 18F does, and I’m not convinced that “billable hours” is necessarily the best way to measure an organization that is intended—at least in part—to shepherd cultural change within the federal government. That’s not to say they should be allowed to skate on eight-figure losses, but perhaps with a bit more accountability, the ship could be righted easily enough.

    ——————————
    Jonathan Messinger
    Public Spend Forum
    Washington DC
    ——————————

    0
  3. Hoping this contribution is meaningful but my take on 18F is that it is/was great in theory but I think they may have rubbed folks the wrong way given some of the free reign they enjoy.  Also, the digital plays prescribed by the CIO playbook work great when you are designing and building simple citizen centric websites.  Given their strict adherence to those plays coupled with their rigid ways of doing work – I can’t imagine them pushing forward for too much longer.  My two cents…

    In regards to the article on Alliant II.  I couldn’t agree more.  Great piece and kudos to GSA for this innovative acquisition vehicle.  The government should demand more from  the vendor community and as such the Alliant scoring system should ensure that it in fact gets best value.

    ——————————
    Vinay Katari
    Director – Agile Practice
    Harmonia Holdings Group
    ————————————————————————-
    Original Message:
    Sent: 11-07-2016 10:03
    From: Jonathan Messinger
    Subject: GSA’s Rights and Wrongs

    It’s interesting. You and I had a great phone conversation about 18F, which I won’t recreate here, mostly because you schooled me. But I guess one thing I keep going back to is that this seems to be less an 18F issue and more a GSA management issue. Was 18F given too much free rein? Did it try to do too much, spreading itself too thin and in too many directions? Were the “marketing”—the “non-billable” activity it got dinged for in the IG report—a high priority for GSA management as it tried to effect a cultural shift?

    I guess this goes back to what you were saying about it needing a “reset.” My feeling is that 18F’s mission and its work toward that mission has largely been good and laudable, but it perhaps has strayed a bit from both. But it’s also very new within GSA, and perhaps the creation of TTS is an acknowledgment by leadership that what 18F is doing needs more organizational structure.

    All of which is maybe why a number of commentators are concerned they brought in Pixar exec Rob Cook as TTS commissioner. Is a guy who worked on Wall-E the one to do it? We’ll see.

    ——————————
    Jonathan Messinger
    Public Spend Forum
    Washington DC
    ————————————————————————-
    Original Message:
    Sent: 11-05-2016 16:35
    From: Spence Witten
    Subject: GSA’s Rights and Wrongs

    Thanks Jonathan much appreciated!

    18F’s latest IG report wasn’t too pretty huh? The celebrations in some corners of the contracting community following that release rival y’all’s cubs parade yesterday. While 18F has brought a good deal of cynicism upon themselves – which is worth a separate discussion – all the heat lately is ultimately a little unfair. 18F just ran headlong into the perverse business model realities of government contracting, which they were never structured to navigate. By rethinking their model (or deciding that they really shouldn’t even bother with one) I think they can reset expectations, silence the hatas and realize their promise to the federal community.    

    ——————————
    Spence Witten
    Director of Federal Sales
    Lunarline
    ————————————————————————-
    Original Message:
    Sent: 11-04-2016 01:47
    From: Jonathan Messinger
    Subject: GSA’s Rights and Wrongs

    I really enjoyed reading Spence Witten’s piece about GSA’s handling of Alliant 2. Some really great insights, delivered with his trademark candor.

    It has to be a heady time for GSA. They’ve opened up the Technology Transformation Service (TTS), had its commissioner leave shortly thereafter, then watched as more than one report questioned the effectiveness of its digital services team, 18F. Now they’ve hired a former Pixar exec to take the reins at TTS.

    To that end, I’m glad Spence wrote about Alliant 2, as it’s good to hear some success stories to counteract some of the bad feelings generated by watchdog reports.

    I’m curious to hear what people think about what’s happening at GSA these days. Personally, I’ve been impressed by the work 18F does, and I’m not convinced that “billable hours” is necessarily the best way to measure an organization that is intended—at least in part—to shepherd cultural change within the federal government. That’s not to say they should be allowed to skate on eight-figure losses, but perhaps with a bit more accountability, the ship could be righted easily enough.

    ——————————
    Jonathan Messinger
    Public Spend Forum
    Washington DC
    ——————————

    0
  4. It’s interesting. You and I had a great phone conversation about 18F, which I won’t recreate here, mostly because you schooled me. But I guess one thing I keep going back to is that this seems to be less an 18F issue and more a GSA management issue. Was 18F given too much free rein? Did it try to do too much, spreading itself too thin and in too many directions? Were the “marketing”—the “non-billable” activity it got dinged for in the IG report—a high priority for GSA management as it tried to effect a cultural shift?

    I guess this goes back to what you were saying about it needing a “reset.” My feeling is that 18F’s mission and its work toward that mission has largely been good and laudable, but it perhaps has strayed a bit from both. But it’s also very new within GSA, and perhaps the creation of TTS is an acknowledgment by leadership that what 18F is doing needs more organizational structure.

    All of which is maybe why a number of commentators are concerned they brought in Pixar exec Rob Cook as TTS commissioner. Is a guy who worked on Wall-E the one to do it? We’ll see.

    ——————————
    Jonathan Messinger
    Public Spend Forum
    Washington DC
    ————————————————————————-
    Original Message:
    Sent: 11-05-2016 16:35
    From: Spence Witten
    Subject: GSA’s Rights and Wrongs

    Thanks Jonathan much appreciated!

    18F’s latest IG report wasn’t too pretty huh? The celebrations in some corners of the contracting community following that release rival y’all’s cubs parade yesterday. While 18F has brought a good deal of cynicism upon themselves – which is worth a separate discussion – all the heat lately is ultimately a little unfair. 18F just ran headlong into the perverse business model realities of government contracting, which they were never structured to navigate. By rethinking their model (or deciding that they really shouldn’t even bother with one) I think they can reset expectations, silence the hatas and realize their promise to the federal community.    

    ——————————
    Spence Witten
    Director of Federal Sales
    Lunarline
    ————————————————————————-
    Original Message:
    Sent: 11-04-2016 01:47
    From: Jonathan Messinger
    Subject: GSA’s Rights and Wrongs

    I really enjoyed reading Spence Witten’s piece about GSA’s handling of Alliant 2. Some really great insights, delivered with his trademark candor.

    It has to be a heady time for GSA. They’ve opened up the Technology Transformation Service (TTS), had its commissioner leave shortly thereafter, then watched as more than one report questioned the effectiveness of its digital services team, 18F. Now they’ve hired a former Pixar exec to take the reins at TTS.

    To that end, I’m glad Spence wrote about Alliant 2, as it’s good to hear some success stories to counteract some of the bad feelings generated by watchdog reports.

    I’m curious to hear what people think about what’s happening at GSA these days. Personally, I’ve been impressed by the work 18F does, and I’m not convinced that “billable hours” is necessarily the best way to measure an organization that is intended—at least in part—to shepherd cultural change within the federal government. That’s not to say they should be allowed to skate on eight-figure losses, but perhaps with a bit more accountability, the ship could be righted easily enough.

    ——————————
    Jonathan Messinger
    Public Spend Forum
    Washington DC
    ——————————

    0
  5. Thanks Jonathan much appreciated!

    18F’s latest IG report wasn’t too pretty huh? The celebrations in some corners of the contracting community following that release rival y’all’s cubs parade yesterday. While 18F has brought a good deal of cynicism upon themselves – which is worth a separate discussion – all the heat lately is ultimately a little unfair. 18F just ran headlong into the perverse business model realities of government contracting, which they were never structured to navigate. By rethinking their model (or deciding that they really shouldn’t even bother with one) I think they can reset expectations, silence the hatas and realize their promise to the federal community.    

    ——————————
    Spence Witten
    Director of Federal Sales
    Lunarline
    ————————————————————————-
    Original Message:
    Sent: 11-04-2016 01:47
    From: Jonathan Messinger
    Subject: GSA’s Rights and Wrongs

    I really enjoyed reading Spence Witten’s piece about GSA’s handling of Alliant 2. Some really great insights, delivered with his trademark candor.

    It has to be a heady time for GSA. They’ve opened up the Technology Transformation Service (TTS), had its commissioner leave shortly thereafter, then watched as more than one report questioned the effectiveness of its digital services team, 18F. Now they’ve hired a former Pixar exec to take the reins at TTS.

    To that end, I’m glad Spence wrote about Alliant 2, as it’s good to hear some success stories to counteract some of the bad feelings generated by watchdog reports.

    I’m curious to hear what people think about what’s happening at GSA these days. Personally, I’ve been impressed by the work 18F does, and I’m not convinced that “billable hours” is necessarily the best way to measure an organization that is intended—at least in part—to shepherd cultural change within the federal government. That’s not to say they should be allowed to skate on eight-figure losses, but perhaps with a bit more accountability, the ship could be righted easily enough.

    ——————————
    Jonathan Messinger
    Public Spend Forum
    Washington DC
    ——————————

    0
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