Transforming Federal IT Procurement through Digital IT Acquisition Training
Government IT acquisition fails to keep pace with fast-changing technology largely due to a reliance on waterfall development methods where requirements are defined and documented in full before any development or user testing takes place. When agencies use inflexible, multi-year contracts, it becomes very difficult to build user-friendly, effective digital services. In 2016, a digital service training and development survey was administered to the 24 CFO Act civilian agencies and the results indicated that there were potentially 6,500 acquisition workforce members who needed digital service training. The Government can become a smarter buyer of technology once it establishes a specialized procurement workforce that understands the digital and IT marketplace, agile software development methodology, cloud hosting, and the “DevOps” practice of integrating system operations with application development teams.
USDS’s acquisition team and OMB’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) hosted a prize competition on Challenge.gov to have a vendor develop and launch a digital IT acquisition professional training (DITAP) for federal contracting officers. Since the first six-month class launched in October 2015, 54 contracting professionals successfully completed the training and development program pilots. These professionals are now working in their agencies as advisors or contracting officers on various digital service initiatives, including Vets.gov and Sam.gov. The information gathered in this program is being used to finalize the competencies that will be used as the basis for the FAC-C Core-Plus Digital Service Certification, which is expected to be finalized and made available by October 2017.
USDS and OFPP are working to expand and scale the DITAP development program throughout the federal government. Adhering to the iterative inspiration of this initiative, the goal is to get an initial commitment from at least one agency training institution and two industry partners to launch their own version of the development program by the end of this calendar year with potentially 90 acquisition professional enrollees. In order to facilitate this, all of the course material was made publicly available in early June 2017 so that interested training partners can copy the course material. The open source EdX Learning Management System, a product of MIT and Harvard, will be provided to agencies and industry to maximize the content already created and validated in the first two classes. Open sourcing the material will lower costs of duplicating the program and speed up its adoption by other government and industry training institutions.
Alumni of the first two classes have formed a Digital Acquisition community of practice, which helps them support each other’s groundbreaking efforts, and gives them access to technology subject matter experts. These alumni actively participate in conference panels and conduct training events within their home agencies. As a result of the DITAP course, 71% of the graduates have been approached by others in their agencies to apply their knowledge and 81% indicated increased visibility as a digital service professional.
This project was previously chronicled in our 2016 Report to Congress.