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 usability testing takes place. When agencies use inflexible, multi-year contracts, it is very difficult to build user-friendly, effective digital services. The Government can become a smarter buyer of technology once it trains procurement specialists to understand the digital and IT marketplace, agile software development methodology, cloud hosting, user-centered design, and the DevOps practice of integrating system operations with application development teams. In 2016, a digital service training and development survey was administered to the 24 civilian CFO Act agencies and the results indicated that potentially 6,500 acquisition workforce members needed digital service training.
OMB’s USDS acquisition team and Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) hosted a competition on Challenge.gov for a vendor to develop a digital IT acquisition professional training (DITAP) for Federal contracting professionals. Since the first six-month class launched in October 2015, 54 contracting professionals have successfully completed the training and development program. These professionals are now working in their agencies as advisors and contracting officers on various digital service initiatives, including Vets.gov and SAM.gov. Insights from this pilot program helped to determine the competencies for the Federal Acquisition Certification in Contracting (FAC-C) Core-Plus Digital ServiceSpecialization.
USDS and OFPP are working to expand and scale the DITAP development program and finalize the FAC-C Core Plus Digital Service Specialization, which is expected to be released in Spring 2018. The program will then be officially handed off to Government and industry training partners, who will be able to provide the development program on a more regular basis to the Federal Government at large. The goal is to get an initial commitment from at least one agency’s training institution and two industry partners to launch their own version of the development program in 2018, with at least one new cohort enrolled by the first quarter of FY2019.
Alumni of the first two classes have formed a Digital Acquisition community of practice, which helps them support one another’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 percent of the graduates have been approached by others in their agencies to apply their knowledge and 81 percent indicated increased visibility as a digital service professional.
Procurement specialists graduated from two cohorts