Streamlining how agencies procure software
The Agile Delivery Services Marketplace was a federal-wide, pre-vetted pool of vendors who helped agencies use modern agile software development practices to build digital services.
Following the Healthcare.gov launch failure, federal agencies started looking more and more toward agile as an alternative method to waterfall for delivering digital services. Finding a vendor who excelled at agile, however, was difficult. And even if agencies could find one, traditional methods of contracting often fell short of: (a) revealing the makers from the fakers; (b) protecting the government’s data and source-code ownership rights to prevent vendor lock-in; and (c) acquiring services at the speed of need.
To address these challenges, Chris Cairns, Robert Read, and other team members within the General Services Administration created the first-ever, federal-wide contract vehicle of vendors who specialized in agile delivery services (for example, user-centered design, agile software development, and DevOps) using several groundbreaking approaches:
- A “show, don’t tell” or “prototype-as-proposal” approach in which vendors were required to submit working prototypes (over written narratives) using openFDA as the basis for evaluating capabilities
- A robust contractual clause that, by default, requires all vendors to agree to commit all data, source code, and documentation produced for the government to the public domain
- Combination of a blanket purchase agreement contract type under IT Schedule 70, ready-made assets (for example, solicitation templates), performance work statements, oral presentations, and other methods for rapidly issuing and awarding task/work orders
- Attracted over 700 attendees to industry outreach events
- Received over 200 proposal submissions, all delivered via public GitHub repos
- Completed technical evaluation of all proposals within weeks with only three people
- Issued awards to 17 vendors
- Soundness of evaluation methodology withstood eight protests
- Lauded by industry, Congress, and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget as a model for agencies to follow
- Inspired several federal, state, and local agencies (for example, Department of Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency, State of California, and State of Mississippi) to create a similar marketplace
- Used by nearly a dozen federal agencies who experienced improved contractual outcomes