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Agile Procurement Playbook

A guide on how to apply the principles of agile to procurement.

Standing up a team to guide the procurement process

As mentioned earlier, a cross-functional team is needed to get the most out of an agile procurement strategy. The following roles are needed:

Leadership

Adjusting to new procurement strategies requires leadership support and buy-in. Leadership will need to actively support the procurement team as they:

  • Try out flexible and creative approaches and solutions to procurement
  • Work across traditional government silos
  • Potentially ruffle some feathers as the product team introduces new ways of building products and services

Building a cross-functional procurement team

The ideal procurement team is both lean and multi-disciplinary. To increase your chances of success, you'll want to include the roles we describe below.

Product owner

The product owner is responsible and accountable for the overall success of the product. This person usually runs the day-to-day project work and sets priorities based on user and stakeholder feedback.

While some positions on the team may be outsourced, the product owner must be a government employee.

Procurement specialist

This team member is an expert in your agency's contracting methods. They work closely with the other members of the team to understand the product's objectives and needs, and to optimize procurements accordingly.

User researcher

A user researcher will help the team identify, understand, and prioritize the knowledge gaps that you'll need to fill. With all products, there are:

  • Known knowns
  • Known unknowns
  • Unknown unknowns (most dangerous)

If a product is large, there are going to be gaps of understanding in areas of research, design, and development. The user researcher will work with the product owner to define the initial steps to incorporate into procurement requirements.

Engineer

Chances are, you're using agile procurement to build a digital service — an informational website, an online service that users will interact with, or internal systems/tools to support the agency's mission.

The engineer lead will work with the product owner to lay out the fundamental building blocks needed to support the product. They'll identify the skillsets needed for the first round of procurements, such as experts in cloud infrastructure, databases, or APIs.

Working together: building an agile culture

One of the core tenets of an agile culture is that it requires teams to be highly collaborative. This can be a significant change in the way that agencies currently execute projects. For larger organizations, it's common to see a functional or matrixed structure. While it makes sense at the organization's top level to organize itself in this way, it increases risk when building a specific product or service.

Agency departments that are traditionally siloed from other departments will need to cross-collaborate. Terminology can help shift mindsets and habits. Instead of referring to agency departments (Office of Information Technology, Procurement, etc.), agile culture suggests that agencies think in terms of product teams. The product team should consist of all of the disciplines required to deliver the product.

A one-team, one-dream mentality is necessary even across the different vendors that support a product's development. The government will be responsible for managing these vendor relationships, and it'll be in their best interest to treat every vendor supporting the product as if they're on a single team.

The importance of creating cross-functional teams can't be overstated. The overall success of the product will depend on how well the team is able to function. Leadership can support effective collaboration by investing in the tools and workspaces that help team members come together.