GSA and the 18F Program
Traditionally, Government Contractors have grown accustomed to a specific way of how to do business with the Federal Government. As the budget tightens, and defense spending winds down, there is certainly pressure put on all Government Contractors. This pressure doesn't necessarily dictate a different way to do business, however. The government, especially the GSA, is looking for ways to help mitigate cost and provide the best value to the taxpayer and this may include looking at a different way to do business. This may take some unsuspecting government contractors by surprise and could mean a loss of business as a result. The government contractor might blame the budget but a closer look might show that the alert government contractor might be able to salvage the business by merely adapting their business model.
These changes represent a major shift in the marketplace. There are a couple of trends in the buying behavior that are responsible for this shift. There seems to be a blurring of the lines that separate professional services and technology. A good example of this is the computing and IT sectors. In this environment, the government is now starting to adopt cloud services where previously they relied on purchasing hardware regularly. So what was once a marketplace dominated by selling hardware and software to install on the hardware is now transitioning to purchasing "Software as a Service" or SaaS. This shift will virtually eliminate the needs for the government to purchase certain types of hardware that they previously purchased. This "hardware" will exist on the "cloud" but the provider will sell this as a service, for only the amount that the government needs. Another example of this is the GSA starting their 18F program. This program is designed to facilitate IT knowledge and infrastructure into the government by utilizing Silicon Valley type firms to work for the government (without many of the traditional roadblocks to government contractors). To learn more about this system, visit the GSA website or the FBOpen pilot website. The goal of the 18F program is to make things happen faster than traditional government, to eliminate the tedious SOW that traditionally surround government offerings for help and to speed the development of digital needs, primarily by listening to the "needs" of the marketplace. Sounds simple right? Well, this is the government we are talking about.
The 18F program is reaching out to try and utilize some of the most innovative and fast moving industry in the planet and harness that spirit for government jobs. This is starting in the "digital government" arena but success in this segment could lead to changes in other types of government procurements. We should monitor how this works and how it may change the way government contractors work with the government in the future. Stay tuned.......