March 12, 2015 | By Dibya Sarkar
When the Health and Human Services Department sought to contract their web redesign and related work to a small business last year, it turned to Mark Naggar for an innovative acquisition approach.
Naggar, project manager of the department’s Buyers Club – a program specifically established to find new ways to procure services – decided to lean on the Digital Services Playbook and TechFAR Handbook to help with the challenge. The result? HHS awarded the contract in eight weeks rather than the typical six-month procurement and gained better insight into the winning bidder’s capabilities.
He recounted how he used those tools to design an innovative acquisition during an interview with Anne Rung, the administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. The interview was the inaugural podcast in a new series called “Behind the Buy.”
Naggar said they used “Play 4” from the Digital Services Playbook that calls for building the service using agile and iterative practices.
Specifically, he said they redesigned the 28-page statement of work into a statement of objectives, which allows offerers to propose their own innovative solutions. And then they broke up the solicitation into two stages to lessen the burden on both the agency and participating small businesses.
In stage one, HHS requested a short concept paper and pricing proposal rather than a full-detailed one up front. In stage two, offerers in the competitive range were given “nominal funding via purchase orders” to demonstrate their concepts and test their abilities in design and coding.
But even before HHS released a request for proposals, he said they reached out to both small businesses and internal stakeholders for suggestions on what would benefit them. Additionally, he said they asked vendors for a debrief, which is rarely done, to find out how the process can be improved. He said he learned two valuable lessons from the experience.
“One, never underestimate the value of feedback from stakeholders and, two, post-award feedback should be part of every acquisition because there’s always room for improvement,” he told Rung.
He said this “two-stage, down-select” process had never been tried before and his office is making it available for other agencies to emulate through the Buyers Club website.
– listen to Anne Rung’s podcast interview with Mark Naggar (includes link to audio)
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Mark Naggar, program manager of the HHS Buyers Club, Health and Human Services Department