Why Agencies Need Acquisition-as-a-Service - InformationWeek
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6/10/2014
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Why Agencies Need Acquisition-as-a-Service

An acquisition-as-a-service approach could solve software procurement inefficiencies for government agencies.

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By September 2015, no new purchasing contracts are to go through the federal government's Standard Procurement System (SPS). The entire legacy procurement system is slated for sunset by 2017. With the sunset of SPS, there's an opportunity to do procurement better in the federal government. Let's call this notion "acquisition-as-a-service."

Some agencies already seem headed in that direction. But before we turn our attention to them, here's a hard truth: Federal procurement processes have been poorly served by technology. Acquisition is a costly and complicated business, with little uniformity among the applications that automate acquisition's repetitive functions. Legacy systems that handle procurement processes often are not capable of fully supporting the work.

[The federal cloud-first mandate gains momentum. Read Government Cloud Use Hits Inflection Point.]

To show just how far Federal procurement technology is falling short, in August 2012, Appian conducted a survey of federal acquisition professionals. Here are the results:

  • 60% asked COTS acquisition vendors for changes but decided against them because the cost of those changes were too high.
  • More than one-third (35%) adopted manual workflow to cope with limitations in their acquisition applications.
  • 30% use specific workarounds to acquisition software limitations, like downloading and e-mail.

These are far from ideal ways to deal with acquisition software problems. Recently, some federal agencies are overcoming these technology obstacles to improve contract management. They are creating entirely new and comprehensive acquisition applications on modern work platforms that can be updated through the cloud. That's the underpinning of the acquisition-as-a-service concept.

By "modern work platform," we mean a development medium for creating customized software applications to automate repetitive sets of procedures. These agencies are enabling procurement processes to be conducted in the cloud. Acquisition-as-a-Service is a means by which procurement professionals can finally be freed from the technical restrictions of legacy applications that are incapable of being updated without considerable cost.

Let's look at two examples of forward-thinking agencies that are doing things today that could position them well in the acquisition-as-a-service model tomorrow: The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and the Government Service Administration Public Building Service (GSA PBS).

DISA's new federal procurement program is called IDEAS (Integrated Defense Enterprise Acquisition System). Introduced as a possible replacement for the SPS, IDEAS shows what the future of AAS could be. IDEAS is a natively mobile, cloud-based shared services solution designed to meet the contract writing and acquisition needs of the entire Department of Defense. The system is capable of delivering acquisition management capabilities

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Chris O'Connell is vice president for federal sales at Appian. View Full Bio
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