To date, the BetterBuy Project (BBP) has generated some superb input about ways to improve the federal acquisition process using Web 2.0 and social media technologies, as well as some other ideas on how to "fix" the process. I've summarized the main themes of BBP and categorized the ideas that have been generated thus far in keeping with the project themes: Openness, Collaboration and Transparency.
1) OPENNESS: Raise awareness of upcoming needs government is trying to fulfill, in order to assemble a pool of qualified providers who can compete on specific requirements.
Information Sharing. A number of respondents suggested methods for sharing information across organizations and agencies within the government. The formation of searchable information repositories containing results of market research, common contractual language, RFQ's and best practices appeared to be the common denominator amongst various participants. Often, it is difficult for acquisition professionals to search for and find information that would be useful in developing/executing their specific acquisition when looking across a single federal enterprise or government-wide.
2) COLLABORATION: Find ways for the government to engage in more 'open' conversations with the private sector on topics such as best practices, emerging technologies and innovations, and market conditions.
Collaborative requirements generation. Participants suggested that social media technology, such as wikis, be used to enhance the collaboration of process stakeholders, such as Integrated Project Teams, to develop the content of evaluation criteria, requirements documents, performance work statements, etc. There was recognition that collaboration between government-only participants behind federal firewalls would require different business rules and constraints than those collaboration efforts which also engaged industry and other non-federal players.
3) TRANSPARENCY: Give the public and interested parties timely data on upcoming and ongoing buying activities, with the goal of promoting fair and high-quality competitions.
Communications. A number of ideas were presented that would enhance the federal government's transparency and external communications with the vendor community during the solicitation process. Use of social media technology, including Twitter, live video streams, webinars, RSS feeds, and on-line chats could be used to supplement (perhaps in time replace) existing communications mechanisms to increase participation and reduce costs in the solicitation process. Several specific ideas included using Twitter to inform vendors of (proposal processing) status and using webinars for pre-proposal conferences or industry days.
Additionally, a number of suggestions indicated some level of frustration with the overall federal acquisition process, but did not directly address how Web 2.0 or social media technologies could be used to improve the process. This being said, these comments are valuable and add to the growing body of knowledge concerning the challenges being faced by today's acquisition professionals. These comments should be discussed and/or addressed by appropriate levels of leadership within the federal government.
I welcome other opinions on the above categorizations, especially if you have a different viewpoint. It's important as we move forward with this project that we understand the focus areas and the value statement of these areas contribute to improving the acquisition process for not only the practitioners, but the ultimate customer - the taxpayer.