The White House United States Digital Service team launched a website on the General Services Administration’s Acquisition Gateway called TechFAR Hub, which walks agencies through the process of digital service acquisition.
The website, which is currently in alpha, incorporates techniques from the private sector to deliver services faster, cheaper, and at higher qualities.
The Digital Services Playbook has 13 plays, which state that agencies should understand what people need, address the whole experience, make it simple and intuitive, build the service using agile and iterative practices, and structure budgets and contracts to support delivery. It also recommends the agencies assign a leader for certain tasks and hold that person accountable, bring in experienced teams, choose a modern technology stack, allow a flexible hosting environment, use automated performance tests, manage security and privacy through reusable processes, use data to drive decisions, and use open data.
The TechFAR Handbook encourages agencies to use agile software because it supports fluctuations and updates to the software. This will create an improvement in investment manageability and budget feasibility, decrease in risk, usable capability that will affect consumers quickly, increased flexibility, new opportunities for local businesses, and greater visibility into contractor performance.
The website has videos on how agile software has been successful in agencies before and a link to a selection of courses on agile software.
“From an organizational perspective, agile helps reduce costs and increase the value of software delivery, and thus increase your return on investment,” said Chris Cairns, managing director of 18F Consulting. “Agile also welcomes change in requirements at any point in the project, so if conditions change, and they do, agile teams can adapt accordingly. From a technical standpoint, agile emphasizes the importance of quality software in terms of reliability and adaptability of the software.”
The website also includes an open data stack exchange, which is in the development stage as it gains interest. The exchange is a question-and-answer site that uses crowd sourcing to develop knowledge around specific topics.
The website provides agencies with a cost estimation tool for agile software services. The website also has links that can walk agencies through the process of building a citation, finding sources for products, and consulting a Digital Contracting Cookbook created by 18F that provides information on how to acquire digital services.
The website has an area for agencies to add case studies and ask questions about their endeavors with agile software.
“We put a lot of emphasis on making sure that there are technical practices within those solicitations to ensure the Federal government gets good, quality software at the end of the day,” Cairns said.