The U.S. Department of State is preparing to roll out a minimum viable product (MVP) to digitize its procurement forecasting tool as a way to innovate internally for its customers and increase engagement with industry partners, an agency official said during a virtual event hosted by AFFIRM on Feb. 15.

Jaime Gracia, the director of Strategic Enterprise Programs for the State Department, explained that the agency is looking at innovation through a 360-degree lens of acquisition, and that’s where the MVP comes in – slated for release sometime this year.

“With the MVP we’re finding ways to drive better engagement to create an end-to-end lifecycle data strategy so that the industry can use this type of information to build business development pipelines,” Gracia said.

According to Gracia, the product will not just be innovative, but also a unique tool within the Federal government. It’s a move away from the static searching of opportunities to real engagement and collaboration within the acquisition and procurement space, he explained.

“It’s trying to find more engagement so that an opportunity that’s identified early in the process can go all the way into contract award. And then provide automation and putting AI on top of it, so that we can push out information and find things that are going to be of interest to people, give them opportunities to collaborate, and drive engagement for industry,” Gracia said.

Collaboration, Gracia explained, is a driver for innovation in acquisition for the State Department, improves engagement with industry, and finds ways to better improve engagement with the department’s internal customers. Gracia also encouraged continued outreach and feedback from the private sector on how to build out the MVP.

Gracia also explained that in driving innovation in the acquisition process, the State Department is looking at how it can use data for buying purposes.

“What we’re looking to do is use all of our spend data to try to get ahead of the curve through better planning, especially overseas,” Gracia said. “Putting data layers on top of that we can do better demand aggregation forecasting, and proactively reach out to our customers based on spend analytics and trend analysis.”

The use of data in this process will also improve opportunities for small businesses “and we also improve opportunities to reach out to those nontraditional companies and find ways to lower barriers to entry and diversify our supplier base at the department,” Gracia said.

“We’re trying to not only standardize data, but improve it, improve adoption of using this tool across the department, consolidate forecasting, and not only provide more information, but provide different opportunities for engagement,” he added.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.