OFPP to require a Buyers Club in every agency

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy wants to take the success of the Buyers Club at the Department of Health and Human Services and expand the concept governmentwide.

Anne Rung, the administrator of OFPP, said Monday that she would issue guidance later this summer outlining some basic concepts for agencies to implement their own versions of the Buyers Club. Rung, speaking at the Professional Services Council’s Acquisition and Technology Conference in Falls Church, Virginia, said the policy memo would require the 25 largest agencies to set up a Buyers Club over the next year or two.

“We want to allow agencies to have the flexibilities to make it whatever works for them as long as they follow some consistent principles,” Rung said. “It’s got to be a team effort from beginning to end. That’s how Mark Naggar at HHS was so successful, because he brought together the program team, the legal team and even the financial team at the front end and worked with them throughout. And that doesn’t happen today.”

The Buyers Clubs are part of Obama administration’s effort to give agencies more leeway to be innovative and take smart risks.

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Rung said the Buyers Clubs are a safe space to innovate because they utilize non-traditional contracting or acquisition processes such as asking for a short concept paper and then going through a bake-off based on prototypes.

“The idea here is you can take some perceived risk and it’s OK if it doesn’t work necessarily the first time. The key there is making sure you have the support of agency leadership. The Buyers Club at HHS, Mark reported directly to the CTO, who was supportive and willing to allow them to be a little more innovative and different,” she said. “The structure today doesn’t reward you for taking any risk.”

HHS Buyers Club released its second major solicitation recently looking to help the agency’s Office of Population Affairs expand and modernize its online presence.

A second piece to this innovation effort pushed by OFPP is the new Digital Service Contracting Professional Training and Development Program challenge. OFPP and the U.S.

Digital Service have anted up $360,000 for vendors to come up with a new training program.

Rung said she hopes over the next three-to-five years that agencies would have hundreds of certified digital IT acquisition experts to exist with IT software and systems initiatives.

The challenge to develop a new training course is part of how Rung sees evolution of ensuring the workforce is prepared to handle the acquisition requirements of today and into the future.

She said moving from general training to more specific, focused areas will help agencies meet their requirements.

“We need training and development based on what’s being bought, whether IT or construction, which are very different specialties. So specialists require more than just acquisition skills. They need business skills as well, and negotiation skills, presentation and communication skills and marketplace analysis. They also require cross function and cross-industry training to broaden out the skill sets,” Rung said. “We want to offer training and development in the future based on career stage. Entry management training is very different from mid-level training, and we want to ensure there is plenty of opportunities for them to network and collaborate with colleagues in their agencies and across the agencies. The more targeted effort, the better because then it’s more actionable and specific.”

Rung said she’d also like to see training utilize competition by using gaming theory.

“When you are competing as in a game there is an adrenaline rush that keeps you engaged and focused on the task at hand, so in an effort to win, people master concepts faster,” she said. “Finally in training, we want to be focused. When you are engaged in an interactive tool, you are forced to focus. When you can focus, you can learn virtually anything fast.”

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