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Reimagining procurement

Tom Burton: One of the things I’ve noticed in the USDS (US Digital Service) materials is there’s quite a lot of discussion around how to rethink procurement and rethink contracting, that sort of space if you like. I suppose the question I have is procurement one of those impediments that government need to look at and that may start open up a new way of thinking.

Vivek Kundra: Absolutely, so I think procurement that traditionally have been problematic and if you look at most government procurement around the world it’s looking at IT the same way the government would look at building, a physical building that is going to last a decade. Yet, IT with Moore’s law, over 18 months there’s massive innovation, and that is why when you think about the technology models it’s less about asset ownership, it’s much more about service delivery. So, you’re seeing these new computer models around cloud and social and mobile that are fundamentally changing everything we held to be truths whether it was around security, whether it’s around infrastructure ownership. So, procurement absolutely requires transformation in terms of being able to buying in an agile way.

But I would argue that if you have the right leaders even with a current procurement laws in place you could drive transformation. What ends up happening with a lot of agency heads is they for some weird reason start working for their procurement heads and that’s not how it’s supposed to be.

The agency head is supposed to represent the interest of the citizens, so you need to be able to be aggressive, to be able to drive that agenda and be clear with the procurement representatives who are in your agency in terms of what you need.

At the end of the day if you talk to most procurement people you know what they will tell you, there’s nothing wrong with the procurement rules, you tell us what you need.

And so, we’ve gotten to this culture of faceless accountability or people just pointing fingers at each other instead of getting together in a room, having a conversation with citizens first in terms of what the talk needs are, then bring it together the appropriate agency leaders whether it’s from procurement or the CFO and say here’s what we’re trying to accomplish and this is the timeline and this is not a 3-year timeline but 90 days. Right and every quarter creating that cadence, that quarterly cadence and they think magic begin to happen when you have a focus and execution.

Tom Burton: Discipline around deadlines and trying to do things in sprints.

Vivek Kundra: And I would argue that for government agencies one thing they could do to really do to drive outcomes, is to operate the same way you would a publicly traded company which is report in the same way you have to report earnings every quarter. Why is it that these agencies not reporting progress every quarter? Have a call with your State callers, your citizens, tell them what you’ve accomplish in the last 90 days.

Tom Burton: And that gives you the urgency you need

Vivek Kundra: Absolutely and be honest about the successes and the failures.

Author Bio

The Mandarin

The Mandarin staff journalists.