Government Procurement: An Optimist's View

This is a quick introductory post to a topic that I hope we will be talking more about in the future on the SCF blog.

Here's the quick summary: It's not as bad as you've heard, its getting better, and damn it, let's help speed that along.

At the Code For America Summit last week there was much talk of procurement from speakers David Eaves, Clay Johnson, and Stacy Donohue. Stacy is an investor in SeeClickFix through the Omidyar Network. Her story is shared below and it highlights a very progressive and positive anecdote of group procurement of SeeClickFix by 57 municipalities in Massachusetts.

Abhi and Dharmista at CFA also hosted a very productive conversation on procurement at the CFA un-conference. Some very interesting solutions for helping to improve local government procurement came out of that conversation. Off the top of my head some of those solutions included:

-Breathing new life into Civic Commons. A place for cities to post successful projects and apps. would be a good venue for this as well.
-Creating a peer email list for start-ups and govies looking for advice on procurement.
-Encouraging lifting of RFP minimum thresholds in cities around the country.
-Documenting best practices in contracts and RFP's including creating a wiki that seeks to create the perfect gov + cloud based civic tech contract.

The last of these points is the one that I am most excited about. Kam, Greta, myself and much of the business side of SCF have a lot of experience negotiating contracts for our platform. On the other side of the table are well intentioned individuals encumbered by legacy contracts and RFP templates.

Most civic start-ups check most of the following boxes:

-open data
-cloud computing
-software as service
-consumer internet
-remote installation

Most traditional government contracts account for:

-enterprise software
-on premise hosting
-behind the firewall
-private data
-for internal use only

In the details of each bullet point exists liability and cost, and most details will have to be negotiated out of the contract. If you have not had experience with this it can be quite intimidating and a barrier to entry. Kam, Greta, myself and the folks at CFA will be looking to highlight some potentially improved language or avoidable language that rears its head in local government contracts time and time again. We're unsure of the location and structure of this document at this point but in the meantime enjoy this video of Stacy sharing an example of efficient government procurement...