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## Welcome!

We're so glad you're thinking about contributing to an 18F open source project! If you're unsure about anything, just ask -- or submit the issue or pull request anyway. The worst that can happen is you'll be politely asked to change something. We love all friendly contributions.

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All contributions to this project will be released under the CC0
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blankslate (
celluloid (0.16.0)
timers (~> 4.0.0)
classifier-reborn (2.0.3)
fast-stemmer (~> 1.0)
coffee-script (2.4.1)
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colorator (0.1)
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fast-stemmer (1.0.2)
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safe_yaml (~> 1.0)
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jekyll (2.5.3)
classifier-reborn (~> 2.0)
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jekyll-gist (~> 1.0)
jekyll-paginate (~> 1.0)
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kramdown (~> 1.3)
liquid (~> 2.6.1)
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safe_yaml (~> 1.0)
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jekyll-gist (1.3.3)
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yajl-ruby (~> 1.2.0)
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rb-inotify (0.9.5)
ffi (>= 0.5.0)
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Status API Training Shop Blog About
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As a work of the United States Government, this project is in the
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# Digital Acquisitions Accelerator Playbook
This playbook provides guidelines on how to approach digital acquistions within your agency. The playbook is broken down by first defining digital acquisitions, detailing out the phases of a digital acguisition, and then providing primers on a few key modern digital practices. You'll learn about the importance of building cross-functional teams, how to create a product strategy before solicitation, and this will provide an overview on agile, lean, human-centered design, open innovation, and modular contracting.

This playbook is a complement to the U.S. Digital Services Playbook and the TechFar.

This playbook is a set of markdown files and is published to the web using [18F Pages](

# To file an issue / correction
Click [this link](!)&body=_Filed%20from%20the%2018F%20README_%0A%0A%20The%20problem%20and%20impacted%20users%3A%0A%0A%20Idea%20to%20address%20the%20problem%3A)!

### Public domain

This project is in the worldwide [public domain]( As stated in [CONTRIBUTING](

> This project is in the public domain within the United States, and copyright and related rights in the work worldwide are waived through the [CC0 1.0 Universal public domain dedication](
> All contributions to this project will be released under the CC0 dedication. By submitting a pull request, you are agreeing to comply with this waiver of copyright interest.
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# Overview

We are all in this together on this beautiful journey into digital acquisitions. The goal of this guide to to do one thing: **make you a smarter government buyer of digital products and services.** Digital acquisitions aren’t different from other acquisitions per se, it’s just a different domain speciality. From a broad perspective it is simply buying software and services related to software. Note that is guide is focuses on digital acquisitions of custom software solutions but many of principles can be applied in various contexts. There are five main things that will make you a smarter buyer of digital services and products:

1. Staying up to date on modern digital practices
2. Knowing the market
3. Understanding the true needs of your program teams and agency
4. Making it easier to bid to attract better vendors
5. Avoiding known landmines (more on this later)

It starts with changing your mindset and thinking a bit differently during each phase of the process. This guide breaks up digital acquisition process into five phases: Ignition, Inception, Procurement, Delivery, and Landing. In each phase, we’ll talk about the goals, activities, outputs, and desired outcomes to help you get what your agency and users really need: better digital products and services.

In this guide you will find information about:
- [Digital Acquisition Process](
- [Primers on Modern Digital Practices](
- [Related Case Studies](
- [Digital Acquistion Accelerator](

## Background
Here is a great collection of resources that will help you understand digital acquisitions (in case you need it!).

* [TechFar](
* [Agile Acquisitons 101](
* [Innovative Contracting Case Studies](
* [Digital Services Playbook](
* [Digital Contracting Cookbook](
* [](

Acquisitions is defined by the Federal Acquisitions Regulation (FAR) as the:

> "means the acquiring by contract with appropriated funds of supplies or services (including construction) by and for the use of the Federal Government through purchase or lease, whether the supplies or services are already in existence or must be created, developed, demonstrated, and evaluated.
> Acquisition begins at the point when agency needs are established and includes the description of requirements to satisfy agency needs, solicitation and selection of sources, award of contracts, contract financing, contract performance, contract administration, and those technical and management functions directly related to the process of fulfilling agency needs by contract." A short definition provided by the Federal Acquisition Institute explains acquisitions as "including traditional contracting functions, requirements definition, assessment and oversight of contract performance, and technical and management direction."
This is one of the key tools the federal government has at its disposal to get things done so it’s pretty important. In the past, federal IT acquisitions have not gone so well (NOTE: Link to chaos report or article/site that talks about how this hasn’t gone well in the past.) (NOTE: Link to additional reference that shows how federal IT acquisitions have not gone well) because:

* There are a limited number of people in the workforce that understand both IT and Procurement which leads to a detrimental skills gap,
* The "status quo" approach to large, multiyear, waterfall-based, extended requirement gathering, year-long competitions does not move at the same speed as technology,
* Companies with creative solutions to many of the Government’s tech problems are finding it challenging to do business with the Government due to high barriers to entry, lack of customer facing tools, complex acquisition processes, and communication confusion on how to identify the available opportunities.

In this guide, we hope to help you understand how building cross-functional teams that understand and appreciate human-centered design methodologies, modern digital practices, and how thinking in terms of outcomes rather than requirements could transform digital acquisitions at your agency. We will also help you understand the open innovation movement and how it can apply to some of your digital projects to boot!

Now that we have our background information out of the way, let’s talk about how you can lower your risks by avoiding some known landmines. These are all things that haven’t worked well for us when it comes down to digital acquisitions and you would be better off to avoid them (or at least use them carefully.

## Landmine #1

**Large, monolithic contracts**

These, simply put, do not work well for digital products and services. Based on the numbers, you are only giving yourself a six percent chance of success when you start these types of projects. (NOTE: Standish group chaos report Also, technology moves fast and if you want your agency to be able to respond quickly in an ever changing landscape, you will need to avoid this at all costs.

## Landmine #2

**Writing too-large RFPs**

You may not remember this but there was a time when airplanes did not exist. And they did. In 1907 the US Army wanted to acquire one of these, mind you that airplanes were so cutting edge at the time that they weren’t even called airplanes, they were called "heavier than air flying machines." Guess how many pages the solicitation was for this piece of technology? 50 pages? 20 pages? No, it was 2 pages! You do not need 100 page RFPs to acquire the best digital solutions for your agency. Often, all this does is encourage some of your best potential vendors to not respond. The length of these types of RFPs are typically driven by the old requirements gathering mindset combined with bloated legalese where the concern is more about oversight and liability versus product quality and project success. These long RFPs take too much time for your agency to write, too much time from vendors to respond to it, and discourage good vendors from bidding… there are very few good outcomes when this happens. Instead, work internally to develop a sound problem statement and product vision. Think in terms of objectives and user stories. Indeed, modern agile development methods pay careful attention to alternative ways of specifying and achieving desired outcomes for product development.

## Landmine #3

**Only having "acquisitions" people involved in the acquisitions process**

Remember that acquisitions is more than just buying and because of this, it is important to bring key expertise, like policy, law, engineering, design, and security, to the table early in the acquisitions process to ensure the project’s success. Leveraging the expertise of a cross-functional team will help make sure your agency is solving the problems for your end users.

## Landmine #4

**Not being open to change**

The world moves fast and technology moves even faster. You have to be willing to adapt, course correct, and try new things to get the best digital products and services for your teams. The goal is to get better outcomes, not just contracts. No matter what your experience has been until now, you can learn and apply new techniques to make acquisitions more effective, more efficient and hopefully more joyful (yes, joyful… more on this later). Being open to change means shifting the focus from a "no we can’t" to a ‘how might we” context. It allows you to solve the problems as they arrive and based on any given context, known or unknown.

Avoiding these common landmines are the first steps in transforming digital acquisitions at your agency.
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# Case Study: HHS Buyer’s Club

"The HHS Buyers Club is a HHS IDEA Lab sponsored project focused on addressing a critical problem in government: modernizing federal acquisition of information technology (IT) and related services. Given the expansion and impactful role of digital services throughout government, there are many opportunities to improve existing acquisition methods that are used to support government services, thereby directly benefiting the public.

## Purpose of HHS Buyers Club

Current government acquisition and procurement methods are no longer appropriate for modern software development practices. It has been widely recognized that government access to and use of technologies that support data and information management are lagging behind the private sector. According to the 2013 Chaos Manifesto from the Standish Group, out of all IT projects in excess of $10 million, 52% were found to be challenged and 48% failed.. Innovative strategies to leverage federal acquisitions processes are needed to seek better value and outcomes for the services we provide the public.

Current federal acquisitions approaches reflect unnecessary operational and cultural barriers to success (planning, evaluation, award, and implementation), including but not limited to the lack of true end user and stakeholder engagement from cradle to grave in a manner that maximizes value while minimizing spend. We’re not implementing new regulations or any new statutes but rather emphasizing new strategies allowed under the FAR or other approved legislation. Acquisition cycles are longer than IT development cycles, creating an unnecessary, lengthy, and outdated way of performing mission needs. Acquisitions require agility, both in terms of planning and implementation."

Learn more about the [HHS Buyer's Club](
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# Digital Acquisitions Process

The digital acquisitions process can be broken up into different phases which are:

* Ignition - Building out your team and basic training.
* Inception - Developing a product strategy and vision.
* Procurement - Planning and executing a procurement plan.
* Delivery - Working with vendors to produce the product.
* Landing - Capturing results and lessons learned.
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# (Primers) Basic Training for Cross-Functional Team

There are five main concepts that your team will need to be conversant in to complete a successful digital acquisition. These areas are:

* Agile
* Lean Startup
* Human-Centered Design
* Open Innovation
* Modular contracting
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# About the Digital Acquisitions Accelerator

Announced in March 2016 by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), the Digital Acquisition Accelerator is a pilot program aimed at helping agencies accelerate the adoption of digital acquisition practices. It’s funded by the General Services Administration, and is managed and delivered by 18F and the Presidential Innovation Fellows. Its purpose is to complement, not replace, the creation of an Acquisition Innovation Lab, per the OFPP memo.

This Accelerator program is currently running as a pilot, which means we’re still learning how best to design it. Toward this end, we’ve broken it into two phases—alpha and beta.

During the alpha phase, which we expect to complete toward the end of 2016, we’re working with two agencies — the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). These agencies will work on the following products:

## Treasury

* Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) Registry modernization, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)
* IRS Auction site ( modernization, Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

## Federal Bureau of Investigation

* National Virtual Translation Center (NVTC) redesign
* Mobile tagging and scanning of crime scenes

Learn more about the accelertor at [](
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