Friday, May 13, 2011

Wiki and acquisition strategy

And so now we learn that the US Coast Guard has put up a wiki to gather comments and suggestions in an effort to modify and improve their acquisition strategy for a new system.

As reported last month, the USCG has these objectives for their wiki, a site that is open to the public:
The Coast Guard Logistics Information Management System or CG-LIMS is a new logistics system to support ships, aircraft and shore facilities.

In creating the wiki for CG-LIMS, the Coast Guard aims to gather best practices for taking a large project and breaking it down into smaller and faster deliverables.

"We decided we needed to look beyond just what the program office, what the Coast Guard, could come up with and share the problem with industry," said Captain Dan Taylor, the project manager for CG-LIMS

The phrase "... taking a large project and breaking it down into smaller and faster deliverables." certainly has the whiff of Agile.

It certainly plays well with what Elizabeth McGrath, a senior DoD official tagged with performance improvement, said at a January 2011 AFCEA NOVA conference: "[the DoD will be] using iterative tactics to split projects into small partitions...", a position that aligns perfectly with the DoD's move to smaller, quicker IT projects as reported to Congress last November.  Presumably the Coast Guard, a unit of Homeland Security, will be in alignment with DoD.

Of course, for as long as I can remember, industry has been invited into the pre-solicitation process to offer suggestions for improving the specifications, so that part of the Coast Guard's idea is not particularly new--just the wiki tool makes it unique.

But, coupled with the tool is a sort of 'wisdom of the crowds' paradigm in which not only are the gov's acquisition managers looking for errors and omissions in the specifications, but they are, as they say, looking for ideas across a wide spectrum of issues--from anyone who cares to comment--to include everything from architecture to delivery to acquisition strategy.

The wide open wiki is an interesting approach. Freelancers might be attracted to offer comments just to have a chance to put their nickel on the table and influence outcomes--a new phenom in my experience. Fortunately, few abuses have been reported. I'll be waiting to see if this collaboration approach takes hold generally in public acquisitions.

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