Boosting Innovation by Rethinking Government Procurement

Sarah Rich in Government Technology: “Earlier this month, Philadelphia announced a new 12-week accelerator program called FastFWD that will soon select 10 entrepreneurs to develop innovative projects around public safety challenges. One end goal is that the city will award contracts to several of the projects developed during the program.
FastFWD comes on the heels of a newly launched innovation center by North Carolina that will let the state test technologies before purchasing them. Both initiatives are attempts to ease frustration with government procurement processes that tend to discourage innovation and limit flexibility.
The traditional government RFP process — with its long timelines, complex rules and tight guidelines around liability — tends to scare off some of the IT industry’s most innovative companies, said Dugan Petty, former Oregon CIO and procurement director…In addition, traditional RFPs can rob both vendors and customers of the ability to adjust projects as new needs are discovered. Jurisdictions may not fully understand their business requirements when an RFP is drawn up, Petty said, but contractors often can’t deviate from the scope of the RFP once the contract is awarded….
To help rethink some of these restrictions and find better ways to procure technology, North Carolina plans to test products before purchasing them in the state’s new innovation center… Philadelphia’s bid to improve procurement involves incubating startups through the city’s new accelerator program. Entrepreneurs and the city will work together upfront to identify community problems and then develop innovative solutions, according to Story Bellows, co-director of Mayor Michael Nutter’s Office of New Urban Mechanics…
Petty, who now serves as a senior fellow for e.Republic’s Center for Digital Government, says both North Carolina and Philadelphia are developing more effective procurement practices. “The key thing here is this is now a new approach that is helping to evolve procurement technology in a way that keeps up with what’s out there on the industry side,” Petty said. “I think a lot of people should be evaluating these incubator move-to-contract scenarios because they minimize the risk of the project.”