Transform procurement and acquisition processes to support aggressive modernization efforts by optimizing all available sourcing capabilities and streamlining processes for selecting the right capability for each digital transformation requirement.
Taking Care of Business
The weeks leading up to the holiday season can be busy, full of events and last-minute shopping. But for VA, it is one of the most wonderful times of the year — a chance to connect and collaborate with people looking to make a difference in the lives of Veterans.
From December 9 through 11, nearly 2,400 vendors and contractors met with 194 VA personnel at the ninth annual National Veterans Small Business Engagement (NVSBE) in Nashville, Tennessee.
This event, organized by VA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU), is the largest procurement event of its kind, bringing together vendors from the information technology, medical, and specialty services fields to network with procurement-ready suppliers and buyers.
Ms. Ruby Harvey, OSDBU’s Executive Director, opened the conference on Tuesday morning along with Mr. James Byrne, VA’s Deputy Secretary.
“We’re building VA for the 21st century,” said Mr. Byrne in his welcoming address, speaking to the audience about VA’s top priorities and the agency’s history of transformation. “We’re modernizing the IT infrastructure across the agency. Everything sits on this IT backbone without a degradation of service.”
OIT’s Office of Strategic Sourcing also presented, helping attendees understand how to do business with OIT and emphasizing the importance of strategic sourcing practices. Mr. James P. Gfrerer, VA’s Chief Information Officer, made a guest appearance, helping to answer some audience questions.
“Strategic sourcing is a capability that’s relatively new, and I’m proud of Luwanda [Jones] and her team as to how they’re maturing,” he noted. “Moving forward, we want to outsource commodity and insource complexity to free up our workforce to do important, impactful work.”
During the conference’s roundtable discussions, vendors were able to meet with key personnel in smaller, intimate sessions where vendors could make strong first impressions on leadership. In larger business opportunity sessions, OIT procurement decision makers presented new contracts and opportunities for the remainder of the fiscal year. Vendors were also able to network in the conference’s vast exhibit hall, full of booths and product demonstrations.
As VA and OIT continue to improve and streamline the procurement process, events like NVSBE are essential to ensuring OIT collaborates with the best vendors to create the best experience for all Veterans.
Tech Incubator — How OIT is Fostering Innovation Through New Sourcing Opportunities
Tech Incubators can be a viable solution for those who are just starting in an industry. They can be a way to get an unknown name out, help a new business venture get on its feet, or show future clients and customers what a talented engineer can do. But what exactly is a Tech Incubator, and how can a Federal organization like OIT take advantage of it?
Tech Incubators are organizational ventures with a goal of kick-starting innovation in a local — or even nation-wide — environment of an industry. An Incubator will invite developers, designers, software engineers, and technicians to come and perform their work and foster innovation within the company; in return, the company benefits from the innovations that are created. Large companies like Google and Microsoft might consider being a Tech Incubator to give up-and-coming software designers the resources and space they need to develop their products, then acquire the products and business once they are fully stood up.
But in OIT’s case, our Tech Incubator is designed as a way to give outside developers and industry talent a foot in the door with Federal work, rather than a way for us to purchase new capabilities. With a Tech Incubator, OIT can strategically source these innovations and ensure that Veterans benefit from them, while being mindful of our own IT spend. As designers or developers work with the resources and capabilities offered by our Tech Incubator, the benefits are twofold: the designers get secure access to VA data and Federal resources, and OIT gets to be a part of the creation of new tools, applications, and services that Veterans need and want.
With a Tech Incubator, OIT can strategically source these innovations and ensure that Veterans benefit from them, while being mindful of our own IT spend.
The end goal is to ultimately ensure that more products — whether they are smartphone apps, innovative new tech gadgets, or software and programs — are available to solve the problems Veterans care most about. In other words, it’s not about profit or acquisition; it’s about strategically sourcing new solutions that serve our nation’s Veterans.
Adding Some SaaS to the OIT Customer Service Toolkit
When you need to deliver higher-quality, user-friendly technology capabilities to your customers quickly and securely and equip them with the tools they need to serve Veterans, then you need Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). That’s why OIT offers “white glove” SaaS concierge solutions that empower customers to deploy software faster than ever.
SaaS products are cloud-hosted applications managed by a third-party software vendor. They’re products we can quickly adopt, versus spending time and resources developing more complicated solutions in-house. SaaS is not hosted in the VA environment or the VA enterprise cloud, so there’s no need for lengthy request and approval processes — the products are quickly deployed to provide much needed services. VA staff simply follow the assessment protocols outlined in the SaaS Inquiry form to see if their environment is appropriate for a SaaS product.
The SaaS Catalog lists some of the approved products already in use across VA. For example, Github allows users to securely work together on project and track their progress and actions for every team member to see, no matter where they’re located. Other offerings include Pluralsight, a training tool that builds technology skills needed to deliver digital products, and Glooko, a diabetes-management tool for clinicians, coaches, and patients.
SaaS is a great way for VA to provide customers with digital tools to boost productivity and support exceptional customer service and IT Modernization goals — while controlling costs and being accountable stewards of taxpayer resources.