The U.S. government has a massive suite of applications to maintain, but numerous barriers keep government agencies from easily matching with the digital services firms that could modernize their applications. This leaves many government sites outdated and difficult to navigate, and their unintuitive layouts and tired designs can leave your average user frustrated and dreading the next time they have to interact with the government online. So in an age where online experience is king, why have so many government agencies been left in the dust? Most agencies are open to modernization, but with complicated requirements, long procurement lead-times, and a lack of available resources and guidance, it’s no wonder that so many remain in the digital Dark Ages.
That’s why the Small Business Administration (SBA) and United States Digital Service (USDS) are partnering on a new initiative that encourages agencies of all experience levels to get their feet wet with modern digital services by streamlining the procurement process for certified 8(a) small businesses. A memo released on TechFAR Hub this winter announced the new 8(a) Program Digital Service Initiative, which will allow procuring agencies to quickly and directly award digital service contracts of up to $4 million to 8(a) companies, cutting out many of the bureaucratic requirements that have made this process so cumbersome in the past. The faster pace will give the procuring agency greater flexibility, allowing them to acquire and be released from contracts much more easily. And this is good news for 8(a) companies, too, as the streamlined process will incentivize agencies to award more contracts overall.
This initiative is geared towards agencies with little to no experience with digital services, and it will provide them with the opportunity to become familiar with more modern principles of software development. Because of this, its scope is limited to three different kinds of contracts, each based on the procuring agency’s familiarity with modern technology principles. These can be awarded separately (each with a ceiling of $4M), or they can be combined into one contract:
- Learn the Process — for agencies with little to no experience, this contract type is intended to teach the procuring agency the principles of User Experience (UX) design and agile software development.
- Select the Tech — for agencies that would like to modernize their existing digital services, this contract type offers in-depth guidance in determining what alternative technologies would be the best fit for their agency and in implementing them.
- Build the MVP — for agencies with a little more savvy when it comes to agile software development and User Experience (UX) design, this contract type aims to solve a specific user problem and produce a Digital Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
As a certified 8(a) company that prides itself on working collaboratively with customers to identify their needs and create custom solutions, we at Fearless applaud the new 8(a) Program Digital Service Initiative. Millions of Americans rely on online government resources every day, and with this new program, we have the chance to make outdated websites and inscrutable web design a thing of the past.