Jonathan improved how the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) procured software applications (apps) in a commercial model by opening opportunities for software developers across America in NGA’s app environment. This resulted in the Government avoiding software development and sustainment costs by only paying for apps that end-users downloaded.
In addition to Play #5, Jonathan explains how to use other Playbook plays in combination to maximize IT service delivery. He discusses avoiding the pitfalls of past acquisition techniques by adapting the acquisition strategy to customers. Procuring small for software development allows for flexibility for changing needs and avoids cost-overrun. Using these Playbook strategies in combination ensures that both internal and external stakeholders needs are met efficiently and effectively.
The "Behind the Buy" podcast features audio stories told by members of the Federal acquisition workforce who have successfully executed best practice IT contracting strategies from the TechFAR and Digital Services Playbook to help their agency meet its mission.
Greetings, I’m Anne Rung- Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. Today, we have another special guest for the Administrations’ “Behind the Buy” audio series who specializes in IT contracting.Jonathan Mostowski serves as a member of the procurement team for the recently formed United States Digital Services- an organization dedicated to spreading best practices in IT systems and contracting throughout the Federal Government. He also brings operational acquisition experience from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Thanks for joining me today.
Tell us a little bit about how you came to Federal service and how and why you became a contracting officer.
- Both Father and Father-in-law are in Federal service
- Sense of duty
- Prior to I had my own business and was looking for a stable profession as I was getting married
- Always interested in the law and improving process
What are you most proud of during your years as a contracting officer?
- I am proud that I have had an opportunity improve the way we provide services to the American People
- Application Operation Service Provider “Commercial-app model”
- Development of Agile Contracting Model
- Mentoring new Specialists
- My work on the Tech FAR
It is great to know that the TechFAR handbook was created by frontline contracting officers with real world experience.
Can you give us a specific example of how you used the Digital Services Playbook and TechFAR to drive innovation in an acquisition?
- Play 1 to Understand My Customers Needs
- Play 5 to Deliver Modular Solutions
- Play 4 to Manage the Execution
Tell me how those tools fared better than the traditional approach.
- Traditional contracts require extensive planning
- Traditional contracts evaluate the wrong things (e.g., sloc)
- Traditional contracts don’t deliver until a year or more
- Traditional contracts measure the wrong things: Cost/performance/schedule as opposed to delivery of quality functioning code that meets the end users current needs and using current technology
Did you use any performance metrics to prove your success?
- Velocity/Throughput: Track the trend.
- Defect Density: The number of bugs discovered during a sprint
- Customer Satisfaction: The goal is measure satisfaction over time and to also address negative feedback quickly.
- Team Satisfaction: Use the “5 Why’s” and other techniques to get to the root cause of whichever way the trend is going.
- Value per Iteration: This metric measures how much value the scrum team is delivering back to the customer/business/organization. Avoid Earned Value Management…not applicable in most cases
We know that the requirements and schedule for IT systems frequently change without warning and IT acquisitions have to adapt to these changing conditions. Does the traditional approach allow for this flexibility?
- Because waterfall development requires the definition of requirements upfront and the incorporation of those requirements into an Integrated Management Schedule...by design they are not flexible
- This approach may makes sense for tanks, libraries, and other static requirements.
- There is no end state for software development.
I’m curious as to how your Chief Financial Officer initially responded to your recommendation for budgeting by IT prototypes.
- NGA was very supportive of Agile
- There were concerns regarding budget by portfolio (i.e., tracking investment to outcomes)
- For major system development we used a user story tracking system (i.e., associating stories to portfolios)
- Same budgetary planning is needed as a traditional contract, but there exist less chance of overruns.
- Requires close management like all programs
If we’re sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great year it’s been for you in this role, what will you have achieved?
- · I hope in a year from now we are talking about something else entirely. My goal is to make myself unnecessary.
- o Education, assistance, and documenting best practices
- o TechFAR Hub: samples, blogs, guidance
- · I hope during this journey I am able to make tactical difference to prevent major acquisitions from making avoidable mistakes.
- · I hope there is a list of agencies that can say “we got it right.”
It is no secret that many people in the Federal Government are part of the Baby Boomer generation and are looking towards retirement. We need a forward-thinking acquisition workforce to tackle the problems of tomorrow. With that being said- Do you have any advice for millennial COs?
- Yes….find something you are passionate about and make it better
- Be a professional, an artisan, and consummate business advisor
Thanks Jonathan. I know there are many of you who like Jonathan, are using innovative techniques to drive greater performance. I’d like to hear about your experiences so that we can share your experience with the acquisition community. Share your experiences and learn from your peers by visiting buyers club dot idea scale dot com and clicking “TechFAR Hub Use Cases.” The Digital Services Playbook, TechFAR handbook, and other “Topics of Interest” are also located on the Buyers Club IdeaScale site.
Everyone, thanks for tuning in.
Listen for us next time, where we’ll continue to take you Behind the Buy.