Yesterday afternoon, Red Team’s Vice President, Jeff Shen, attended Professional Services Council’s (PSC) session on IT acquisition with leaders from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Technology Acquisition Center (TAC). Speakers included Mark Junda, VA Acquisition Innovation Advocate from TAC, and Drew Myklegard, Lead for Rapid Prototyping at the VA. Here are Jeff’s takeaways from the engaging discussion:

Agile vs. Waterfall
  • Agile development and building faster is not always better if you don’t know what you want or where you’re going. Noting that the the Federal Government is not always structured to adopt agile, the VA suggested a hybrid approach: agile with waterfall reporting.
Statement of Objectives (SOO) vs. Performance Work Statements (PWS)
  • The VA prefers SOOs to allow more creativity and innovation. PWS’s can end up being so prescriptive. However, the government needs to make the SOO as descriptive as possible, otherwise they will get large variances between solutions. Further, tying the SOO very closely to the evaluation criteria will ensure that the evaluators aren’t comparing apples and oranges.
Buy vs. Build
  • The VA is a “buy” versus “build” company. Despite the recent news that has been released from VA Secretary David Shulkin, the VA has always looked to buy software and applications versus building them.
White Papers
  • White papers should focus on new ideas and technologies 5 to 10 years out, not on existing tools or infrastructure.