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Innovator offers cheaper way to buy

Site Helps With Small-Scale IT Services

Nov. 10, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments

WASHINGTON — Procuring small-scale IT services may get a lot easier for the Defense Department and other agencies if Presidential Innovation Fellow Greg Godbout gets his way.

He is working on the next generation of RFP-EZ, a suite of websites and tools that could greatly simplify the request for proposal (RFP) and acquisition process for projects less than $150,000.

A study by the Small Business Administration (SBA) showed it could save the US government millions of dollars if expanded across all agencies. Bids submitted through RFP-EZ were on average 30 percent lower than bids for the same projects posted simultaneously on, the study found.

The SBA expects agencies to spend about $700 million in fiscal 2014 just on web management projects eligible for RFP-EZ.

Pravina Raghavan, director of the Office of Innovation and Investments at SBA, wrote in a blog post Sept. 16 that, by removing obstacles such as obscure language, RFP-EZ has “opened up the bidding process to hundreds of small businesses offering services at significantly lower prices.

“RFP-EZ has yielded very promising results and is already saving taxpayer dollars, with prospects for even more savings going forward,” Raghavan said.

Clay Johnson, CEO of the tech firm Department of Better Technology, and one of the creators of RFP-EZ, said one reason is that companies primarily serving the federal government are “old and stodgy” and come with higher costs.

He said RFP-EZ can help fix what he sees as an unhealthy supply chain rewarding the same companies performing mediocre work by introducing more innovative companies to the federal marketplace.

“The answer is to start with small companies and give new small businesses a chance in the federal marketplace,” Johnson said.

Among the features of RFP-EZ:

■ A website — — offering simplified and searchable procurements to help non-traditional small businesses sign on and compete for projects.

■ A library offering new contracting officers sample RFPs and statements of work to help craft meaningful and useful requests.

■ A tool to index opportunities and document attachments on and allow people and companies to perform a “Google style” search for relevant postings. The tool is still under development.

■ A portal allowing procurement officers to look up the prices previously paid by other agencies for similar products and services.

Godbout said about 1,200 companies have signed up for RFP-EZ, and they are working on updating software nearly every 48 hours in order to make the tools easier to use.

His project is part of the administration’s effort to bring in private-sector innovators to help reshape how the government develops and launches new programs.

Launched in early 2013, the RFP-EZ program is entering a phase of added development and large-scale testing, according to the Presidential Innovation Fellows program.

In the first phases of the RFP-EZ project, Godbout said “disruptive and innovative” companies were bidding on projects and successfully delivering on them. Those companies can help start a trend toward better, faster and more agile development of IT projects, he said.

“They are coming in, and they are winning, and they are delivering. And that successful delivery will essentially start becoming ripples that become a giant wave,” Godbout said at the Executive Leadership Conference in Williamsburg, Va., Oct. 28.

The creation and start-up costs were just the salaries of the people working on the program. It used open source code.

He said the next step may be to create an internal procurement process giving procurement officials easy access to vendors who can set up systems based upon the technologies and tools created within RFP-EZ.

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