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Making IT successful: Online platform helps firms land federal contracts

Karen Mills

America’s small information technology firms are some of the most innovative in the world. They’re nimble, creative and get the job done. And thanks to a new online government platform, it’s getting easier for them to address some of the federal government’s most pressing IT needs.

It’s a win-win: Small technology companies get easier access to the federal government’s nearly $77 billion information technology supply chain, providing a potentially critical revenue stream as they build their operations. Government agencies get to work with innovative small firms with solutions that can make the agencies more efficient and streamlined.

The catalyst for these connections is an exciting new pilot project called RFP-EZ. The results we’re seeing from this program highlight what’s possible when you unleash the power of American entrepreneurs.

RFP-EZ is a new and easy way for companies to learn about and compete for government contracts — in particular, small companies that lack the experience or administrative support generally needed to take full advantage of the government’s request for proposals (RFP) process, the means by which many government contract offerings are presented to the business community.

The RFP-EZ platform was developed jointly by federal innovators working in the Small Business Administration and private-sector entrepreneurs serving temporary stints in the federal government through the Presidential Innovation Fellows program launched by the U.S chief technology officer and chief information officer team last year. Sharing their private- and public-sector insights, the team developed RFP-EZ as a simplified platform aimed at opening the government marketplace to a wider range of companies and saving taxpayer money. 

Applying agile development principles, the fellows team designed RFP-EZ over a six-month period, publishing the platform’s code openly on GitHub. The team then launched the pilot by posting five relatively simple website development and database contract offerings, four of which were also announced via the standard government portal at FedBizOps.

On a per-project basis, bids received through RFP-EZ were consistently lower than those received through FedBizOps — 19 percent to 41 percent lower and more than 30 percent lower on average. Bids made through RFP-EZ also showed less overall variation. In addition, RFP-EZ attracted during the pilot period more than 270 businesses that previously never had bid on federal contracts.

According to the Office of Management and Budget IT Dashboard, the federal government will spend more than

$1.4 billion on web infrastructure and web content management systems during the 2014 fiscal year. Based on 2011 and 2012 results, we can expect about half of these projects to be under the $150,000 simplified acquisition threshold that would make them eligible for contracting through RFP-EZ. As we refine and expand the use of RFP-EZ, we’re confident its success will grow, opening new opportunities for small businesses and delivering better value for taxpayers.

Leveraging feedback we received from entrepreneurs and federal contracting officers, the next class of presidential innovation fellows will begin work on a second version of RFP-EZ that will focus on improving the platform, scaling its initial results across the federal government and adding new capabilities.

If your business would like to participate, we encourage you to get started by setting up a profile on RFP-EZ today. To all the businesses that submitted proposals through

RFP-EZ and everyone who has given us feedback on the project, thank you for helping to bring this new capability to life. We very much look forward to the path ahead. 

Karen Mills is administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Reach her through the Web site located at www.SBA.gov.
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