The Procurement Innovation Lab (PIL), which was established in 2016 to experiment with innovative acquisition techniques across the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) enterprise, has now expanded its vision to help innovate procurement processes for other entities across the Federal space.

Scott E. Simpson, the Digital Transformation Lead for PIL, shared the lab’s vision for increasing innovation in the Federal procurement space over the next few years at a April 5 virtual event organized by NextGov.

“We’ve got a bunch of different goals in place right now,” Simpson said. “One of the goals is to get new and emerging entrants into the marketplace allowing them to work in the Federal space. Another is to lower barriers to procure things faster and more efficiently, and to get a better result for an agency’s mission.”

The PIL aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of procurements by:

  • Lowering entry barriers for innovative, non-traditional contractors to compete for DHS business opportunities;
  • Shortening time-to-award, thereby delivering capability to the customer faster;
  • Encouraging competition by providing interested vendors with a greater understanding of the goals and objectives for each procurement; and
  • Increasing the likelihood of successful outcomes by focusing on evaluation techniques to obtain the most qualified vendors.

The overall goal is to teach Federal agencies how to use these innovative procurement techniques while also changing procurement culture. The current procurement culture in the Federal space is very much rooted in older techniques, and it’s time to move forward from that, Simpson said.

“Legacy processes have their place in certain business operations but when we can use innovative techniques we should,” Simpson said.

But like many innovative efforts across the government, this will take a cultural shift. Some people may be uncomfortable with incorporating new and innovative ideas in the procurement processes, but PIL’s strategy is rooted in a “show me, don’t tell me” approach. Simpson explained that PIL’s procurement vision is akin to that of purchasing a new car.

He explained that an individual would never spend $30,000 on a new car without test driving it first; however, the government often does just that, spending millions of dollars before testing out the acquisition.

“We’re trying to change that kind of culture to do something better, faster, and more innovative to get to that better product for the customer, the citizen, and the taxpayer,” Simpson said.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.
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