The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the White House office responsible for implementing the president’s policies across the entire executive branch, announced, November 19, 2010, the third element of the Information Technology Procurement reforms begun this summer as part of President Obama’s Accountable Government Initiative. This third element amounts to an important new federal IT acquisition strategy for the $80 billion spent per year by the federal government on IT goods and services.

The new strategy provides five main components, as described by OMB’s Acting Director and Chief Performance Officer, Jeffrey Zients, in a speech this past Friday, November 21, to the Northern Virginia Technology Council:

Aligning the Budget and Acquisition Process with the Technology Cycle: “Between increasing budget flexibility and speeding up acquisitions, we’re going to eliminate the structural disconnect between the government’s process and the technology cycle. To start, we’ll work with Congress to identify a dozen pilot projects where we can develop a framework for increased budget flexibility and greater oversight.”

Strengthening Program Management: “We’re creating a formal career track for professional program managers and we’ll only green light IT projects with effective program management teams hardwired into the agency’s organizational structure.”

Streamlining Governance and Increase Accountability: “We’re going to revamp the Investment Review Boards along the TechStat model — bringing senior executives to the table armed with the right information and expertise to provide meaningful oversight and drive interventions and decision making on specific projects.”

Increasing Engagement with the IT Community: “We’ll be launching a ‘myth busters’ campaign to promote greater engagement with industry and remove barriers to communication that are hurting our productivity. We’ll also develop mechanisms for sharing best practices and solutions between agencies and IT community on a regular basis.”

Adopt Light Technologies and Shared Solutions: “We are reducing our data center footprint by 40 percent by 2015 and shifting the agency default approach to IT to a cloud-first policy as part of the 2012 budget process. Consolidating more than 2,000 government data centers will save money, increase security, and improve performance.”

The specifics of the implementation of this new strategy are unfolding, and all signs indicate increased competition and increased opportunities for innovative technology driven solutions. Additionally, with the increased emphasis on cloud-computing comes the potential for contracts to shift from “goods” contracts to “services” contracts, including software-as-service. This shift in turn carries significant changes in procurement mechanisms — as services contracts tend to incorporate much more detailed statements of work (SOWs) and more detailed evaluation criteria.

Now is the time to ensure that you and your company are strategically positioned to stay at the crest of this wave of change in the federal IT acquisition process. This may require coordination and revision of agreements with resellers; reviewing Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) contracts and other multiple award contracts; examining different possible applicable North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) (used to determine small business size status for a given procurement); and knowing and keeping abreast of the options and avenues for protests to unfavorable and unduly restrictive solicitations, such as “brand-name or equal” solicitations.