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The Future of Federal Procurement: Data Standardization Combined with Process Flexibility

Marco Lara
April 24, 2012

Two weeks ago I attended the Defense Procurement eBusiness Conference in Atlanta, GA. Like last year, Appian was a sponsor and exhibitor at the event, discussing and demonstrating the Acquisition Business Management solution built on our BPM software. The exhibit hall space was a little cramped this year, but I was happy to see so many people wade through our booth crowd to talk to us.

The particular conference presentation highlight for me was Richard Ginman's presentation on Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy (DPAP) Initiatives and Efficiencies Priorities. I was already a big fan of DPAP given their recent efforts on the Procurement Data Standard (PDS) and the DoD Clause Logic service. Hearing Mr. Ginman speak just solidified my view that DPAP really understands the problems facing acquisition and is providing excellent guidance, support, and services to the DoD acquisition community.

Given the impending retirement of the Standard Procurement System (SPS), it wasn't too surprising to hear Mr. Ginman talk about contract writing systems for a good portion of his presentation. He clearly articulated his position on SPS, calling a single contract writing system is "unworkable." The example he provided was using your smart phone to pull down every single app available when you really only need some to do your job. He went on to explain that while there are certainly many common processes between acquisition groups, there are also many unique functions that groups perform depending on the type of acquisition work they're doing. Mr. Ginman is less concerned about how many contract writing systems there are, but rather about Data Standards, Internal Controls, Internal Validation, and Clause Logic.

Mr. Ginman's views on contract writing systems match what Appian has been hearing from so many of the DoD acquisition shops we've been working with over the past several years. DoD contracting professionals are tired of trying to fit their processes into SPS and other rigid acquisition products they've been forced to use. So many times they've been told their contracting needs are not unique and they must conform to one system for the sake of standardization. But what needs to be standardized is the data, not necessarily all of the processes. DPAP realizes this and created the Procurement Data Standard (PDS) for that very reason.

Appian fully embraces the message of data standardization combined with process flexibility. Our Acquisition Business Management solution natively consumes the PDS structure and stores data in PDS format for easy reporting and sharing across government acquisition systems. And since ABM is built on Appian's powerful Business Process Management (BPM) suite, we provide unparalleled process flexibility along with process audit, control, and validation. We understand that not all acquisitions are the same and not everyone needs to follow the exact same processes. ABM allows different groups to have different process flows while still collecting and maintaining standard data. While some traditional acquisition products claim to have such flexibility, the simple fact is an Appian BPM based approach allows us to configure the solution to specific contracting needs in much less time and at far less expense than traditional procurement applications.

The next few years will be an exciting time for DoD acquisition systems. DPAP has laid the ground work for data standardization and paved the way for flexible solutions in the post SPS era. No one wants to see the same SPS mistakes made again by using a similar software approach under a new name. If you didn't get a chance to see us at the eBusiness conference, we would welcome the opportunity to come speak with you and show you our solution.

-Ben Allen, Appian Professional Services