Government acquisition shops often have trouble developing, collecting, and tracking their documentation. While corporate tools exist to track and manage complex document flows, they are often not specifically designed or suited for fast-moving, mission-critical acquisition offices. That is why Washington Business Dynamics (WBD) worked with a developer to create a new SharePoint-based acquisition tool for its U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) clients.
“Our government operates on Microsoft platforms and the DoD specifically has a lot of security considerations already woven into SharePoint. So, we designed a tool using the existing system architecture already designed to keep files secure,” says Nicolas Rivard, Vice President of WBD, who helped develop the Acquisition Requirement Workflow (Arrow) tool.
Arrow assists government contracting officers, offices, and requirement owners in the development and processing of acquisition packages for an award. Users submit their requirements for an award into a simple-to-use input form with the capability to upload supporting documents. After intake, the tool assists users and managers in tracking the development of the package and allows for the monitoring of all inputs, outputs, discussions, and decisions.
“They don’t need to trust or load any new software. The Arrow tool we’ve designed makes advanced use of SharePoint’s existing capabilities,” says Rivard.
Arrow has proven itself capable of managing a $1.2 billion contract portfolio and more than 800 annual contract actions annually. Arrow has improved the speed, efficacy, and security of the client’s procurement process in a protected information environment. It has the ability to utilize Microsoft’s CAC-enabled security to determine who can see specific documents at specific stages at a very granular level. This makes it easier for the government to bypass the traditional security concerns about third-party software.
Purpose Built Design
WBD consultants have designed and implemented thousands of government acquisition packages over the years. Their combined knowledge and experience around best government procurement practices – more than 50 years – went into designing the Arrow tool.
“We know what the best shortcuts are, what file structures make the most sense. We understand the architecture of building an acquisition package for the DOD,” says Rivard. And now WBD has incorporated years of acquisition expertise into a tool that corresponds best with specific client processes.
Because Arrow integrates with the client’s use of SharePoint and the Microsoft suite of products, an office of nearly 100 DoD staff members could immediately get comfortable with the new tool. It improved award transparency by tracking who approves actions and who reviewed documents. That simplifies future audits. Best of all, the staff reported, using the tool eliminated around 65 percent of emails around minor items. Instead of email, Arrow became the primary form of communication, and a great deal of time and energy was saved as a result.
Future Arrow Models
WBD has elevated procurement from a simply transactional to a strategic process. Rather than thinking how to support clients in the short-term, the firm’s team of consultants continuously ask how their procurement packages will support the needs of their clients over the long-term.
“We don’t adhere to the standard frameworks, processes, or timelines if they do not meet the mission and the needs of the client,” says Scott Caldwell, President of WBD. “Our ability to be agile and holistic rather than just follow a ‘10 step process’ has allowed us to address and fix small problems before they turn into systemic issues.”
This entrepreneurial approach underpinned the custom design of the Arrow tool for its client at the DoD and forms the basis for its future applications. Once WBD understands the unique challenges facing a new client, its designers can tailor and align the tool to fit their specific needs, based on their existing IT system architecture and other exclusive requirements.
“Our goal is always to help clients find the best solutions to solve their specific problems, and our Arrow production model makes that possible,” says Rivard.
About the author: Mary Jane Maxwell is a Lead Consultant at Washington Business Dynamics (WBD). She supports the firm’s Private Sector Engagement Support Mechanism award at USAID, bolstering the Agency’s capacity to work hand-in-hand with business, industry, and private enterprise to unlock private investment and achieve sustainable development outcomes at greater scale.