COMMENTARY

Four must-watch federal market trends

With an approved federal budget and a full stack of legislative actions being discussed, government and industry leaders are digging in for some fascinating developments leading up to the mid-term elections. From recompetes to reorganization, here are four federal market trends to watch from now through the end of the year.

Recompetes on center stage

Several major contract vehicles and task orders are coming up for rebid this year. Vendors will face tough competition, whether as an incumbent or new entrant into the market. Procurement leaders, along with agency leaders, will be busy preparing RFPs, rewriting performance metrics, and evaluating proposals to ensure they get the best the market has to offer.

They’ll likely be looking to see what innovative new approaches and technology can help them, but they also won’t simply embrace the latest technology. Instead, they’ll be looking for real-world examples of where a new (or existing) tool has delivered on the value that it promised.

Agency leaders will look for innovative tools and concepts, but they won’t be instituting them based on their “wow-factor” – instead they’ll be scoring them on their ability to support the agency’s mission.

Backlogs at a critical mass

The challenges that some agencies have with backlogs are well documented. Citizen claims and appeals simply can’t be processed fast enough and they’re overwhelming the resources of the agencies that handle them.

Often times this means that citizens are waiting months (or even years) for a decision or resolution on their claims and appeals, while the long road to modernizing the underlying legacy systems that support the decision-making process further contributes to the delays. The old answer of continuing to add more staff or doing a “forklift” transition to new technology has shown to be hit-or-miss (at best) in its ability to reduce backlogs.

Going forward, we expect agency leaders to address them with a more practical approach – one that will focus on re-engineering the business processes to remove bottlenecks, streamlining repeatable tasks, and accelerating decision-making by leveraging technology, such as artificial intelligence and robotic process automation.

Uncertainty gives way to direction

Last year the Office of Management and Budget issued a memo seeking internal and external input on how to find new efficiencies in government. The feedback from has now been received and reviewed, and the plans of action have likely been devised and should begin to roll out soon.

The results of these plans could have major impacts on government -- from budget cuts to resource reallocation to elimination or integration of some agencies. Whether the actions taken are large or small, this process has created a level of uncertainty over the past year, which has led to slower-moving actions toward procurements to support new and existing initiatives within government.

As new mandates and guidance begin to emerge, while they could create some challenges and disappointments, we expect they will also begin to provide a clear path forward for government leaders. With this movement, we expect to see the development of new initiatives and the opportunities that come with them.

More public-private partnerships

Long the domain of physical infrastructure projects, public-private partnerships may find new applications as we explore their potential in non-traditional areas like technology infrastructure and utilities.

The administration’s stated infrastructure policy goals, which call for $200 billion in taxpayer money to generate $1 trillion in private investment, will likely spur interest from investors, bringing innovative ideas to for partnerships on roads, bridges, buildings and more.

However, there could be even broader potential in projects like federal contact centers, where private-sector partners often have more flexibility around their staffing models to manage surge support during peak times.

This year has already started with a flurry of new actions that present both challenges and opportunities for government and industry. With these and other trends shaping our federal landscape, we hope to see both government and its partners working together to deliver even better and more efficient outcomes to citizens.

About the Author

Thomas Romeo is president of Maximus Federal Services.

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