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What Does the TechFAR Handbook Mean for Contractors Working with the Government?

The TechFAR Handbook is produced by the U.S. Digital Services, a part of the Executive Branch, and supports the Digital Services Playbook. The Digital Service Playbook defines best practices for delivering digital solutions in the Federal government, including the need for revision to the procurement process to get better services in the government. The TechFAR […]

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March 21, 2015

The TechFAR Handbook is produced by the U.S. Digital Services, a part of the Executive Branch, and supports the Digital Services Playbook. The Digital Service Playbook defines best practices for delivering digital solutions in the Federal government, including the need for revision to the procurement process to get better services in the government.

The TechFAR Handbook highlights how to accomplish this – flexibility in the existing Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to help procurement officers get the right team and right tool. It is not a change to rules or regulations but a reinterpretation of them. It focuses on creating a common understanding of procurement regulations among stakeholders (or the Integrated Product Team).

This handbook puts a heavy emphasis on Agile software development practices but also that no one solution fits all needs. It states Agile is best used for design and development needs or new business needs but is not necessary for purchasing COTS or subscription services.

The handbook provides a Q&A style overview of several procurement scenarios, provides examples, and demonstrates where these initiatives align with the FAR requirements. I’d like to highlight two:

1. Modular contracting and Agile software development

The TechFAR Handbook specifically states how the modular contracting is clearly aligned with Agile practices. It shows how the principles outlined for modular contracting are aligned to Agile practices. It also recommends modular/Agile be used for any large initiative. This section also points out agencies should think of methods which provide the most value to the taxpayer.

 2. Sample material

Appendix C gives a detailed sample for procurement officers to use in contracting. This includes language for the scope, technical detail, personnel, and pricing information.

 So, what does this mean for vendors?

Contracting companies should engage early and often with government partners through the RFI and RFQ process to understand the need clearly and provide valuable information to government employees to help them make better decisions. Contracting companies should also demonstrate delivering valuable software which meets the needs of the client and end user.

Because, after all, it is all about the taxpayer. The government provides IT solutions to better serve its mission, help citizens, and provide the most value for money spent.

How do you plan to apply the best practices outlined in the TechFAR Handbook? Share your thoughts and experiences here.

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