The year 2019 brings growing recognition that e-commerce initiatives and increased simplified acquisition thresholds are converging to provide new opportunities for federal micro-consulting. While the emphasis on government-wide e-commerce and digital marketplace platforms is often focused on streamlining the acquisition process for products, we should recognize the related benefits for services.
Agencies, contractors and independent workers will benefit from the ease-of-use, faster order processing and timely payments associated with micro-consulting. Yet related micro-services initiatives are taking place in a much broader universe.
During 2019 the General Services Administration (GSA) is working to fulfill its Congressional mandate from the National Defense Authorization Act 2018 to create e-commerce acquisition platforms for off-the-shelf goods consistent with federal acquisition regulations. With a graduated approach, GSA is beginning with the low hanging fruit within the micro-purchase limit.
In Mark Rockwell’s Federal Computer Week article “GSA plans big moves in e-commerce,” dated December 19th, 2018, Laura Stanton, GSA’s deputy assistant commissioner for the IT category is quoted as saying the $10,000 micro-purchase threshold “really keeps us very closely aligned to the commercial buying practices.”
Rob Burton, former deputy administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, and partner at Crowell Moring, recently wrote a Federal News Network article: “Online marketplaces: Making federal procurement simple.” While the focus of his comments related to products and letting the marketplace do its work, the thrust of the article applies equally to services.
Federal acquisition professionals are key stakeholders in the micro-consulting process. Contracting personnel have the challenging job of meeting agency mission requirements while addressing innovation, change management, and new business methods. They will properly ensure that agency personnel guard against splitting purchases and comply with applicable regulations. At the same time, they can benefit from improved customer service for their clients, simplified procedures, effective use of purchase cards and greater time and resources to focus on more complex procurements.
Let’s consider developments in the commercial space. In his article for Spend Matters dated January 3rd, 2019, Andrew Karpie addresses “5 Areas for Services Procurement Professionals to Watch in 2019”. He highlights the continuing role independent contract workers and services micro-providers play as part of the “gig economy”. In addition, Karpie noted, “there are many ‘industry platforms’ that could become more prominent in the contingent workforce and services space and, at the very least, serve as innovation enablers and possible sources of disruptions.”
With all of the demands and changes taking place in government acquisition, micro-consulting stands out as an early opportunity to demonstrate the value of e-commerce and the digital marketplace. As we begin the year in 2019 it’s helpful to recognize that the benefits are at our doorstep.