By Ellen Glover 
Executive Vice President, ICF

What will be the next big innovative thing that that will shape the way federal government contractors support the government within the next five years?

While it is easy to point to potentially disruptive technologies, the next big innovative thing will be a focus by the government on the need for transformative training and processes to develop the required leadership skills for managing innovation as a core discipline, similar to risk management and quality management.  For example, in response to the innovation imperative created by the rapid evolution of technology, increasing cybersecurity demands, and shifts in citizen experience expectations, how the government buys digital IT will fundamentally change in the next 3-5 years. The key drivers for this transformation (IT Modernization, Data, Accountability and Transparency, and People – Workforce for the 21st Century) are well described in the President’s Management Agenda. Many in government and industry have been advocating for change along all three of these dimensions for many years.  However, progress has been slowed by a misalignment between government acquisition approaches and private sector best practices for how digital IT services should be delivered.

The critical change now underway is an emphasis on the human side of this challenge.  The government has recognized that acquisition professionals must be trained specifically in the mindsets, leadership strategies, and methodologies required to effectively purchase and monitor innovative digital IT.  To transform how the federal government acquires digital services, the U.S. Digital Service (USDS) and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) have launched a new core-plus certification for Contracting for Digital Services (FAC-C-DS).  The Digital IT Acquisition Professional (DITAP) program provides motivated, trailblazing acquisition professionals with the knowledge and skills they need to earn this certification, helping acquisition professionals not only learn how to design innovative and flexible procurements for digital services, but also how to serve as change leaders within their organizations.  Critically, the program is structured to not just deliver currently relevant content but to also promote the lifelong learning skills, extended network development, behaviors, and capabilities in leading change required to grow participant careers far beyond the end of the program.

After working closely with USDS and OFPP to develop and test the initial pilot program, ICF is now proud to offer the first government-certified DITAP course and to launch the latest training cohort this summer.  With the role of digital IT in the delivery of agency missions only growing, the demand for FAC-C-DS certification is high and expected to rapidly increase.  By 2022, OFPP will require a certified digital service professional to participate in every digital service procurement over $7 million, meaning that every major digital IT acquisition will involve a procurement leader who has completed this training.  

For the professional services community, the impact of this innovative training program to build the capacity of the government to more effectively acquire modern technology will be profound. Over the next five years, program graduates will rise in importance and influence in how their agencies buy the technologies and services required to effectively deliver their missions in an increasingly digital world.  These certified professionals will also be critical partners to the professional services community as we work with the government to drive innovation.  

This article appeared in PSC's Summer 2018 Service Contractor Magazine. Click here to view the PDF article on pages 9-10.