The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), in collaboration with the U.S. Digital Service (USDS), created a tool available for use by Federal acquisition professionals to quickly procure digital services using the SBA 8(a) program. This helps agencies bring cultural change by implementing Digital Service Playbook and TechFAR Hub strategies with lowered risk, try out modern technology stacks, and beginning iterative development with little procurement lead time.
Goals of the Initiative
The initiative gives agencies the ability to:
Give a clear, easy, and fast path to agencies to start digital services projects
Entice non-traditional vendors into the Government space through the 8(a) program
Increase the number of contracts awarded to quality digital service providers
Reduce administration for the SBA and agencies by providing an easy on-ramp to and release from the 8(a) program for projects within scope
Help agencies meet SBA small business goals
Summary documents that help agencies understand what the program is. It gives a summary of the key characteristics of the initiative. It also offers a checklist that helps programs determine if this initiative is a good fit for their needs.
How to use an 8(a) company for your digital service needs
Agencies are frequently frustrated by long procurement lead times, competition requirements, and lack of adequate coaching around new implementation methods, which slows down the successful adoption of modern technology.
The use of SBA’s 8(a) program can solve many of these problems. The 8(a) program can get requirements on contract quickly with a sole source procurement of up to $4.5 million dollars in value. It also provides agencies with a perfect, low-risk gateway to accelerated acquisitions and product delivery. There vendors in the SBA 8(a) program with significant experience implementing modern technology and digital services. However, agencies hesitate to use the 8(a) program due to concerns about the repetitive acquisition requirements--also known as "Once an 8(a) Always an 8(a)." This results in missed opportunities to use a fantastic government program and get digital solutions into citizens’ hands faster.
SBA has provided a memo that provides an exemption to the repetitive acquisition rule for agencies that want to use the 8(a) direct award to experiment with digital services.
The thresholds listed on the memo are outdated. Acquisition professionals should always refer to FAR 19.805-1 to see the most up-to-date thresholds.
To take advantage of the exemption, agencies may only award contracts within the general scope of the three Statements of Objectives (SOOs) provided by the SBA.
After identifying a requirement, agencies follow normal SBA sole-source 8(a) award processes. The main difference with the initiative comes after the work is done. After completion of the contract, agencies can keep any follow-on work within the 8(a) program or switch to another contracting method or vehicle without getting SBA approval. If agencies choose to get out of the 8(a) program, they don’t need SBA’s or their OSDBU’s permission, provided they stayed within the scope of the initiative.
The scope of these acquisitions is best for agencies that are beginning to adopt digital services. They provide an opportunity to learn digital services techniques, try out modern technology stacks, and begin iterative development.
Statement of Objectives Examples
The scope of work under which this initiative is limited to three Statements of Objectives (SOO). Samples of each are listed below in order of maturity of modern technology understanding and implementation, from the less mature (Learn the Process) to the more mature (Digital MVP). The SOOs can be used independently yet they also build upon one another and/or be combined and included in one Request for Quote/Proposal.
These SOOs are living documents that iterate as technology and processes change. If you have suggestions to help improve this SOO, submit them through the Help improve this site button.
SOO: Learn the Process
Culture change, practical application, and retrospective. This is for agencies with very little education and experience with implementing iterative and design approaches; such as agile software development or lean design.
Alternatives analysis, demonstration, and retrospective. This is for agencies who are looking to move to modern technology stacks, platforms, or solutions but want hands-on guidance through the process of determining which works best in their agency environment.
Discovery and design, develop MVP, retrospective. This is for agencies with stakeholders that have a working level of understanding of User Experience (UX) design thinking and/or agile software development. This effort allows for the design, development, and release of a Digital Minimum Viable Product to solve an agency need or problem.
Each SOO includes listed “outputs”. Getting to these outputs, or delivered product is the measure of a successful contract. Each SOO includes a retrospective which is to be used as information that can inform the next contract in the event more work is needed. Once the contract deliverables are received, the requiring office again is free to choose from all acquisition alternatives--including non-8(a) alternatives.
It is important to capture past performance as these efforts are completed. It will help the acquisition community and the 8(a) companies get meaningful work in the digital service space.
What is not in Scope
As the purpose of this initiative is to help agencies get started with digital services through the use of an 8(a) company, the scope does not include:
Solutions intended to serve as the full system/solution implementation
Operations & maintenance efforts, unless minor in nature to meet the overall outputs
Other non-included services; such as content strategy, data architecture, migration, etc; unless minor in nature to meet the overall outputs
Identify which SOO(s) is most appropriate for your agency/program and tailor it to your requirement. Be sure to include in the “History Section” any pertinent information related to your technical environment, operating constraints, organizational information, or history related to the end users of the systems, etc. which will help the offeror tailor their solution to your requirement.
Identify capable 8(a) vendors
Proceed through the normal procurement process per FAR 19.8
Selecting acquisitions for the 8(a) program FAR 19.803
Send the memo, dated December 20, 2016, to your agency’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) office. The OSDBU should also receive the RFP, or other associated solicitation or contract documents, with at least one of the three SOOs incorporated. This ensures that the OSDBU is aware of your award’s connection to the memo.
At the completion of the contract, agencies can keep any follow-on work within the 8(a) program or switch to another contracting method or vehicle without getting SBA approval for removal from the program.