Recently the US Digital Services and Office of Federal Procurement Policy issued an OMB Challenge; in it they discuss how contracting officers need to be more knowledgeable in digital services procurements. (Digital Services seems to be the new 18F-ish buzzword for user-centric software development, though they also reference cloud-based services…)
In this challenge, they mention creating depth of knowledge in digital services procurement, however they also suggest a desire to increase their business savviness, though they don’t express exactly what is meant.
This prompts me to simply point out that contracting officers and specialists (as well as any acquisition-related professional) are needed to aspire to become generalizing specialists or T-shaped people. What do I mean by this? For a contracting officer, this means becoming not only steeped in contracting services, but knowing enough about information technology to understand what may or may not apply to procurements. I’d also suggest getting more knowledgeable in their department’s or agency’s mission and understanding their needs earlier on is what will also aid them in becoming better at digital services procurements.
The challenge wants a CORE-Plus curriculum; IMHO this indicates that the government is interested in beginning to create contracting officers that have more breadth. This helps attune their contributions to become more valuable as their knowledge increases to better align with the services being procured. In some ways the desire to have contracting officers undergo a CORE-Plus certification, means they will be more like H-shaped people with some deper knowledge of digital services technologies as well.
Contracting, particularly in the government, is a complex undertaking. As someone who maintained several DAWIA (Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act) certifications myself, I can attest to how valuable it is for personnel to have a broader understanding for what they are acquiring and how it fits into the needs of the organization that will utilize it.
For an excellent general write-up on what T-shaped people are, drop by Darren Negraeff’s post The Importance of T-Shaped Individuals. It contains links to further reading and is also where the T-shaped image above comes from…