The Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) Office of Federal Procurement Policy Deputy Administrator Lesley Field explained how OMB is working on its category management, training procurement officers, and data use modernization to accelerate and sharpen Federal procurement at the Acquisition Innovation CXO Tech Forum today.

Field said that the status quo for the tens of thousands of contract officers and 100,000 program managers that handle procurement has been to conduct work in a siloed, fragmented way that stretches them thin and created duplicative work.

However, with OMB working towards category management – where a team of contract managers examines a set of common categories across agencies – contracting is becoming more streamlined.

“Common categories can really move the needle for the first time,” Field said. “We’re looking across a case [where] we had vendor relationship requirements, and we were meeting with vendors on a regular basis. You’re getting pricing information that we didn’t have before. It was all of this data, all of these relationships.”

Since collaboration in category management has started to create progress, Field also touched upon the work and successes of the Digital IT Acquisition Professionals Program in training program officers and contract managers to specialize in IT acquisition. This specialization, she added, will give acquisition personnel the tools they need to deliver IT needs to agencies in the long-run.

While OMB has made strides in workforce training and management, it is also working to smooth over acquisition by figuring out how to better use its data. Field said her office oversees 44 million transactions a year, which yields massive amounts of data. She added that OMB hopes to introduce artificial intelligence and robotic process automation to help analyze and use data so that the office can present information to its workers and contractors in a useful way.

“There are datasets out there that we haven’t even figured out how to bring in to make our jobs easier and better,” Field said. “So the data chasing, the data modernization part is something that we’re really going to focus on [the] next couple of years.”

Field added that the General Services Administration (GSA) has served as a good model for maximizing data use for procurement and category management.

“GSA has done a tremendous job of pulling data and from the sources that we have, … making magic happen and then putting it out there on a dashboard so that the people who make decisions, like the CIOs, … they’re actually having information that they need. And it got such an overwhelmingly positive response, that the need for data is huge.”

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