Word comes to me recently of a state that is ready to budget and mount custom mobile applications in a much larger way. By “state” I’m speaking in the context of an Ohio, Wyoming, or California – that kind of a state; the specific state shall remain nameless – it could be any state, and its identity is not central nor important to the point we’ll be making here.
The state would like to build “Qualified Vendor Lists” (QVL) – three such lists, precisely. More about the lists and their constitution in a minute. A request for proposal (RFP) will seek Proposals from companies who wish residency on any or all of the three lists. Once the lists are populated with vendors, individual state agencies will refer to the lists when requirements demand a vendor, and the specific agency will then invite qualified vendors to bid (to Propose) in answer to their RFP for specific mobile requirements.
The lists are comprised of: QVL1 – for population with vendors for “strategizing” mobile solutions. QVL2 – for population with vendors for the creation of inward-facing mobile apps; that is, apps to be used exclusively by state employees and associated personnel. And, QVL3 – populated with vendors who can build apps that will be both inward and outward facing; that is, apps which will be accessed by, and serve, the citizenry/public – as well as being accessed by state personnel.
The idea of qualifying a pool of vendors is fine: This way, a state agency can issue RFPs to a target pool of potential responders, knowing that these have been pre-screened for ability, resources, expertise, performance, ethics, and so forth – as opposed to having every Tom, Dick, and Harriette responding with Proposals harboring extreme variance in terms of quality and qualification.
However, the three lists are problematic in that they create a fundamental division of vital development for the apps. Why break “strategy” away from the discovery process and subsequent development of the app? Surely there are vendors who will help with strategy (by virtue of a deep qualification in this arena, having developed and delivered potent mobile apps for years, in serving many domains), and weave that very effectively into manifesting strategy for the real world in the development and delivery of very effective mobile apps – as paired with business requirements.
Too, there is the issue of “internal” apps, and “internal/external” apps. Consider – vendors who qualify for creation of “internal/external” apps will qualify for the “internal” (only) apps. A colleague made the academic argument that the “internal” apps might well be tools, and relate more to developers and apps administrators, etc. - whereas external apps are for citizens – users – and therefore present different requirements for ease-of-use, aesthetics, services, etc. I tend to think that the “internal” apps will be of a “government employee user” nature, but regardless, I believe there are plenty of vendors out there that can handle the whole bundle - Strategy, Internal, Internal/External - quite handily. In fact, I know companies that do. And frankly, as an IT executive myself, I’d like any particular vendor that operates in the realm of mobile apps creation to have a holistic understanding of what we’re doing now, where we need to go, how to get there, and the comprehensive involvement in getting us there.
There is an old axiom – trite, but largely true in serving most circumstances: “Keep it simple, stupid.” I don’t see an advantage, and a number of disadvantages, in breaking areas of improvement into QVL1, 2, and 3. This template does not close divides, help to direct purpose, nor help to achieve results. I believe this model opens avenues of miscommunication, inefficiencies, erroneous assumptions, mistakes, and delayed projects. It creates divides, does not assist in the directing of purpose, and creates wastefulness around the achievement of intended results.
Close those divides by establishing one efficient, effective QVL – period. Direct purpose by issuing RFPs to that nice list of qualified participants who can strategize and deliver on any and every mobile initiative. Enjoy the achievement of results that come from projects that have far more compact timelines, sharper milestones, go-lives that hit business expectancies and needs - and that hit them on-time, on-budget, and on-target.