Developing an App-etite for Easy Mission-centric Development

Developing an App-etite for Easy Mission-centric Development

A tale of meaningful contract design and delivery

In 2013, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) asked the question, “…why are we [the federal government] attempting to develop and deliver meaningful, geospatial mobile apps to intelligence community (IC) and Department of Defense (DoD) users using our current contracting processes?”

One Size Does Not Fit All

I live in St. Louis. That means I occasionally need to cross the Mississippi River. Thanks to multiple options, that action isn’t as difficult as it could be. For instance, I didn’t even have to pack swimming gear for my commute this morning. But what if there was only one way to get across the river? What if trains, people, trucks, cars, etc., were all funneled into using the same means of crossing? That is the difficulty faced by the federal government.

For those who aren’t aware, the typical federal contracting process requires lots of time:

  1. The writing of contract requirements (18+ months)
  2. Publication of a request for a proposal and competitive bid cycle (3 months)
  3. Evaluation of bids and eventual contract award to a private sector company (3-12 months or more!)
  4. Contract execution… which defines success on dated, two-year-old requirements (1-5 years).

Judging Success

Judging successful mobile app development solely on the requirements outlined within the contract doesn’t typically allow the flexibility to incorporate changing needs of the mobile app users or implement new technological advancements without a strenuous contract renegotiation process.

In defense of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), it has a very important role to safeguard and ensure the most effective contractual execution of our tax dollars, but let’s be honest – the current design is not conducive to delivering meaningful mobile apps in a timely and responsive way that today’s end users are accustomed to experiencing (think the instant gratification of downloading an app to your phone). Nor is the government process capable of the flexibility to remain relevant and competitive. The commercial experience gap exists on several fronts:

  • User focus groups? The contract has already decided what the user “actually needs.”
  • Alpha|Beta testing? Usually not required in the contract
  • User feedback? Not incorporated. Because the “app need” is decided in a vacuum, apps are delivered to IC and DoD end users that don’t incorporate their “actual need” and, worse yet, there is often no follow-on contract to maintain future operation or to implement needed changes.

Bridging the Gap

Recognizing the NGA’s need for a better way to access apps and already equipped with an internally-developed brokerage process, Engility successfully conceptualized, bid on, and provisioned NGA’s Innovative GEOINT Applications Providers Program (IGAPP) contract vehicle.

Delivering meaningful apps in months, not years

IGAPP bridges the gap between NGA’s users and private sector app developers. Compared to a typical, formal acquisitions model, meaningful apps are now delivered in months instead of years:

  1. Engility acts as the trusted broker for mobile app procurement. We deliver specific user needs of a demographic typically unavailable to private developers. We solicit and deliver requirements to the developers. By taking out the guesswork on what the users need, private developers are able to focus on technical execution. For the customer, we evaluate the apps and test their security. The government knows the deliverables will be up to spec on day 1. Just like Apple vets apps before placing them in iTunes, we make sure users can trust the product.
  2. We remove barriers to entry for developers of any size (one-person small businesses up to billion-dollar corporations) and barriers faced by users hoping for a capability. Imagine the effort and time needed to translate a user need into a funded and executable contract using a traditional approach. Most users will say, “Why bother?” Contract specialists will bemoan the development costs and maintenance contracts required of a traditional acquisition…which results in a dated solution before contract award. Most developers, faced with the timelines and specialized contract procedures of federal work, would say the same. We are able to change “why bother?” into “why not?”
App-etite Blog The great thing is that our process isn’t confined to NGA. IGAPP has been adapted to NGA needs and processes, but the basic principles developed through internal investment can be applied to any organization’s need for quick and secure acquisition of development services.

But don’t take my word for it. Check out our latest success story, where a small business created a useful and needed app for DoD users in a matter of months!

Download the Trusted Applications Broker Services Data Sheet.

Interested in learning more about career opportunities at Engility? Visit

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Posted by David Geiger

David Geiger is a strategic communications and multimedia specialist with experience developing new business marketing strategies, sustaining complex change management operations and leading public affairs campaigns within the commercial and U.S. federal government sectors. A retired U.S. Air Force Special Forces officer, he is part of Engility’s St. Louis team where he works to put effective mobile apps into the hands of DOD users. His heart for STEM has led him to implement first-ever academia focused outreach efforts, establishing collaboration and delivery of mobile apps from a 501(c)3 non-profit organization providing free coding classes to military veterans.