Determining whether a third-party development agency is capable of meeting the necessary regulatory, quality, and security standards is a critical task for managers within the government. This blog post will give non-technical or less-technical government employees and program directors some insight into how to properly vet third-party developers for government work.
U.S. Government Departments Hiring Third-Party Software Developers
Public sector employment offers an immense range of technical job opportunities. Some of the primary sectors for government software development include:
The U.S government is involved in developing health information systems powered by machine learning (ML) algorithms to enable doctors, researchers, and medical professionals to be more precise in their work. Public health providers are developing a wide range of modern solutions, from developing mobile apps for on-the-go assistance to building chatbots that can serve as a first point of contact for booking hospital appointments, checking doctor availability, or conducting a preliminary diagnosis.
The U.S. government requires software developers to design technologies that will provide banking services for large corporate, government and financial institutional clients to help customers improve their earnings, manage portfolio risks, and make informed decisions about their short-term and long-term financial goals. For instance, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) says that the commission is actively implementing machine learning algorithms to monitor and detect potential investment market misconduct.
Given the consistently high interest in government positions, the volume of new applicants applying each year is a bottleneck for the manual process of screening, interviewing, and onboarding new employees. The U.S. government HR sector is now using automation technology to help diagnose application backlogs, screen applicants for various security checks, guide applicants in the hiring process, and more.
What kinds of software is the government trying to develop?
- The U.S. government is in the process of developing high-performance computing systems with the help of artificial intelligence and data analysis tools. One example of this is Frontera, a supercomputer deployed at the University of Texas campus.
- In collaboration with the Department of Transportation and NASA, state and local governments are working to enable the safe operation of autonomous systems, like drones and self-driving vehicles, to facilitate the delivery of household goods, provide mobility options for senior and disabled citizens, and expand access to medical supplies.
- AI technologies are being leveraged as part of the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. government along with the DoE, the National Science Foundation, and leading industry and academic partners have established the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium to volunteer free computer time and resources to COVID-19 researchers.
- In the healthcare sector, the U.S government is aiming to develop software that can help healthcare providers detect wrist fractures quickly and develop adaptive frameworks for smart software in medical devices. Advanced research is being supported by the government in technologies such as machine learning and natural language processing to improve the collection of clinical data.
- The government is also investing in AI-based technology to monitor livestock, robots to sort harvests, analysis tools for irrigation systems, and technology to analyze crop health while efficiently administrating pesticides. Weather data is being analyzed to create better crop yield models.
- The National Weather Service plans on using sensors and underwater drones to record and predict weather conditions like hurricanes.
Legacy Government Technology in Need of Replacement
Traditionally used legacy systems are creating problems rather than making processes simpler for the U.S. Government. These systems are difficult to maintain and vulnerable to all sorts of cyber-crimes.
The U.S. Government Accountability office says that the government “plans to spend over $90 billion this fiscal year on information technology and most of that will be used to operate and maintain existing systems, including legacy systems.”
The main reasons for shifting from legacy to a hybrid technological model are data privacy and cyber-attacks. While the government is trying to deploy technology to protect on-premise distributed systems from cyber-attacks, they are now resorting to mainframe technologies for their computing infrastructure.
Advantages of Hiring Third-Party Developers for Government Work
Hiring third party developers can provide the following benefits for government departments:
- Increased accountability of service providers through explicit contract specifications and performance measurement indicators
- Modern work and management practices
- Access to greater skill sets
- Huge knowledge pool of various technology domains
- Proper use of capital and equipment
- Improved service quality
Drawbacks of Hiring Third-Party Developers for Government Work
The disadvantages of hiring third-party developers can potentially include:
- Unclear line of accountability, as service recipients do not understand who is responsible for the completion and delivery of service
- Loss of privacy and confidentiality of information to be worked upon
- Tampering with the costs of outsourcing after the project is put in motion
- Project expenses cannot be made public owing to the "confidentiality" of the contract, sowing distrust among the public
- Inefficient work management practices, which can be blamed on the government body handling the team or the main service provider
High-Level Factors to Consider When Hiring Third-Party B2G Developers
The most important factor to consider is data leaks. Any third-party agency should be bound by a strict contract to avoid leaks of any confidential information.
Your government agency should include a “right to audit” clause in the terms and conditions of the contract. This provides you with a contractual and legal right to conduct an audit of the outside party’s compliance with the contract, and also puts them on alert as their records are subject to an audit. This can act as a security measure while hiring third-party developers.
There is a possibility that a third-party contractor will charge your organization for material or labor costs that are not reasonable for the contract. You should ensure that there is a formal process of reviewing and approving contracts, invoices/payment applications, receipt and acceptance of goods and services, and appropriateness of labor, material, equipment, taxes, and other charges.
The contract should clearly mention the steps that will be taken if duplicate or inappropriate charges have been levied. At the same time, you should ensure timely payments to the third-party development team to avoid any confusion regarding applicable charges.
You should specify key performance criteria of the third-party developers from a technical perspective and bake those into the contract specifications. The developer should be in sync with your core technical infrastructure and capable of improving existing systems when a need arises.
You should adequately test the developers you hire in advance in order to assess their knowledge of your specific domain. The required level of domain expertise should be clearly stated in the contract to avoid spending time and capital in training the developer because of unclear expectations.
Questions You Can Ask to Vet a Third-Party Development Team
Here is a quick checklist of questions that will help government teams easily shortlist a third-party development team:
- Can you build a product that will work on government networks?
- Have your developers worked on any other government-related projects?
- What was the feedback obtained if the above question was answered "yes"?
- What were the roadblocks your team encountered when performing prior work for the government? What were the actions you took to mitigate the same?
- How skilled are you in the domain/technology that you will be required to work in? Do you have any proof to support the same?
- What is your plan of action to be able to keep up with the expectations/timelines that we've set for this project?
- Will your team be able to support and troubleshoot the project after completion?
- What is your disaster recovery plan in case of a project failure?
- Has your team undergone a verification of identity and employment eligibility as per U.S. regulations?
- Can your developers obtain a security clearance?
Red Flags That a B2G Third-Party Developer Is Not a Good Fit
The following signs may indicate that a development team is not up to the task of building critical government applications.
Limited Government Experience
A company with limited or no experience in developing software for the government may not be a good fit for B2G builds. These companies require an investment of time and capital in training the employees to deliver as per the government's unique expectations.
Development companies already familiar with the entire process are more likely to complete the work in the same rhythm as before. They can also anticipate the expectations of government teams through prior work done.
Poor reviews or unhappy clients
Client reviews can have a huge impact on a company's image. Companies that do not have any favorable opinions or reviews from their clients should not be considered a good fit for government work.
Unaware of applicable regulations
Companies that want to undertake work from the government need to be educated about applicable regulations for their chosen domain. Companies that aren't familiar with the regulatory environment will require close monitoring to ensure that all the work is done as per regulations applied.
A competent third-party developer team will ensure that their work practices are ethical and transparent. Along with the government, this team will have a clear plan for improving public well-being through properly designed technological solutions.
Crowdbotics has experience building technology for government departments like the U.S. Air Force. Crowdbotics managed app development is a good option for meeting the unique needs of public sector clients, and the Crowdbotics platform is built for secure development and deployment in a modern tech stack. If you're looking for reliable, experience B2G developers, get in touch with our experts today.