Nolij Blends Microservices and AI to Help HHS “Buy Smarter”
Nolij Consulting, LLC, a NITAAC CIO-SP3-Small Business Contract Holder, successfully combined microservices with AI to help one federal department modernize and transform its procurement processes. Procurement can be a time-consuming, arduous process. Sometimes the overall cost and time invested are actually disproportionate to the benefits. Because multiple people buy the same or similar items at different times, from different vendors, and at different costs, it can be nearly impossible to compare purchases and identify departmental or organizational needs – and opportunities for economies of scale.
When the Office of Management and Budget tasked federal agencies in May 2017 with submitting a reform plan to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of their programs, the Department of Health and Human Services embarked on a multi-faceted department-wide transformation effort known as ReImagine HHS. A key component of that effort is HHS’ BuySmarter initiative, designed to transform and modernize the way the Department acquires goods and services. With more than $24 Billion in annual spend, HHS saw an opportunity to leverage Artificial Intelligence and e-commerce solutions to establish a cohesive acquisition structure across the department and drive better pricing, better terms, and recognize greater economies of scale. And shift the focus of its acquisition professionals to higher-priority mission-critical work.
Nolij Consulting developed a first-of-its-kind Artificial Intelligence tool for use in HHS’ BuySmarter initiative. The tool uses AI to compare and contrast purchases from almost two million current contract documents comprising 5-7 billion words, as well as schedules and public price lists, to enable strategic sourcing and group purchasing functions. By extracting information directly from the text of existing contracts, the tool enables HHS acquisition professionals, their subject matter experts and customers to easily access and compare similar purchases. This readily-accessible knowledge enables them to create more informed solicitations and more effectively negotiate the terms of new purchases.
The tool’s “human-centered” acquisition approach doesn’t require the user to have a perfect definition to search for an item – it walks them through a specific process of descriptive terms to provide the most relevant results.
Acquisition professionals, their Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), and customers can use this valuable information to craft more informed solicitations, more effectively negotiate the terms of new purchases, and unlock the potential for large group purchases. Daily procurement activities are ultimately faster, more accurate and less complicated.