•   over 9 years ago

Extension for all entrants?

Are there any circumstances under which the contest as a whole would be extended for all participants?

Given the objectives described in the document, "Replacing VA's Medical Scheduling Software and the Role of this Contest," and the current number of teams, it seems in the best interest of the VA to do so. A longer-term contest would allow the development of better-structured teams as well as more submissions. Given the very limited number of entrants (and followers) today and the complexity of the non-optional requirements, it would seem very difficult if not impossible to complete the current requirements and subsequently meet the VA’s goals.

In addition to the limited number of entrants, the number of entrants submitting applications in the last month suggests that many are only recently discovering this contest. My personal opinion is that the VA will miss the opportunity to receive submissions from teams that have the capability to exceed the requirements -- a two and a half month timeline is far too short a time to construct a team, evaluate requirements, and produce a solution that meets the minimum requirements. This is true even of the most capable teams out there.

I personally fear that this contest will be seen as an example to all other government agencies. Its success is critical to not just the VA but also to the US Government's ability to discover the capabilities of companies and individuals that currently do not consider working with government agencies. These entities, if investigated, would clearly exceed the needed capabilities for the projects. If the VA’s contest succeeds in it’s goals, I suspect other agencies may start similar contests using the VA’s as an example. If it fails, it will be cited as a reason not to release future contests.

This would appear to be the largest software-based contest on challenge.gov to-date, yet the number of teams competing and following the contest does not seem to be a reasonable pool given the magnitude of the award. By comparison, the Ansari X-Prize had 26 different teams competing for a $10M prize and their goal was to build a spaceship – an inherently more challenging task. This competition, being software-based, is much more approachable by a much larger talent pool in the US, yet there are only 17 teams today.

Why not extend the contest by 6 months? I’d also recommend the VA spend more time and energy marketing the contest to the potential entrants. It would seem that most capable entities do not know the contest exists today or have dismissed the contest as infeasible in a two and a half month timeline (despite capability and desire to meet the requirements). In addition, would an extended contest actually have much consequence to the VA? I personally feel there is a lot to be gained by not just the VA, but also the US government as a whole, in doing so.

  • 4 comments

  •   •   over 9 years ago

    It's not really fair to the contestants who entered with enough time to do it and who have made serious design and team decisions based on the given timeline. I would have approached this completely differently had I expected on it being due 6 months later. It's like changing the format of an Olympics race from a 1 mile run to a marathon after the runners are already several laps in and then inviting new runners who aren't already winded to compete as well.

  •   •   over 9 years ago

    The contest administrator answered this under "Submission Deadline Extension".

    "The schedule of the contest does not allow for extensions under any circumstances."

    You could always build the application you want and try to win a contract with the government to use it. This contest is just to see what small development teams and individuals can do when a large cash prize is offered. I think the nature of the contest is that they don't necessarily expect anyone to be able to hit 100% of the requirements in that amount of time (thereby winning the cash prize), but it doesn't hurt to try and see what comes up.

    Read the U.S. Medicine article which gives a lot of insight into how this whole process came about. A lot of money was wasted on the promise of an application, and it was never delivered. Now the approach is "build it, and we will come".

    In my opinion, the VA will look at the final submissions and choose ones that fit all of the requirements and show a lot of promise for the future -- I don't think anyone is expecting polished facebook level development to be done by a small set of people on a very limited timeline. Hitting all of the requirements and having a friendly/usable application shows your ability to understand fulfilling the requirements of large government organizations, and potential promise for a future contract to actually replace their current scheduling system.

    You still have 3 months to develop the application, which is plenty of time if that's what you work on for the 3 months. If it truly is impossible to do, then the contest will come up with no winners. As a contractor who has already delivered multiple web applications for government agencies with large requirement sets, something tells me that's not going to happen ;)

  • Manager   •   over 9 years ago

    We have taken your comments under consideration and weighed them against the interests and available resources of the Department of VA, as well as the collective interests of other contestants. The contest was announced in the Federal Register on October 16, 2012, a full two months prior to the opening of registration. The contest has been advertised in a number of forums including a prominent article in U.S. Medicine.

    We believe sufficient notice and time has been allowed for potential contestants to register and develop their submissions. The contest will proceed as scheduled and advertised.

    Contest Administrator

  •   •   over 9 years ago

    Respectfully, I would like to reiterate the request to extend the deadline for submissions. The stated goals of the contest are to mitigate risk and to encourage commercial software vendors to actively engage in the solution, yet the aggressive timeline and extra-ordinarily strict rules for judging functionality stand in contrast to the goals. I believe the VA would benefit by allowing more time for competitors to submit the best solutions possible. Allowing an additional 90 - 120 days would provide for a better result.

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