REI Insights

Capacity-Based Buying Can Rapidly Meet Federal Agencies’ Changing Business Needs
December 12, 2022
Women standing at agile board holding sticky note while three men look on

Agencies are constantly dealing with changing regulatory requirements, constituent and mission needs, along with national legislation and Executive Orders (EOs). In this continuously shifting landscape, agencies need to have flexible strategies for complex yet critical modernization initiatives and the contracting talent challenges that come along with it. With capacity-based buying, organizations are able to have the ultimate say in how their business priorities and outcomes are most effectively delivered, thus avoiding the pitfalls of rigid contracts. Many federal agencies are beginning to experiment with this approach and the results are impressive.


Woman sitting at desk looking at computer monitor while two men look over her shoulder at same monitorCapacity-based buying is a concept utilized by agencies to construct more flexible buying agreements in a very rapidly changing landscape. Instead of purchasing a technology solution, agencies contract out for software engineering agile teams.

Software engineering services contracts can specify measurable outcomes delivered via teams and skill sets that can easily reorient themselves given unplanned, unknown or real-time requirement changes. What’s purchased is delivery capacity for business projects without firm or settled IT requirements, from proven vendors with the right mix and scale of IT capabilities.


Many GWACs, IDIQs and BPAs can and should benefit from this kind of approach to task orders that include requirements that may not be well defined, change frequently or account for emerging technologies and requisite skill sets. The benefits of capacity-based buying include:

  • Flexibility. Capacity-based buying allows agencies to define the outcomes and objectives-based capacity that works for them, and to keep that capacity flexible.
  • Changing priorities. As Federal mandates and requirements emerge, capacity-based buying allows teams to be prepared for shifting priorities through shorter contracts.
  • Improved processes and efficiency. Capacity-based delivery teams and methods introduce continual improvement by quickly introducing streamlined processes and automation for increased efficiency.
  • Increase customer satisfaction. Agile teams quickly implement modern technologies, streamlined processes, and human-centered design approaches to make it easier for employees to do their jobs so citizens receive improved services.

Successful Capacity-Based Delivery Projects


African american boy standing in front of American flag with hand over his heartThe US Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) and its Electronic Immigration System (ELIS) face extraordinarily complex and changing laws and regulations, an evolving context of global immigration patterns and events.

These complexities have presented a seemingly insurmountable IT challenge for USCIS over more than 20 years – several large system integrators worked to develop comprehensive solutions that were never successfully implemented. Thus, in recent years, USCIS switched strategies to a capacity-based buying model to enhancing ELIS incrementally.

REI is currently supporting USCIS in modernizing ELIS using agile engineering teams. Because REI began delivering value and capabilities fast, USCIS assigned more responsibilities to REI, expanding its capacity investment to eight more Agile teams beyond the first two. Each Agile team focused on key elements of the ELIS application and infrastructure architecture; for example, one team created micro-services to accept applicant payments, while another ensured the ELIS dev, test, and production environments were secure, reliable and continually improving.


  •  USCIS is rapidly integrating ELIS with 60+ other IT systems for better interoperability.
  • Digital services are now over taking the paper-based processes used in the legacy system.
  • Since immigration law and policy continue to evolve, a micro-services architecture designed is now helping USCIS address rapid changes required across its IT infrastructure, for example, to implement a new fee structure in just 6 weeks.
  • USCIS is now able to increase productivity and application adjudications using software that provides better user and customer satisfaction.


The United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) end-to-end processing for trademark applications and registrations consisted of numerous on-premise legacy applications that functioned independently of one another convoluting processes. The application backlog and cost inefficiency presented a clear need to modernize their technology. USPTO partnered with REI to enhance and modernize the TM Exam application that supported USPTO’s mission critical objectives.

A capacity based buying approach was selected to help USTPO transitioning from a legacy monolithic, on-premises architecture to a cloud-based, loosely coupled, microservices-based back end with an Angular framework-based front-end.

USPTO utilized a Human Centered Design approach using a type of agile called Kanban to streamline the end-to-end review and processing of trademark submissions to ensure better user experience. The agile teams reduced dependencies on groups in the CI/CD pipeline to rapidly conduct deployments and incrementally push out new feature updates according to user-driven stories and priorities. The agile teams are iteratively modernizing the legacy application tech stack, as emerging services and software become available.


  • The agile teams facilitated cloud migration for mission critical systems with measureable benefits in scalability, flexibility, resiliency and total cost of ownership.
  • Office actions increased by 175%.
  • New USPTO business capabilities are exponentially increasing to improve customer experience and services due to new cloud native services and a modernized CI/CD pipeline.

Why Capacity-Based Buying?

As federal agencies are experimenting more with capacity-based buying, they are experiencing the benefit of rapidly advancing mission outcomes. Agencies are leveraging agile teams to incrementally solve large, complex problems, quickly deliver new and scalability capabilities based on changing priorities, increase productivity, and improve customer satisfaction.

According to Zippia, “Agile projects have a 64% success rate, whereas projects under the competing  methodology known as waterfall only have a 49% success rate…Nearly 71% of US Companies are using  Agile.” Commercial companies are driven by profit, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. Companies would not adopt a methodology that has not proven successful, so why wouldn’t government?

If the status quo isn’t working for your agency any longer, it’s time to do things differently with evidence-based data that supports change in the direction of capacity-based buying.

Ready to hear more about how implementing a capacity-based buying strategy can help your agency? Call REI Systems Inc. at (703) 480-9100 or visit the REI website. REI is a trusted source for capacity-based delivery. REI brings expertise in Organizational Change Management, organization development, and business process re-engineering to help customers navigate change.