Last year, GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) began a comprehensive initiative to review how to better support federal agencies with their acquisition needs. We analyzed how, who, and where agencies buy goods and services; our agency customers’ collective requirements; and, what our customer agencies are asking and expecting of GSA. Initial conclusions made from this work confirmed what many have known:
- The government acquisition landscape is vast and fragmented with 500 different departments and agencies making annual purchases exceeding $400 billion. Agencies are duplicating efforts, conducting thousands of full-and-open competitions, and establishing hundreds of potentially redundant acquisition vehicles and programs.
- The needs of agencies have evolved. Requirements have shifted from commodities to services, and the complexity of requirements continues to grow.
- The acquisition community GSA serves faces an increasingly challenging buying environment requiring contracting and program professionals to have sophisticated and well rounded business skills.
- Agencies’ needs of GSA have evolved and grown quickly.
To address these challenges, GSA is adopting category management – a business model and conceptual framework that will change how we think, conduct, and manage acquisitions that support the federal agencies we serve. By organizing our operations around 17 categories of spend and improving our overall service delivery, FAS can better meet the needs of our federal agency customers today and in the future.
Within FAS’s Professional Services Category, we have spent the last year focused on understanding the challenges and buying environment for professional services federally and developed a strategy and plan to improve FAS’s work in this area. Today, our plan has four key elements:
- Improved Contract Solutions. This past fall FAS awarded its OASIS suite of contracts. These contracts complement our existing professional services Schedules and provide agencies with easy access to contractors that provide proven high quality and complex professional services.
By October 2015, we will finish consolidating eight single Schedules – with approximately 4,400 contracts – into one Professional Services Schedule This initiative will help to ensure our Schedules remain cost effective for both industry and government to manage, and are easier to use when integrated commercial solutions are required. With only one professional services Schedule we can improve contract usability; make it easier for agencies to obtain and contractors to provide total service solutions through one contract vehicle; increase program efficiency by managing fewer contracts and solicitations; reduce administrative costs to industry by reducing the number of contracts they manage; and eliminate the need to submit multiple Schedule offers to provide professional services.
- Professional Services Hallway. A core challenge facing acquisition professionals in purchasing services is understanding how individual submarkets approach pricing and offerings, what contracts already exist to support acquisition of these services, as well as the best practices used to acquire services in these submarkets. To start to address this need, FAS launched the Acquisition Gateway to share, and collaboratively develop, these types of resources for the federal community. While early in its development, and for now only available to the federal community, the professional services category hallway within the Acquisition Gateway provides pricing tools and information, sample statements of work, best practices, and expert articles. The hallway will be an important tool in supporting and improving how the federal community acquires professional services.
- Customer Support. This year we are focused on improving our service to agencies in two areas:
- Developing interactive and visualized data sets for agencies with significant professional services spend and, when asked, providing unbiased feedback on how that spend could be better managed. The data sets will be tailored to address an agency’s interests and goals for improving how services for their agency are being acquired. Here is one example of a data set we developed on behalf of Department of Transportation.
- Providing direct procurement and program support services such as custom training, market research, acquisition strategy and statement of work development, as well as on-site support services. We will also host monthly office hours, webinars, and support contracting and program professionals when and where they need it.
- Industry Engagement and Management. Finally, improved supplier management and engagement will remain a focus for the category. Industry is the primary external stakeholder for the procurement community. Through structured focus groups, industry association roundtable discussions, workshops, and social media we will expand and improve the quality of our engagement.
The Professional Services Category team is committed to better supporting the federal acquisition community and believe these investments can result in real performance improvements. We look forward to sharing our progress with you on both on GSA.gov and our Interact web forums.