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Fireworks, Festivities, and Connections II Dashboard Launch

In July, we celebrate America, our independence, and our freedom. Thousands of fireworks take off one after another across our beautiful night skies and we have fun with family and friends.

This year, we have one more reason to celebrate — at least in the IT and data communities.

Over the July 4th weekend, our Connections II program launched an interactive, real-time Connections II dashboard. The tool allows Connections II users to view and analyze non-classified data on federal IT purchasing activity awarded under GSA’s Connections II.

Data turned into actionable information will allow government to buy smarter, help agencies make better buying decisions, and lead to smoother bid and proposal processes. More information can help agencies better understand purchasing trends, conduct better market research, and be better negotiators. Ultimately, government buying decisions based on consistent, shared information deliver dollar savings to U.S. taxpayers.

We collectively are opening up data, sharing it, and working together to find additional value. At GSA, we look for ways to make government purchasing data more open, transparent, and accessible, and the Connections II dashboard is one way to do this.

The Connections II dashboard creates a single point of access for all data on Connections II task order obligations, number of awards, agency/bureau, and industry partner activity.

Users have quick and easy access to the dashboard. Search results display in easily understood lists, graphs, and charts. The real-time dashboard gives meaningful and timely program information–whether to industry or government–at any time. Users can search for specific items, sort data, and create and download custom reports.

We try to give customers and industry partners real-time data whenever they need it – at both the agency and order level so government can increase data quality and spend analysis, and make better business decisions, and so industry partners can tailor their offerings.

Other Reasons to Celebrate

GSA is just getting the big data explosion started with using and sharing our data to everyone’s benefit. GSA has several other data transparency efforts underway for the government IT acquisition community:

  • Get spend data from our GWACs Dashboard and Networx.
  • Use the Prices Paid tool for GWACs and now Wireless BPAs for aggregate pricing information. (It requires a .gov or .mil login.)
  • Prices-paid pilot programs are underway for Schedules and our satellite program.
  • GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service is working on the common acquisition platform as a critical resource for federal buyers. It will contain even more tools, capabilities, and government-wide data on acquisition vehicles, intelligence, and prices paid.

If you want more information about Connections II, read about Connections II and transitioning to IPv6. We have several Statement of Work (SOW) templates you can download: IPv6 SOW to assist with IPv6 transitioning, DNSSEC SOW to help agencies with security transitioning from DNS to DNSSEC and email authentication based on the deployed DNSSEC, and a Unified Communications SOW template to help agencies combine voice, data, and video.

If you need help or information on GSA IT programs, go to our Need Help Page. Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join GSA’s IT acquisition conversation.

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“Easy to Find, Easy to Buy” — Envisioning the Next Step for Cloud Computing on IT Schedule 70

GSA has led efforts to create a 21st century government, including introducing cloud to federal agencies. We offer a variety of contract vehicles that help agencies streamline acquisition of cloud technologies, including IT Schedule 70, the Email as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs), and Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWAC) like Alliant and Alliant Small Business.

As the cloud marketplace is maturing, we are seeing an increased focus on IT Schedule 70 as one of the main acquisition vehicles for agencies.

IT Schedule 70 is already the largest, most widely used IT acquisition vehicle in the federal government, and we are continuously looking to improve what it offers. One area we are exploring is looking for ways to help customers find and buy cloud services.

For example, we are considering the creation of a single Special Item Number (SIN) for all cloud services that would provide clear cloud technology differentiation for customers and improve ease of access to acquire cloud services. We recently released a request for information, seeking industry input on this idea.

IT Schedule 70 already offers cloud services, and our industry partners have cloud offerings in several SINs, so why create a new SIN?

Through customer dialogue and market research, an integrated team of acquisition, technology, and program experts across the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) has identified that there would be benefits to creating a Cloud SIN to all parties involved:

  • GSA Customers – Clear differentiation of cloud services vs. non-cloud IT products and services, and empowered cloud buying through better data
  • Industry Partners – Opportunity to market distinctive solutions and offerings on IT Schedule 70
  • Internal GSA Operations – Enable more granular reporting on cloud sales to enable decision making, and help our customers buy better through data

The goal of this new SIN would be to provide clear cloud technology differentiation and ease of customer access through systems such as eBuy and GSA Advantage!.

Since SINs create logical categories of services within a Schedule, we envision the creation of a Cloud Computing Services SIN will provide a level of differentiation for customers that would more easily and clearly identify cloud services.  Additionally, GSA could establish a set of qualifying requirements that would help customers in identifying cloud services that meet acceptable standards around security, data, and other characteristics.

We are always looking for ways to make sure that doing business with us is as easy and reliable as possible. We believe that adding a Cloud Computing Services SIN would realign IT Schedule 70 cloud technology offerings to better reflect the current cloud computing market and satisfy customer needs.

The cloud market is sufficiently mature to offer differentiated and vetted cloud services through a single SIN, and this makes sense for both GSA customer agencies and industry partners. We are looking for feedback to make sure we get it right and look forward to the conversation. Read the RFI.

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Networx Data Shapes our Understanding of Telecommunications

Big data is being used to help transform government by revealing information and patterns that can bring innovation, better services, and smarter decisions.

To effectively use big data, we must be willing to collect, analyze, and share the information we discover. You already know about some of the ways we’re helping the government buy smarter through big data: GWAC Prices Paid Tool, horizontal and vertical pricing in Schedule 70, and Reverse Auction pricing data.

Here is something you may not have heard a lot about: GSA’s major telecommunications program, Networx, collects data about what federal agencies are purchasing and how much they are paying. Because most federal agencies make network services purchases through the Networx program, these “big data” details from Networx provide a good picture of the federal networking and telecommunications market — and we’re happy to share it.

We’ve just completed an analysis of the first half of fiscal year 2014. And, it’s a good time to look at how federal agencies are using the Networx contracts and the trends we’re seeing in telecommunications buying.

In total, more than 136 federal agencies use Networx. Federal agencies have purchased $762 million in network and telecommunications services off the Networx contract through the second quarter of FY 2014. During the same period last year, federal agencies purchased $630 million through Networx. After accounting for FY 2013 purchases through now expired legacy contracts, this represents a year-over-year increase of 12.8% on the Networx contracts. The projected yearly increase we’re seeing is an indicator that agencies are utilizing Networx more often than ever to solve their network services solutions.

Networx Buying Trends

GSA attributes this growth in usage to a couple of factors. First, federal agencies are using Networx to purchase more services because of increased bandwidth demand. More applications, more video, and more data all drive the need for more bandwidth. When was the last time you were not online? The two largest in-demand core services on Networx are Internet Protocol Based Virtual Private Network and Managed Network Services. Government agencies have increased purchasing of these two services by 24% and 36% respectively in FY 2014.

Second, due to transition and increased activity at call centers at several civilian agencies, toll-free services and call center services have seen year-over-year purchase increases of 62% and 288% respectively.

 Purchase Increases by Service from FY 13 to FY 14  Percentage of Increase
 Network-Based Internet Protocol Virtual Private Network Service  24%
 Managed Network Services  36%
 Toll Free Services  62%
 Call Center Services  288%

Increases in bandwidth-driven services more than offset declines in legacy services like long distance voice, which is down 5% from FY 2013. Legacy networks that are based on the Asynchronous Transfer Mode and Frame Relay protocols have largely disappeared. They are down 8% and 31% respectively since last year and, combined, now account for less than 1% of federal purchases.

 Purchase Decreases by Service from FY 13 to FY 14  Percentage of Increase
 Long Distance Voice Service  -5%
 Asynchronous Transfer Mode  -8%
 Frame Relay Service  -31%

Beyond these core services, purchases of storage services (Network Attached Storage, Storage Area Networks, and Backup and Restoration Services) through Networx continue to grow. Storage services are a small part of overall use on Networx, but GSA considers this a bellwether for enhancement of traditional bandwidth with cloud services like Infrastructure as a Service.

Buying trends on Networx are expected to continue strong in the second half of FY 2014, but at a decreased growth rate compared to the first half of the year. Demand for bandwidth through IP based virtual private networks is expected to grow as an overall trend; however, the large purchase growth in toll-free and call center services will taper as several large federal call centers complete modernization efforts and roll into steady-state operations.

Savings Compared to Commercial Pricing

In the first two quarters of FY 2014, the Networx program saved taxpayers and agency users $332 million. This is slightly more than the $328 million savings we originally anticipated for this point in the year. Networx is on target to meet our goal of saving federal agencies at least $659 million this year.  We base the Networx savings calculations on a comparison of Networx pricing, commercial pricing for similar services, and Networx usage.

The GSA Network Services Program continues to have a two-pronged focus: deliver today and plan for tomorrow. Our focus for today with Networx and our other telecommunications acquisition vehicles (including FSSI Wireless BPAs, Connections II, Commercial Satellite Program, and a full range of regional and local voice, data, video, Internet and other service offerings) is to continue to save taxpayer dollars and deliver what agencies need in telecommunications services.  For example, we are making Networx process changes to lower the transaction cost of purchases and price changes to lower per unit service costs.

Looking to the future, with NS2020, we are in the midst of developing new acquisitions and service delivery models to help structure and enhance future government telecommunications both globally and locally.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join the conversation.

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Help Us Shape the Future

Here in ITS, we’re reevaluating our approach to strategic sourcing by focusing on category management, which will help transform government IT acquisition and improve the value we provide to our customers. We can’t succeed without your feedback on the best ways to improve our performance. We are counting on you—our customers and industry partners—to identify where we can serve you better.

We’re conducting two surveys that focus on ITS, our performance, and what you expect when you work with us.  (These surveys are separate from our recent supplier perception survey and our Customer Loyalty Survey):

Suppliers: The Voice of the Supplier Tool will assess supplier satisfaction in key areas with questions tailored according to category management best practices.

Federal ITS Customers: The Business Alignment Tool will allow ITS customers to assess our acquisition management function as it relates to category management.

The surveys will take no more than 20 minutes, but will give us the insights we need to help tailor our approach to best meet your needs.

Thank you for helping shape our future.

What Category Management Means for You

You may be asking, what is category management and why should it matter to me?

Category management is a data-driven approach to manage groups of related products and services. In principle, it drives greater value by generating sourcing strategies unique to each grouping of products or services (e.g., the software market has different drivers and savings levers than the telecommunications market does).

Ultimately, we expect category management to help us better carry out our mission—and enable our customers to do the same—by shifting our focus away from managing ITS contracts and towards developing market expertise that will put us in the best position to guide our customers to best-fit solutions. Our goal is to become the go-to trusted advisor for our customers’ IT needs.

We know that establishing this position within the federal acquisition community will mean providing customers with value-added services that make designing solutions and using contract vehicles easier while still delivering better value. Category management is a tool we believe will help us meet this challenge by focusing our efforts on understanding customer demand and market dynamics.

Through better management of customer and supplier relationships, we hope to bring greater value to the acquisition process by more easily aligning customer demand with market solutions. Understanding our customers’ need and the Federal IT environment is just one piece of the puzzle. Working with our industry partners to understand emerging technologies and innovative solutions in addition to their cost drivers will be just as important.

To learn how GSA can further help your agency with your IT procurements, contact our National IT Customer Services Center by phone at (855) ITaid4U or by e-mail at ITCSC@gsa.gov.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join the conversation.