FY2016 recently came to a close, and I can’t help but reflect on what a remarkable 12 months it’s been for all of us associated with the Federal Acquisition Service. As I do at the start of every fiscal year, I’d like to reflect on what we’ve accomplished over the past twelve months. However, in this year’s blog, I also want to look forward and share how we’re building on this momentum.
When I was sworn in as the FAS Commissioner in February of 2013, I laid out a three-year goal for the organization: GSA should be recognized as the government acquisition marketplace. FY16 marked the final year of that 3-year FAS vision and I’m excited to share what we’ve accomplished to date.
Three years ago, we set out to build, operate, and maintain a governmentwide marketplace to generate savings, improve efficiencies, and deliver excellent customer service. But what does that mean exactly? It means we want FAS to be the provider of:
- Unbiased Advice: FAS will get you the best value, no matter where it comes from.
- Better Contracts: FAS will offer easy access customer-focused contracts that meet agency requirements.
- A Full Spectrum of Services: FAS will offer acquisition services that support every level of need, from agencies that want to do it all to those that need it all done for them.
Each of these game-changing initiatives was designed to better support our customers and our industry partners, while also letting us make the best decisions on behalf of the taxpayer. Today, I’m pleased to report that FAS has made great strides on a number of these objectives.
In the past three years, we’ve introduced many new initiatives to make the FAS Vision a reality. Among them is Category Management. Led by our partners in OMB’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Category Management is the process of managing product or service categories as strategic business units and customizing them to meet customer needs. This allows government to harness our collective buying power to act as one, making better buying decisions and reducing contract duplication and cost.
Although this is a multi-year initiative, FY16 proved to be a very exciting year in moving category management forward. Ten category managers were named to oversee the largest categories of spend, and GSA is proud to represent six of those ten categories. FAS is also reorganizing itself around category management, and orders have been signed instituting the changes to align our business portfolios with category strategies and goals.
This year we also we witnessed the principles of category management being applied to real buying events in the IT arena. OMB named GSA’s innovative IT Schedule 70, along with NASA SEWP and NIH NITAAC, as best-in-class federal contracting vehicles for procuring laptops and desktops. The Laptop/Desktop Initiative has already produced negotiated savings of up to 27% on IT Schedule 70 contracts.
FY2016 was also a landmark year for the Acquisition Gateway – our governmentwide platform supporting category management. We recently reached 10,000 users, and counting! This is an enormous achievement and I’m grateful to all those who have signed up and explored this one stop portal for contract information since its launch two years ago. Developed iteratively for continued process improvement and user feedback integration, the Gateway has matured into a robust platform with 19 category hallways loaded with helpful tools like the Solutions Finder, Project Center, Statement of Work library, and other community building and knowledge sharing functions. The Gateway assists acquisition professionals every day by giving them the resources they need to buy smarter and faster. A big thanks to all of you that helped us reach this exciting milestone this year. Keep checking back for more developments as the Gateway continues to evolve!
Our continuously evolving Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) Transformation Initiative was also on the front burner in 2016. MAS Transformation is all about providing our stakeholders with a MAS program that addresses current market forces and provides government with a streamlined, value-based contracting solution that continues to save time and money well into the future.
To that end, we launched the Formatted Product Tool (FPT) to standardize data and improve competitive pricing. We also published the Transactional Data Reporting (TDR) rule, the biggest change to the Schedules program in two decades. TDR collects transactional level data for items and services purchased through GSA acquisition vehicles and directly supports category management efforts. This data will also provide an unprecedented level of transparency into the federal marketplace, and offer market intelligence that will allow category managers to better understand buying behavior, craft informed demand management strategies and make acquisition decisions that save even more taxpayer dollars. Additionally, the rule removes long-standing burdensome requirements on our industry partners in exchange for this data. The TDR requirement is currently being rolled out in a pilot program involving select Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) products and services.
But that’s not all. We just published a proposed rule to incorporate Other Direct Costs on Schedules, adding much-needed flexibility into the program. We also responded to emerging market forces and customer needs by developing critical new IT Schedule 70 Special Item Numbers (SINs) to address Highly Adaptive Cyber Security (HACS) and Health IT. FAS and our partners in the Office of Governmentwide Policy (OGP) also implemented a class deviation for Commercial Supplier Agreements (CSA) to prevent unilateral changes to key contract terms and mitigate the legal risk of incorporating 15 common CSA terms and conditions that conflict with or are incompatible with Federal law. To help everyone keep up with these changes, we’ve also implemented a new policy that requires our MAS Acquisition Offices to, when possible, give 30-day advance Notice of any solicitation refresh or mass modification policy. This allows contractors more time to review upcoming changes and send us their comments.
In April, we launched the Making it Easier (MIE) initiative, a series of programs designed to provide start-ups, small businesses, and other government suppliers with the tools and support they need to do business with the government. It also helps new and innovative companies get on Schedule faster.
MIE includes the FASt Lane, which drastically cuts the time it takes for a new business to get on IT Schedule 70, and also makes it makes it faster and easier to make changes to existing contracts. And the Startup Springboard is making it possible for emerging startups to get on Schedule sooner and deliver their products and services into the hands of federal agencies faster than ever before, too . And we added additional resources like the Plain Language Roadmap, a step-by-step guide that walks new business partners through the process of preparing an IT Schedule 70 offer, and the MAS Welcome Package, a resource for all suppliers that are new to the Schedules program.
At the end of October, we launched the second MIE phase to build on these successes and tackle the remaining challenges facing the supplier community as they seek to do business with the federal government.
I can’t wrap up this look back at FY16 without a few words about the terrific progress FAS has made in meeting both our external and internal success metrics. Our Assisted Acquisition Services team had a phenomenal year, one of the best in recent history. Across FAS’s portfolio offices, from Travel, Fleet, and Card Services to Professional Services and General Supplies, the FAS product and utilization rate increased by 6% over last year. This means our customers are coming to FAS for more and more of their acquisition needs. They recognize the expertise we provide and the value that the category management brings to the marketplace, and are responding by bringing their business to us. Our customer loyalty indicator is up, too: our annual Customer Loyalty Survey results jumped to 7.5 from 7.1 the year before. This tells me that our customers believe in our business model and are trusting FAS expertise for their acquisition needs.
Finally, let me just say that every bit of our success across each of these initiatives this year would have been absolutely impossible without our dedicated FAS employees. Supporting your development and success has always been one of my top priorities as FAS Commissioner and, looking at the annual Employee Viewpoint Survey, I’m thrilled at the progress we’ve made in the past 12 months. Our Engagement rating is 75.64% – that’s up 6% from last year. This increase shows employees are feeling valued by our organization and are benefiting from their overall work experience here. In addition, Satisfaction is also up by over 6%, to 76%, which means employees are satisfied with key elements of their job.
I started this blog by noting that we are at the conclusion of our three-year vision – this does not mean our work is done. To ensure our ongoing success and to stretch even further, we are now charting our direction for the next three years. However, we are not planning to change our vision. We are staying the course, but adding a special emphasis on customers. We believe that a focus on the customer, which really is at the heart of Category Management, will ensure that we are making the best decisions for our business.
I look forward to continuing to execute our transformational improvements throughout FY2017, and the years to come.