IT on the Acquisition Gateway

You’ll recall my April post discussing Category Management and FAS’s launch of the Acquisition Gateway, a space for acquisition professionals to  learn, connect, and act upon acquisition information, expertise, and advice. It will serve as an important tool to support and improve how the federal community acquires products and services.

When I wrote that post, ITS had successfully launched the IT Hardware and IT Software category hallways. We’ve since launched three more:

  • Telecommunications,
  • IT Services, and
  • IT Security.

Now the Acquisition Gateway has 17 category hallways, all of which fall into one of the 10 civilian-centric categories, which account for 80 percent of total federal spend.

With collaboration and support from our partner agencies, our IT category managers have collected pricing tools and information, guides, best practices, and expert articles that will help acquisition professionals make more efficient IT procurements.

Agile development process

The Acquisition Gateway is based on an agile development process, where software developers prototype early and iterate often, continuously focusing on end-users and the tasks they need to accomplish.

In this case, the development team involves all end-users in a transparent and collaborative development process. Success requires constant collaboration and a continuous process of incorporating user feedback, including customer-contributed expertise and content.

If you’ve visited the Acquisition Gateway in the past few months, you may have noticed new system changes and enhanced services, including:

  • Revamped Homepage – more easily accessible sections
  • Solutions Finder – revamped the solutions matrix to make searching governmentwide-available solutions easier
  • Communities – a place to connect with acquisition professionals and share knowledge
  • Project Center where users can build an acquisition, complete with project details
  • eBuy Open – an interactive web application that displays eBuy RFQ information to users and provides several filtering and search options, which enables users to quickly drill down to desired information
  • TechFAR Huba community of practice open to all federal government employees with an interest in successful acquisitions. The TechFAR Hub and the Gateway share the common goals of saving taxpayer dollars, making acquisition more efficient, and improving service to customers inside government and out
  • Prices Paid Portal an interactive web application that provides users access to selected data sets which can be searched, filtered, and exported
  • Shared Services – A hub to help federal departments and agencies find and leverage existing solutions rather than build new ones

Acquisition professionals and IT experts like you made these enhancements possible.

Over time, category hallways will capture the expertise of users, category managers, and industry experts and will become a more powerful and effective tool as users from across government share content, contract solutions, data, and industry expertise. Currently, only federal government users have access to the Acquisition Gateway.

However, because transparency is important, GSA is creating a public view of the Acquisition Gateway planned for early FY16. The Public view will be available to stakeholders such as industry, state and local government, and citizens.

When it comes to IT acquisition, having a single place to gather market research, connect with experts, and complete data-driven acquisition confidently and efficiently is invaluable. The Acquisition Gateway enables more efficient procurements by leveraging contract intelligence and spending data to facilitate smarter purchasing.  

We are looking forward to implementing the following enhancements soon:

  • Launch a Statement of Work (SOW) library across multiple categories (currently resides in the Professional Services category hallway)
  • Integration of Advantage Select which establishes FAR compliant, pre-competed, “click-and-pay”, contractual vehicles that any Government buyer can use. Advantage Select will enable more competition, more often, on the most commonly purchased commodity items, and then showcases and gives transparency of these products and pricing to the entire Government acquisition/contracting enterprise for the ultimate experience in low cost, streamlined purchasing.  

Get Started

To continue building on what we’ve already accomplished together over the past year, please go to the Acquisition Gateway and share your feedback with us. We need acquisition experts in all government agencies to share their knowledge.

So how can you start?

  • Sign up for an OMB Max account and login to the Acquisition Gateway
  • Tell your co-workers
  • Share your best practices, templates, and expertise
  • Participate in the communities
  • Share your prices paid / transactional data
  • Provide information on acquisition solutions
  • Join us for usability testing to help drive new features. If you are interested in participating in Acquisition Gateway usability testing, please contact Kelly Robinson at kelly.robinson@gsa.gov

For more information or to get involved, please email natasha.sheehan@gsa.gov. Follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join GSA’s ITS’s overall acquisition conversations.


Collaborating for Better Government

Wikipedia defines “collaboration” as “working with others to do a task and to achieve shared goals.” According to the Free Dictionary, collaborating is a partnership, working as a team, or being in concert.   

For GSA, collaboration is more than just a buzzword or standing at a podium talking to stakeholders. It is a dialog a give and take that includes understanding and respecting everyone’s needs, goals, and values.

Successful collaboration happens when everyone is committed to the core principles of trust, understanding, and compromise– and the end result is a better outcome for all parties.

Creating the IT Portfolio of Solutions

At GSA, collaboration is a driving force as we re-shape many of our government-wide programs and contracts. For those of you working with GSA, you’ve seen or been part of any number of working groups, industry days, interagency meetings, and requirements teams. You’ve contributed thousands of ideas and comments on our RFIs, draft RFPs and in our Interact communities.  You’ve rolled up your sleeves and helped shape our offerings from adding a new Special Item Number (SIN) on IT Schedule 70, to developing OASIS, Alliant 2, Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS), Network Services 2020 (NS2020), cloud strategies, identity management solutions, mobility and wireless solutions, satellite solutions, software, hardware and so much more.  

The Government’s shift to Category Management (CM), has also guided our planning and resulting solutions. We have experts that know telecom, software, IT hardware, IT services and IT security. The category hallways within the Acquisition Gateway provide access to many government-wide contracts, tools, pricing information, buying guides, templates, best practices and access to other buyers across government so you don’t have to figure things out on your own and are able to leverage work others have already done.

Our collective work has led to a very clear strategy for GSA’s next generation of IT and telecommunications solutions.  As a result, GSA is implementing solutions that better meet agencies’ needs, provide flexibility in acquiring IT/telecom, provide savings, reduce duplication and are reflective of technology market offerings. The graphic below shows exactly what we’ve mapped out and what we’ve used to guide our solutions development. 

This graphic shows exactly what we’ve mapped out and what we’ve used to guide our solutions development.

Reducing Duplication While Providing Flexibility

Our category management approach ensures that our contract solutions provide different ways to buy technology based on agency collaboration and feedback. We’ve been asked why you see similar technology or services available on more than one of our contracts. Some might say this also results in “duplication” or confusion, but our customers are telling us that they  need flexibility to buy technology products and services in different ways based on what I refer to it as, “the nature of the buy.”  

ITS prides itself on providing both general and niche solutions for IT and telecommunications products and services to federal, state and local agencies.  These solutions draw on GSA’s acquisition and IT expertise and they help our customers by allowing them to direct more resources into focusing on their core missions. About 30% of federal IT spend flows through ITS contracts and programs. We hold ourselves accountable for increasing federal procurement efficiency, reducing costs for both government and industry, and helping government achieve better results.  Reducing overlapping and redundant contracts is important to ITS. We’ve taken a true portfolio approach to planning our solutions and ensuring we provide maximum flexibility for government buyers as they make complex procurement strategy decisions.   

For example, agencies today are procuring wireless services and devices in a number of ways.  Our FSSI Wireless BPAs offer certain terms and conditions, plans, features (such as aggregated pooling of minutes and data) and pricing for services with devices provided as part of the overall solution. On IT Schedule 70, agencies have the option of buying just devices or service plans and devices and constructing their own terms and conditions.  If an agency were to use Networx for the wireless services/devices, they may be doing so to consolidate mobile services on a broader enterprise platform implementation.  

Cloud is another great example. We have cloud-based services available on IT Schedule 70, on our IaaS and EaaS BPAs, through GWACs (especially where integration or transition services are also needed) and through our network services contracts (off premise hosting or data center solutions are examples).  Our network services contracts are telecommunications focused but also recognize broader, related products and services may need to be part of the overall solution. EIS will provide best in class virtual private network services, Ethernet, voice, and managed network services at significant discounts.  These services may also be related to an agency’s enterprise implementation of data centers or call centers — either on-site or cloud-based.  While these are just a few examples, you can see it really doesn’t make sense to try to define, “bucket,” and limit technology solutions to individual contracts.

Guiding Agencies to the best choice

GSA’s job is to understand the market, listen to agency and industry partners, and use what we’ve learned to create solutions. While creating solutions will involve some overlap, we want to act as an honest broker and help agencies get to the best solution for them. Sometimes that includes guiding agencies to other non-GSA enterprise contracts that might be a better fit for their requirements.

We are making it our responsibility to help agencies through the process, especially when overlap could cause potential confusion about which vehicle is optimal for certain requirements. We will accomplish this through our continued proactive management approach with both customers and vendors. Through collaboration, scope reviews, and relationships, we want to better understand the core requirements and make the best acquisition recommendation.

As I pointed out earlier, we don’t take a “one size fits all” approach. If an agency has a cloud requirement that is within the scope of multiple contracts, we will work with that customer to understand their requirements and help assess their acquisition choices. We will make the best recommendation to ensure the agency requirements are being met in the most efficient and effective manner with the highest quality vendors possible.  On contracts such as our GWACs, Networx, and EIS, GSA performs pre-award and post-award scope reviews ensuring requirements are not only within the scope of the contract but that the contract is being used most effectively.  In addition, on our GWACs and on EIS, training is mandatory for contracting officers who use these contracts prior to GSA issuing them a delegation of procurement authority.

Final Thoughts

Even with slight overlap, these vehicles will deliver flexibility to buyers across government through pre-existing, pre-vetted contracts, which ultimately saves government and industry from investing time and money on new and redundant open-market contracts.

A few final, important thoughts I want to share with you about collaboration:

  • Collaboration allows us to be responsive continually to existing and emerging needs of government agencies and industry
  • Continual collaboration is always a goal, often a challenge, and clearly an opportunity
  • We always look for ways to make IT acquisitions seamlessly support agency missions, rather than hinder them. We also work to align to industry partners’ business goals, when they do not detract from government goals
  • Customer convenience, flexibility, and choice will always matter

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join GSA’s ITS’s overall acquisition conversations.

Join us for a live webcast demonstration of the Acquisition Gateway with Q&A on Wednesday, October 07, 2015 at 2 p.m. ET, 1 p.m. CT, Noon MT, 11 a.m. PT. There’s no charge for this training, and you can earn one Continuous Learning Point (CLP). This webcast is open to all and only federal government agency personnel. Register today!


GSA AdvantageSelect: The Right Product, Right Now

Visit the GSAAdvantageSelect online portal.


For this Great Government through Technology Blog post, we welcome special guest author Erville Koehler, Region 4 Regional Commissioner.

GSA is making it easier than ever to use one of its flagship portals, GSA Advantage!, with the addition of GSA AdvantageSelect: a money saving program that makes shopping for pre-competed IT commodities easier and faster. AdvantageSelect draws concepts from category management, agile development, acquisition streamlining, and world class practices from Government and industry and is a game changing initiative for federal buyers. 

From this portal, a contracting officer or purchase card holder need only enter the quantity they require, and can proceed straight to check-out — so buying a commodity is finally as easy as click and pay. GSA has done the work for you by competing these items up front, applying category management principles and utilizing our latest procurement tools.

GSA plans to test two GSA AdvantageSelect offerings this fiscal year:  

  • 22 inch monitors in August 2015  
  • 14 inch laptop in September 2015 based on Strategic Sourcing Group standard configuration  

Category Management – The Path to Select

As part of GSA’s category management initiative, we met with agencies and vendors to determine basic parameters for purchasing commodities. Conversations ranged from small business utilization to ordering methods to life cycle management constraints. A significant step was the development of standard configurations for items like laptops and desktops.

Taking best practices from places like Army, Air Force, and even commercial entities such as Amazon, we rethought our approach to the commodities market and considered the tools available to us. We realized we already had many of the components to create a better buying portal, we simply needed to modify and re-purpose them.

Agile development – concept to production in less than four months

Agile development techniques were applied to systems development and the acquisition process itself.  Our goal is to test concepts on a small scale quickly, evaluate results, and proceed based on the results. For 22 inch monitors and the standard 14 inch laptop configuration, we are actually testing different procurement approaches and systems at the same time. For monitors, we are using e-buy, included quantity price breaks, and a classic GSA Advantage! upload method. For the laptop, we are using the GSA Reverse Auction Platform, no quantity price breaks, and a new GSA Advantage upload method. Although the tests are small, the data is a critical component in determining  our approach going forward.

Conceptually, the underlying GSA AdvantageSelect procurement will result in a short duration single award vehicle that will be posted to GSA AdvantageSelect.  “Short duration” will likely be defined by category or commodity to be consistent with production from an industry perspective, and life cycle management from an Agency perspective. Monitors which are plug and play could be relatively short (e.g., 3 months), whereas, a laptop which require more configuration might be a little longer (e.g., 1 year).

Moving forward – a place for businesses large and small

After the monitors industry day, interest in GSA AdvantageSelect was high, but small business concerns were raised. Fortunately, the regulatory framework offers an array of options to ensure small business remains a healthy part of the industrial base. In the future, the GSA AdvantageSelect program will expand and include competitive acquisition strategies so that multiple product offerings can be awarded not only using full and open competitive procedures, but also solely within the various sub-categories of small businesses, thus providing our customers with multiple product offerings from the entire socio-economic spectrum of industry.

As we continue testing the portal, meeting with customers, and conducting industry days, AdvantageSelect will evolve. Few things are set in stone at this point, however three goals remain in sharp focus: robust small business participation, savings for commodities purchased, and a streamlined acquisition process.


Networx Buying, IP Services, and Ethernet Migration Grow in FY 2015

For this Great Government through Technology Blog post, we welcome special guest author Bill Lewis, the Program Manager for GSA’s Networx program.

Most federal agencies continue to purchase network services through GSA’s Networx telecommunications program. Federal communications purchasing in the first half of FY 2015 shows that Networx continues to be a stable program with steady growth driven by demand for bandwidth. Overall, purchasing for network services on Networx exceeded $820M in the first half of the fiscal year, a 7.6% increase over the same period last year.

Like our last telecommunications insight blog, we wanted to explore and dive into some interesting trends we’ve seen in our Networx program. These purchases–and their associated trends–are also helping us shape the next-generation Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract, which GSA intends to have ready for government-wide use in 2017.

Internet Protocol Services Sales Dominate

Twenty years ago, more than 70% of federal purchases were voice related — either long distance voice or toll-free services. Unsurprisingly, today less than 10% of the purchases are voice-related services. Most of us have seen this same trend in our personal buying.  

Today, the bulk of services purchased are Internet Protocol (IP)-based services. Sixty percent of federal spending on Networx  is Network Based IP Virtual Private Networks (NBIPVPN) and management of these services. In the first half of FY2015, NBIPVPN purchasing is up 14% and purchasing services to manage this bandwidth is up 12%.

Purchase trends for various Networx services are shown below.

 Networx Service Type  Purchase Volume (FY15 First Half)  Percentage Change (First Half, FY14-FY15)
 Network Based IP Virtual Private Network Bandwidth  $391.1M  14%
 Managed Network Services  $102.0M  12%
 Toll Free Services  $64.4M   -10%
 IP Services (External Bandwidth)  $28.5M   8%
 Long Distance Voice Servies  $19.8M   -6%


Migration to Ethernet Technology

In terms of networking technologies, federal wireline purchasing is clearly migrating away from the traditional digital signal hierarchy towards native Ethernet.

The bulk of the federal inventory of bandwidth is still around the traditional DS-1, Digital Signal Hierarchy Level 1, which is a 1.5Mbps service. But in the past five years, the number of DS-1s in the federal inventory has shrunk nearly 4% annually. And number of “sub-rate” DS-1s (circuits with less than 1.5Mbps) has shrunk over 6% annually over the same period.  

Many of us have more bandwidth going into our homes than a DS-1, so it’s no surprise federal agencies are demanding more bandwidth as well. We rely more on applications stored in remote data centers or the cloud as we use more video, and rely on other services around unified communications.

We’ve seen some migration towards 45Mbps services, a “DS-3”, where growth was up 21% over the past five years. Now the trend is slowing, as evidenced by DS-3 growth only up 8% through the first half of this year. This slowdown is expected since DS-1s and DS-3s are legacy services originally designed for Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) equipment and voice-dominated networks.  

Because Ethernet services are designed for networks dominated by IP-based data rather than voice, Ethernet growth is higher as shown below for the past five years.

 Ethernet Purchasing off Networx  5-Year Annual Compound Rate
 10 Mbps Ethernet  138%
 100 Mbps Ethernet  78%
 1 Gbps Ethernet  60%


Shaping EIS and Preparing for Transition

Networx purchase data has driven some of the requirements for GSA’s EIS contract, which is in its final stages of development. For example, Ethernet will be a required service under EIS. But we haven’t developed EIS requirements in a vacuum by simply looking at historical purchase data.  

This spring and summer, we held three information exchange days with industry. These were well-attended, lively events, with over 150 participants in each session. In addition, we have been in frequent contact with government agencies and industry in other forums and individually to shape EIS.  

Over the next year, we will go through the acquisition process on EIS. At the same time, we are preparing for the transition from Networx and our regional telecommunications contracts to EIS.  As you know, we are extending the Networx contracts three years to 2020 to give agencies time to transition to EIS.  Four of the five Networx suppliers have submitted modification extension proposals.

We are also extending many of our local service agreements, including the Washington Interagency Telecommunications Contract 3 (WITS 3), to 2020. We are also working with agencies to develop transition plans and examine inventories of telecommunications services, both essential steps to a timely transition. Agencies will transition all telecom services, including secure Internet and data services as well as voice and toll-free services.
Please check out and register on our Interact site for status updates on EIS and our transition efforts. And be sure to follow ITS on Twitter @GSA_ITS for updates on all GSA’s IT offerings.