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IT Services: Driving Mission Delivery of IT Capabilities, Customer Engagement

(Note: This is a guest blog post by Casey Kelley, acting director for the Office of IT Services within ITC, General Services Administration’s (GSA) Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). As the acting director, Kelley is responsible for a $14+ billion portfolio of contracts that provide federal, state, local, and tribal government agencies with a diverse set of information technology solutions.)

The FAS IT Services portfolio team played a significant role in driving mission delivery of IT capabilities across government during fiscal year (FY) 2016. By providing expertise and procurement support through customer engagement, governmentwide contract vehicles and Best-in-Class (BIC) acquisition solutions, GSA helped government agencies acquire innovative technologies, reduce duplicative enterprise contracts, and improve internal efficiencies.

Customer Engagement is Key to Success

The IT Services team considers customer engagement the key to success, working across government with our agency partners to:

  • Share best practices and ideas
  • Drive IT innovation to help support mission requirements
  • Resolve governmentwide IT challenges (i.e., systems integration through data center optimization)
  • Improve acquisition solutions and availability of data and information

We measure our success directly on agencies’ ability to acquire the best IT solutions and services at competitive pricing to meet mission requirements. Customer and industry feedback is an important tool.  Listening allows us to understand strategic and tactical requirements and offer the right solution. So, whether it’s an IT Schedule 70 solution, a GWAC, or another IT contract or program, we will have the right solution for agencies looking to acquire anything IT.

IT Schedule 70

IT Schedule 70 offers more than 7.5 million products, services, and solutions from more than 4,600 contract holders. We constantly scan the market to ensure we are adding new products and services, adding new innovative companies, and working with federal, state, local and tribal agencies to meet specific needs and demands.

Agencies that choose IT Schedule 70 can boost their return on investment by maximizing their budgets and reducing procurement lead times by up to 50% over open market purchases. Further, in the past two fiscal years, IT Schedule 70 has experienced increased usage by agencies—$14.8 billion in FY 2015 and $15.1 billion in FY 2016 with about half of those purchases were for IT services. And these figures also include state and local government utilization of IT Schedule 70.

GWACs

Because they deliver a broad range of comprehensive, flexible, easy to use, and innovative solutions, government agencies continue to use GWACs for small through very large, complex requirements. Spending for FY 2016 on GSA GWACs was $6.2 billion:

  • 8(a) STARS II – $1.4 billion
  • VETS – $126 million
  • Alliant – $3.4 billion
  • Alliant Small Business – $1.3 billion

Looking Forward: Best-in-Class

For FY 2017, the IT Services team is pursuing Best in Class (BIC) designation for the Alliant GWAC. Best-in-Class is a contracting and acquisition classification used across government to denote contracts that meet rigorous category management performance criteria as defined by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and approved by the Category Management Leadership Council. A BIC designation recognizes these contracts as ‘good-for-government’ purchasing solutions that should be used by all agencies. BIC solutions are designed to meet specific criteria that helps maximize IT value for government agencies. BIC qualities include:

  • Developing contract solutions in partnership with agency customers
  • Applying Category Management principles
  • Maintaining consistent and constant collaboration with government agencies and industry partners
  • Using transactional data to improve product offerings
  • Demonstrating a commitment to small business
  • Using Processes to monitor, improve and report pricing and buying patterns to help agencies make more informed decisions

Over the Horizon

Special Item Number (SINs)

Moving forward, the IT Services team will be focusing their efforts on two of the newer IT Schedule 70 SINs:

  • Health IT SIN (132-56) – includes various Health IT services (e.g., connected health, electronic health records, health information exchanges, Health analytics, Personal health information management, etc.)
  • Cloud SIN (132-40) – includes all cloud services that brings potential efficiency improvements and savings to agencies

The IT Services team will work closely with agencies to ensure the new SINs are meeting government’s needs and to provide training and consulting. They will also continue working with industry to bring more companies into the Schedule 70 program and under the SINs.

The team will also concentrate on the GSA IT Schedule 70 Professional Services SIN (132-51), which is the largest Schedule 70 SIN in terms of dollars. Exploring and applying some of the successful industry-customer collaboration best practices used by the GSA Alliant GWAC program will also help us understand how to leverage the new SINs to their full potential.

Open Market Spend

The IT Services team is also working on developing an “open market spend” model for a repeatable process that accurately identifies task orders originally awarded through open market buys.

Alliant and VETS Next Generation GWACs

Finally, the next generation GSA GWACs (Alliant 2, Alliant 2 Small Business GWACs, and VETS 2) are all expected to be awarded and operational in FY18. Once they are in place, the team will begin performing a broad outreach effort to educate and train customers on these latest offerings.

About IT Services

GSA’s IT Services Subcategory, composed of IT Consulting and IT Outsourcing services, is responsible for a portfolio of contracts and programs providing government agencies with a diverse set of IT solutions. To learn more, please visit our IT Consulting and IT Outsourcing Hallways on the Acquisition Gateway.

Also, follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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IT Hardware: Delivering Cost Savings through Desktops & Laptops

This blog post is part of a seven-part series reviewing the Acquisition Gateway and IT Category data, trends, expertise, and advocacy that GSA’s ITC organization offers to support other agencies’ missions.

(Note: This is a guest blog post by Paul Morris, IT Hardware Subcategory Manager for ITC in GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). He oversees the management of GSA’s IT Hardware solutions, Client and Supply Management, and Market Analysis, and publishes relevant content within the IT Hardware’s Category Hallway in GSA’s Acquisition Gateway.)

During Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, GSA implemented and delivered contract vehicles and easy-to-use solutions that resulted in significant savings for government agencies. One major initiative that is already leveraging the federal government’s buying power, collaborating with other federal agencies and industry, and creating acquisition efficiency is the Government-wide Strategic Solutions (GSS) for Desktops and Laptops program.

The GSS program is co-led by HHS/NIH, NASA, and GSA with heavy involvement from the Army CHESS program.  GSA’s IT Schedule 70 contractors offer the GSS standard configurations for desktop and laptop computers that provide government agencies lower pricing, standard terms and conditions, access to spend and pricing data, and best- in-class solutions. These standard configurations were developed by the GSS team after evaluating governmentwide spend data for laptops and desktops, and working with more than 20 agencies to understand what was being purchased and what the agencies’ needs were.

GSS for Desktops & Laptops Sees Growth

Current spend indicates that desktops and laptops account for approximately 10 percent of the total $12 billion in annual government IT hardware. When GSA’s GSS Desktop and Laptop program first launched in October 2015, we were encouraged by the initial success. Based on FY 2017 end-of-first quarter data, we are seeing purchasing increase through the GSS Desktop and Laptop IT Schedule 70 program, as well as across NIH’s Chief Information Officer-IT Commodities and Solutions (NIH CIO-CS) governmentwide acquisition contract (GWAC), and NASA’s Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (NASA SEWP).

Moreover, across GSA’s IT Schedule 70, NIH’s CIO-CS GWAC, and NASA’s SEWP, we have seen an increase in usage to date, when compared to the same period during FY 2016 (an increase from $270,000 to nearly $5 million in GSS purchases alone). We expect strong growth throughout the remaining three quarters in FY 2017, well over 2016’s approximate spend of $16 million.

Likewise, in the previous fourth quarter of FY 2016, GSA and NASA government-wide buying events resulted in discounts of 15 percent to 23 percent from standard contract pricing (depending on the GSS system purchased), an average savings of 19 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

The Holocaust Memorial Museum was one agency that benefitted from the government-wide buying event. Since we provided the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum with cost estimates of need upfront, they were able to procure an additional 55 computers because of the savings.

Looking Ahead in IT Hardware

We are taking lessons learned and making continual improvements to our hardware offering.  We are working with the GSS team and will be upgrading the standard configurations, exploring options for expanding the offerings, and planning our FY17 buying event.

Here’s a look ahead for the IT Hardware Subcategory:

  • We’re improving GSA eTools — This year, all GSS Desktops and Laptops in GSA Advantage!® will be easy to find and will have a consistent look and feel for configuration and pricing information.
  • We’re incorporating FY 2016 lessons learned into our planning for FY 2017 GSS Buying Events — We are changing the equipment configuration and features, and communicating early that we intend to host a fourth quarter GSS buying event.
  • We’re supporting the IT Security Subcategory’s Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) Provenance pilot — By improving existing SCRM into our solutions, we can reduce agency risk and increase buyer confidence. We’ll work with our customers and vendors to assess the use of SCRM controls in the desktop and laptop purchase experience.

We are excited about the solutions in place under GSS Desktops and Laptops, and the potential to save federal agencies time and money.

To learn more about the IT Hardware Category program, contracts, hardware configurations, or to share your thoughts on the program, reach out to the GSA IT Hardware Subcategory Manager, or browse the Acquisition Gateway’s IT Hardware Subcategory Hallway.

We also offer several ways to purchase IT hardware:

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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IT Software: Cost Savings in Enterprise Licenses Agreements, Strategic IT Resourcing

This blog post is part of a seven-part series reviewing the Acquisition Gateway and IT Category data, trends, expertise, and advocacy that GSA’s ​Office of Information Technology Category (ITC) organization offers to support other agencies’ missions.

(Note: This is a guest blog post by John Radziszewski, Director, Office of IT Products within ITC in GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). In this capacity, he oversees GSA’s IT Hardware and Software Subcategories.

GSA’s IT Software Subcategory team is implementing government-wide strategies and initiatives that will reduce costly duplication of enterprise software agreements, improve pricing, and better leverage the government’s buying power. This is being accomplished by enhancing current IT Schedule 70 contracts such as: Environmental Systems Research Institute’s (Esri) geospatial software, Carahsoft’s Adobe’s data-centric security and electronic signature solutions, and Carahsoft’s Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) software. These enhancements give government users what they need, when they need it, and at the lowest cost.

The federal government spends at least $6 billion annually on commercial software through more than 50,000 individual contracting actions — not an optimal way to buy. This way of procuring commercial software licenses usually results in duplicate IT investments across agencies, causing disjointed pricing indexes, terms, and conditions, and increasing the complexity of licenses management.

To tackle this issue, the Enterprise Software Category Team (ESCT) is enhancing new Enterprise Licenses Agreements (ELAs) to reduce duplication of enterprise software agreements, improve pricing, and better leverage the government’s buying power.

Leveraging Government’s Buying Power through ELAs

Through smart government-wide mandates, GSA is currently enhancing ELAs on IT Schedule 70 to better meet government needs, while at the same time reducing duplication of enterprise software licenses, improving cost savings, and optimizing the government’s procurement capabilities. This allows agencies to redirect funding to other mission priorities.

In January 2016, we’ve already enhanced the following government-wide enterprise software license agreements:

GSA‑​Carahsoft’s HPE — The enhanced software agreement with Carahsoft for HPE IT management solutions could result in discounts of up to 39 percent over commercial pricing for government agencies and a potential savings up $50 million over five years for taxpayers.

GSA‑Carahsoft’s Adobe — Again working with Carahsoft, on their Adobe’s data-centric security and electronic signature solutions, it will result in potential savings of $350 million.

GSA‑Esri geospatial software — We agreed to modify Esri’s IT Schedule 70 terms and conditions for geospatial software ELAs. It will result to at least an additional 3% in savings for agencies.

Today, agencies with existing Carahsoft’s HPE/Adobe and Esri software can now take advantage of immediate savings by switching to these ELAs by processing a simple modification. Agencies who make the switch can receive additional savings on ELA prices.

A Look Ahead: Software License Management Service (SLMS)

Working with several agencies, GSA developed a Software License Management Service (SLMS) that can generate significant cost savings by:

  • cutting unnecessary software license spending,
  • implementing controls on the software license management lifecycle, and
  • improving an agency’s cybersecurity posture by tracking and monitoring vulnerabilities.

SLMS uses subject-matter experts to engage agencies with one goal in mind: saving the government (and taxpayers!) money on software licensing. The program is the foundation for successfully managing software. It employs a phased approach to assess agency maturity relevant to IT Asset Management (ITAM), while establishing plans for implementing improvements.

To date, GSA has successfully launched SLMS pilots at three agencies:

  • For GSA, our focus has been on deploying a cutting-edge software asset management toolset, targeting a quick ‘Return On Investment’ on software buys. This is achieved by capturing, controlling, and evaluating GSA’s current software inventory and procurement data, and finding areas for demand management.
  • At the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the SLMS team is conducting a current-state gap analysis based on an ITAM maturity model. The outcomes will be a detailed analysis of program performance and a future roadmap for organizational maturity.
  • For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), we helped develop a full suite of ITAM governance, processes, procedures, and policies.

We are ready to expand the pilot to other agencies as well. If your agency is interested in an approach to software asset management, please contact our team (SLMS@gsa.gov). We are here to help you capture real cost savings, enhance cybersecurity, and comply with federal mandates.

To learn more and to access best practices and contract information, please visit the Software Hallway on the Acquisition Gateway.

Also follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

Other News!

2017 Category Management Conference

The American Council for Technology (ACT) and Industry Advisory Council (IAC), and GSA are co-sponsoring an event on Category Management and the Acquisition Gateway. The robust speaker list includes leadership from the the IT Category, the Gateway team, industry, and others! Get more information on the 2017 Category Management Conference.

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Working Hard to Improve Security, Safety, and Quality of Life for Americans

This blog post is part of a seven-part series reviewing the Acquisition Gateway and IT Category data, trends, expertise, and advocacy that GSA’s ​Office of Information Technology Category (ITC) organization offers to support other agencies’ missions.

(Note: This is a guest blog post by Amando E. Gavino Jr., Director, Office of Telecommunications Services. Gavino is responsible for a portfolio of telecommunication acquisition solutions that provide government agencies the ability to meet their diverse set of telecommunication requirements.)

ITC’s Office of Telecommunications Services provides a wide variety of offerings to federal, state and local governments which includes voice, video, data, managed network services, call center services, mobile and wireless, satellite services, last mile connections and much more. Because of our partnership with industry and our robust solution sets, we are able to provide government agencies seamless access and support, thus achieving shared value and expanding the benefits of modern technology. We’re continually transforming and enabling improvement to the security, safety, and quality of life for our nation and its citizens.

We enhance security by providing the communications services that connect law enforcement resources with information locally and worldwide to counter crime and terrorism. We also support the safety of our men and women in uniform, humanitarian relief, disaster-response, and counterterrorism efforts through satellites. And the telecommunications service we provide also improves government’s ability to respond  anywhere and anytime through mobile devices (i.e., tablets and wireless smartphones); enhances patient health care for veterans and aging population; supports farmers and ranchers; tracks wildlife and diseases; and ensures food safety and inspections.

A Look Back at 2016

We’re always trying to improve, and here are a few ways:

Simplifying, Standardizing, and Buying in Volume

The Category Management (CM) approach to simplify, standardize, and make use of volume to streamline enterprise-wide telecom is the focus of Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS). CM helps us adapt our solutions as the industry changes and as agency needs change. For example, we’re being less local and more global to ensure agencies adopt security and unified communication technologies that comply with best practices.

Managing Telecom as a Subcategory

We are managing Telecom and all of our offerings in IT as a comprehensive portfolio and have technical, functional and acquisition experts to help agencies buy in a more efficient way and improve mission delivery.

Engaging Agencies and Industry

In 2016, GSA continued to engage agency and industry partners to shape the upcoming EIS, which will replace Networx and local and regional telecom services. We formed the EIS Infrastructure Advisory Group (IAG) to define priorities share best practices, plan for transition and ensure the final EIS solution meets government’s needs.

Optimizing Telecom Use and Spend

Because of our strong partnerships with agencies, GSA’s telecommunications program is recognized as “the government’s telecommunications program,” and as a result, we are able to aggregate and leverage more than $2 billion in annual spend and document over $675 million in savings.

Providing a Range of Purchasing Options

We recognize that ease of use is critical for our agency customers so we offer a range of purchasing solutions across our IT and telecommunications contracts — everything from self service through delegated procurement authority … to monitoring contract service level agreement achievement … to providing advice and consulting to providing fully assisted services.

Enhancing Agencies’ Understanding of Telecom Purchases

Telecom has been managed as a category for a while. Because of standard service definitions and contract terms in contracts like Networx, agencies can make “apples to apples” comparisons around services. This makes it easier for GSA and other agencies to make comparisons between suppliers and to get the best value for their purchases. And, because of the data we collect on purchasing, GSA can clearly see purchasing trends which shape future contracts (e.g., EIS, etc.) and our discussions with agencies and suppliers. We continually refine this data driven approach to supplier management to get better value for agencies and taxpayers.

Here is what we have seen over the past 10 years. Demand for bandwidth has increased at a compound annual growth rate that exceeds 30 percent, but our normalized costs for the bandwidth has decreased. Part of this is simply an industry phenomenon. Bandwidth is getting cheaper; however, part of this is due to our data driven approach to our interactions with suppliers. We expect bandwidth to be “cheaper by the dozen” and we have an approach to ensure this is the case. Further, most agencies are modernizing their networks through increased bandwidth demand, especially via Ethernet services. For instance, enterprise network services are migrating towards 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet; our Networx extensions focused on this migration and Ethernet is an EIS required service.

The increased demand for these services drove purchasing up 10 percent on Networx in 2016, which further lowers telecom costs, especially for Ethernet services. The availability, performance, and price of Ethernet services will remain important for years to come. In 2017 and beyond, EIS is on target to continue lowering costs for government.

2017 Telecom Priorities

Our biggest priority in 2017 is to continue to collaborate across government and industry, and begin the transition to EIS.

The EIS Transition Challenge Government-wide

GSA and agency partners are preparing for the EIS awards so transition can begin and be completed by 2020. All agencies using Networx were required to submit Agency Transition Plans, which were due in fall 2016. We are excited to continue to work with industry and agency partners to take advantage of new solutions and new technology.

Mobility Savings and Enhanced Management

Mobile services are also in the spotlight in 2017. Five wireless service plans — three data and two voice plans — represent more than 90 percent of federal government’s purchases of mobile services. Standardized buying forces competition to focus on price and quality since many features and requirements are the same (Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative-Wireless (FSSI-W) customers paid 26%  less in 2016 than in 2012 because of this simple standardized strategy). In 2017, the government-wide Mobile Services Category Team (MSCT) will drive further savings as FSSI-W growth continues and the MSCT defines the next-generation mobility program.

Demands for Bandwidth, Security, and Satellites

Bandwidth demands and security capabilities will continue to grow in 2017, and we’ll also launch a new Commercial Satellite Custom Commercial SATCOM Solutions (CS3) contract.

In all these areas, we partner with agencies to find the best telecom infrastructure solutions to meet mission needs.

Learn More about Telecom Solutions

To find out more about available tools, best practices, and telecom solutions, select Telecommunications and Network Services on GSA’s website and visit the Telecommunications Hallway on the Acquisition Gateway.

Please follow ITC on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT. Visit all the IT Hallways on the Acquisition Gateway for more information on the IT category and subcategories.