GSA Puts Sharing First

Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel described his path forward for federal IT in a policy speech in Silicon Valley this October and again in the draft Federal IT Shared Services Strategy released just this month. He articulated a “Shared First” paradigm that will lead agencies to root out waste and duplication by sharing IT services, infrastructure, procurement vehicles, and best practices.

As the go-to partner for acquisition, GSA can help agencies go “Shared First”. We are ready to leverage our deep experience in working with customers across government to address their most challenging IT acquisition problems.

Shared IT services

The draft Shared Services Strategy requires agencies to move two “commodity IT services”—back-office IT services common to every agency—to a shared environment by December 31, 2012.

We have provided shared IT services to dozens of agencies over the years. For example, over 90 federal agencies use our USAccess identity management service to issue and manage their employee ID cards.

We are excited to help customers think about how to further consolidate their IT systems.

Shared infrastructure

Before the Federal Data Center Consolidation initiative, the federal government warehoused its data in over 3,000 data centers, tying up outsized amounts of capital and real estate and resulting in higher emissions.

According to VanRoekel, the federal government will close 1080 data centers by the end of 2015, with an estimated cost savings of $3 to $5 billion. GSA is working with agencies to achieve these savings by migrating to shared infrastructures through our data center services and cloud solutions.

Using a shared infrastructure also enhances service, since agencies can rapidly scale their capabilities up and down to match their mission needs, and recover more quickly after an emergency.

Shared procurement

Agencies also use GSA vehicles to minimize their contracting overhead. The State Department has done this by consolidating more than 100 existing task orders down to four through our Alliant and Alliant Small Business Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs) for a secure network infrastructure.

When agencies buy alone, they also miss out on the volume discounts available when the government pools its buying power. Customers can get these kinds of discounts from the SmartBUY software program. GSA is also defining new ways for federal, state, local, and tribal government organizations to aggregate their demand by buying IT products as a commodity.

Shared best practices

GSA helps agencies use current best practices in contracting by posting sample statements of work (SOWs) for many of our contracts, such as Alliant and Connections II.

To support common standards, we aligned two GWACs (Alliant and Alliant Small Business) with the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) and Department of Defense Enterprise Architecture (DoDEA). This means agencies can more easily use past SOWs and report their IT investments to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). It also means that the scope of both GWACs grows and changes as vendors’ technology capabilities grow and change, without requiring a technical refresh.

Give us your feedback

I encourage everyone involved in government IT acquisition to review the federal Shared Services Strategy (PDF) and provide comments. For background, you can watch VanRoekel’s speech or read a transcript. I’d like to know how you plan to use a “Shared First” approach for your agency – please leave a comment or find me on Twitter!

Speeding up the Fast Track – Coming in First for Customer Service

In April, President Obama issued Executive Order 13571, “Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service”, requiring agencies to create and publish customer service plans. In line with that directive, GSA recently published its own customer service plan.

As we implement our plan, I want to share some of the ways in which we at ITS are already improving customer service. As I see it, we are on an exciting ongoing journey that directly involves our customer agencies and industry partners. Making this journey as easy and fast as possible will require three things:

  • a passion for delivering results and value
  • a willingness to take on new perspectives, and
  • frequent, open, and honest communication.

Delivering Results and Value to Customers

ITS is the federal government’s largest and most experienced IT acquisition partner. Our unique relationship with other government agencies and industry partners gives us the opportunity to create value for both our customers and for taxpayers. We work closely with most federal agencies and the best vendors in government IT, so we can share, reuse, and leverage best practices.

We help agencies identify and aggregate their shared needs, providing value that isn’t available through in-house procurement. Our partnership with GSA’s Office of Assisted Acquisition Services (AAS) means that agencies can get support across the entire acquisition lifecycle to ensure that requirements are met on time, within budget, and with reduced risk.

We also reduce acquisition risk by setting up flexible, innovative contract vehicles, and working hand-in-glove with agencies and industry to define and meet requirements. This past year we solicited direct agency and industry involvement in our new cloud offerings, future telecommunications contracts, our new IT commodity program, and USAccess (HSPD-12). This collaboration has already shown positive results, including the release of the RFQ for our upcoming FSSI Wireless program.

Adopting a Different Perspective

Sometimes the best way to move forward is to see things from a different angle. By taking on our customers’ perspective, we at GSA are able to pave the way for industry to seamlessly deliver and implement IT solutions for government. Industry then has incentives to point out where GSA can improve and to share their commercial customer service best practices.

Customers also benefit from thinking big—when your agency identifies a need for a new method or procurement process, think about how other agencies could participate in a shared solution. Come talk to us. You may be surprised at what we can do, or what we already have in the works.

Increasing and Expanding Communication

To develop this broader perspective, we’re reaching out with new ways to engage customers and industry. Our efforts dovetail with President Obama’s direction to advance customer service through innovative technology.

Over the past six months, we’ve done this in a variety of ways, such as posting draft RFIs and RFQs on the BetterBuy wiki to solicit input on our FSSI Wireless and Network Services 2020 programs. We have employed two-way communications channels, such as our Twitter account, this blog, and community websites, enhancing industry’s and customers’ access to ITS and to each other. We are also overhauling our web presence to better explain our offerings and make it easier to find information. Together, these initiatives should make our initial conversations with customers more productive and meaningful.

As we create and update these tools and channels, please use them and tell us what you think. We are asking you to give us your honest assessment before, during, and after we work together. We always want to know what we could be doing better so that we remain the government’s trusted go-to resource for all of their IT and telecommunications needs.

Let me know how we’re doing by leaving a comment here or reaching me on Twitter.