GSA AdvantageSelect: The Right Product, Right Now

Posted by Mary Davie
on August 26, 2015

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.

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

Posted by Mary Davie
on August 13, 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.

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