Focusing on the EIS Customer Experience

Posted by Mary Davie
on June 30, 2016

Note: This is a guest blog post by Amando E. Gavino Jr., Director, Office of Network Services, ITS/FAS/GSA. He is responsible for a portfolio of acquisition vehicles that provide government agencies with a diverse set of telecommunications solutions, including Networx, Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS), SATCOM, Enterprise Mobility, Connections II, and the Federal Relay Service.

On June 22, the General Services Administration (GSA) joined more than 200 representatives from across government and industry for a dynamic, customer-centric discussion about next-generation telecommunications under the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS), a comprehensive solution-based vehicle to address all aspects of federal agency information technology telecommunications, and infrastructure requirements.

EIS will provide mission-critical telecommunications infrastructure to the federal government for the next 15 years. It replaces the Networx, Washington Interagency Telecommunications System (WITS) 3, and GSA Regional telecommunications services contracts that expire in May 2020.

This event allowed us to hear from agency officials on a wide range of topics, including:   

  • What they need from EIS
  • How important it is for each agency to find opportunities when transitioning telecom services under current contracts to EIS
  • How they will meet the aggressive transition challenges

I’d like to take this opportunity to share more of the valuable feedback we received during the event. The customer-focused themes and advice give EIS stakeholders across government and industry more insight as we collectively move to EIS.

Top Customer Takeaways

  1. Every federal agency is affected – more than 150 agencies and 60 Tribal organizations
  2. Agencies need to have a sense of urgency, focusing continuously on preparing for their complete transition until finished
  3. The EIS program holds opportunities for agencies, including modernizing, securing and transforming agency infrastructure. Think transformation as a key goal, rather than simply transition to the new acquisition vehicle.  This means approaching EIS transition as an opportunity to transform agency telecom operations and add mission value.
  4. Top priorities for agencies include:
  • Complete transition before the current contracts expire in 2020
  • Increase bandwidth demands
  • Meet agency cybersecurity requirements (cyber is built into EIS)
  • Focus on network modernization
  • See both short and long-term cost savings
  • Pay only for what the agency uses
  • Improve performance at lower cost

  5. Agencies are driving demand, not the EIS acquisition vehicle

  • For example, due to local area networks increasingly connected to wide-area telecommunications networks over Ethernet interfaces (that time-division multiplexing interfaces were challenged to provide), demand drove Ethernet transport to be a mandatory service

  6. To have a successful transition, each agency needs an accurate inventory and strong senior leadership commitment

  • Inventory includes everything from traditional long distance to fully redundant, mission-critical, secure VPNs
  • More than seven million inventory items across 90 regional and eight Networx contracts must move

  7. Engage with GSA early, get the agency contracting officer on board early, and put agency governance in place

  8. Agency Transition Plans are due to GSA in October 2016

  9. Download a free copy of GSA’s just-released EIS Transition Handbook from the GSA Interact site

Industry Takeaways

  1. Industry needs to prepare for the anticipated tsunami of EIS task order requests;  Partners, teams, and processes have to be ready to go
  2. Agencies will be looking for high-quality proposals for task and service orders
  3. EIS wants to deliver tomorrow’s technology today and GSA encourages industry to work with government on ways to make that happen

Common Threads for Everyone

  1. EIS is designed as a flexible and dynamic acquisition vehicle that will require continued collaboration with GSA, government, and industry going forward
  2. All current federal government telecom inventory must be moved to EIS before the end of May 2020 – 47 months from now
  3. EIS will address changing technology needs throughout the life of the acquisition vehicle
  4. The EIS acquisition vehicle is expected to extend into 2031 with continuous technology refresh
  5. Year 2020 is just around the corner. Even though we’re in the midst of the EIS acquisition, we are also planning further into the future. We are updating the NS2020 strategy, which will become the NS2025 strategy

GSA looks forward to continuing this EIS transition customer-centric dialog with our industry and government colleagues. We will continue the conversation on this blog and our GSA EIS Interact community. If you need assistance with agency transition, reach out to us at the IT Customer Service Center at 855-482-4348 or ITCSC@gsa.gov.  And again, please download a free copy of GSA’s just-released EIS Transition Handbook from the GSA Interact site.

Thanks to @ACTIAC and @ITAlliancePS  for supporting our June 22nd transition conversation.  The event was hosted by the ACT-IAC Networks and Telecommunications (N&T) Community of Interest (COI),Information Technology Alliance for Public Sector (ITAPS), and other industry groups.

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

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ITS Builds Partnerships Improve Health IT

Posted by Mary Davie
on June 22, 2016

In February 2016, we started a strategic seven-year partnership with the Defense Health Agency (DHA) that represents an estimated $5.4 billion in spend for critical Health IT services and solutions (GSA-DHA Health IT Partnership, 2/4/2016. In just a few short months, it’s already succeeded and proven a model of how we can work across federal agencies to foster collaborative, integrated partnerships to create innovative IT solutions for various mission areas, such as healthcare.

I’m proud to recognize three GSA employees and their DHA counterparts who were recently nominated for the 2016 AFFIRM Leadership Award for their leadership in developing the DHA/GSA Health IT Partnership. The DHA/GSA Health IT Partnership will be recognized and honored at the 2016 AFFIRM Annual Leadership Celebration, Thursday, June 23, 2016.

We continuously strive to grow customer relationships and serve as a trusted advisor to help federal agencies make smarter, more strategic decisions. We work across agencies to foster collaborative, integrated partnerships to not only improve IT acquisition and procurement for our government customers, but also to leverage current IT services and solutions to meet their unique mission and operational requirements.

Jennifer Auble, a customer engagement manager; Larry Hale, director, IT category customer engagement division; and Michael Williams, national account manager with GSA’s Customer Accounts and Research, along with their DHA partners, have worked hard through many political and organizational barriers facing government procurement to achieve a groundbreaking partnership between GSA and DHA that is in the best interests of the federal government and the American taxpayer.

This partnership began when GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) and DHA entered into a strategic seven-year partnership representing an estimated $5.4 billion in spend for critical health IT services and solutions. Through this partnership, DHA will direct new health IT procurements to GSA IT contracts, including IT Schedule 70 and the Alliant, Alliant Small Business, 8(a) Streamlined Technology Acquisition Resources for Services II (STARS II), and Veterans Technology Services Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (VETS GWAC).

DHA uses these vehicles as the primary means of procuring supplies and services to support their existing and emerging health IT requirements. In addition, DHA has entered into partnership with GSA’s One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services (OASIS) program and with the Assisted Acquisition Services organization.

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

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Moving Toward a Better Marketplace for Desktop and Laptop Procurement

Posted by Mary Davie
on June 9, 2016

Recently, I talked about how important it is to keep up with the latest technology trends and changes taking place across government for purchasing IT products and services. ITS continually strives to streamline procurement processes and maximize federal spending to achieve better acquisition and operational efficiencies for government agencies while at the same time acting as effective stewards of taxpayer dollars.

One great example of how we’ve been able to do just that for IT hardware products is the Government-wide Strategic Solution (GSS) for Desktops and Laptops. This particular project focused on key areas of importance to me: leveraging the buying power of the federal government, collaborating with other federal agencies and industry, and creating acquisition efficiency.

Leveraging Our Buying Power

First, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recognized an opportunity for the government to improve how we buy IT hardware and issued a memo on October 16, 2015 mandating that all civilian agencies use three existing “Best in Class” vehicles to fulfill most of their laptop and desktop needs. OMB stated that cross-agency collaboration and industry feedback were the keys to taking full advantage of the government’s buying power in this space.

Inter-Agency Collaboration

Second, based on the need for increased collaboration and integration between services, OMB created the Workstations Commodity Team (WCT), now known as the Workstation Category Team (WCT). The WCT comprises IT and procurement professionals from NASA, the General Services Administration (GSA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The group spent over two years working with our industry partners and a consortium of over 20 federal agencies to develop a framework and strategy for solving some of the issues, like limited transparency and terms and conditions that were not common, that the government was facing in the IT hardware space.

As a result of the great cross-agency collaboration and in consultation with OMB, the Government-wide Strategic Solution (GSS) for Desktops and Laptops was developed. On February 2, 2016, GSA, NASA, and NIH hosted an industry day. We used this forum to share the updated specifications with industry and to seek their input for moving forward with the first technical refresh under the effort.

Efficiency

Lastly, the GSS currently gives agencies a choice of three desktop and three laptop configurations that meet the federal government’s requirements for more than 80 percent of systems purchased.

In addition to the six standard configurations, GSS for Desktops and Laptops has pre-negotiated policies and terms and conditions, and includes significant small business participation–over 85 percent, ensuring that agencies save time and meet socioeconomic goals.

A significant feature of the GSS for Desktops and Laptops is the continued focus on keeping up with fast-paced technology change. The program incorporates a technical refresh schedule every nine months, so specifications  reflect feedback from customer agencies and industry, aligning available configurations to market conditions and available technology.

Current configurations are now available for purchase on all three contracts. You can access the configurations on GSA Advantage and see all three contracts on the Acquisition Gateway.

By using existing best-in-class contract vehicles, streamlining procurement processes, and maximizing federal spend, we not only achieve better acquisition and operational efficiencies but also act as one and as effective stewards of taxpayer dollars.

The Challenge

Just to give you some perspective on how significant this particular initiative is, in fiscal year 2014 alone, federal agencies awarded more than 10,000 individual contracts and delivery orders for desktops and laptops, totaling approximately $1.1 billion. These products’ prices varied by almost 300 percent. If agencies requested different configurations, the prices went up even more.

Next Steps

On June 1, 2016, OMB released a GSS Desktop/Laptop buying event announcement to the CIO/CAO communities to increase awareness and encourage agency participation in the GSS initiative. GSA, NASA, and NIH will each  conduct buying events for laptops and desktops between June and September 2016. The planned buying events are in support of OMB Memo M-16-02, Improving Demand Management Practices (Aggregate demand to support leveraged buying events).

Accordingly, GSA IT Schedule 70 will conduct its first buying event during 4th Quarter 2016. GSA will request federal agencies to provide estimated quantities by June 17, 2016, in order to obtain maximum volume discounts, which will  streamline agency buying and drive down costs.

GSA’s acquisition will be conducted through the GSA Reverse Auction Platform based on estimated agency requirements, resulting in awards for manufacturer-specific, single-award government-wide Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) for each of the six GSS standard-configurations to the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) authorized resellers. These BPAs will be made accessible via the GSA AdvantageSelect platform, which allows agencies to purchase online without further competition.

ITS will continue to add new industry partners that offer the standard configurations and encourage small business participation. You can also use the GSA Advantage GSS icon GSS icon to identify products meeting the minimum specification on GSA Advantage.

To learn more about the program and how to order, visit the GSS for Desktops and Laptops webpage.
Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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Improved Software Policy through Category Management Best Practices

Posted by Mary Davie
on June 6, 2016

Last week, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced its latest policy leveraging Category Management, this time focusing on software as a means to drive greater efficiency in how we buy and manage mission-critical IT solutions while saving taxpayers’ money.

In order to meet federal agencies’ increasing demands and expectations, the government must come together as one to identify our common needs and maintain the highest levels of quality in the products and services we purchase to meet those needs.

This latest policy advances ITS’ use of industry best practices beyond what we’ve already implemented with computers and mobile devices and expands the great work we’ve done with software solutions. Expanding to better manage software enables us to better handle the billions of government dollars spent in this category.

We are part of the Enterprise Software Category Team and have already been working diligently to improve efficiencies in the software contracting space.

Geospatial Software Success

As an excellent example of Category Management success, in January we announced that our Office of IT Schedule 70 had worked closely with other agencies and the Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri) on a modification to their existing Schedule 70 contract. This effort resulted in improved efficiency, pricing, terms and conditions, and transparency, better managing the government-wide $294 million annual spend on geospatial software licenses. Esri is a principal among our industry partners as they capture $74 million of the annual federal spending on geospatial software.

With a few months under our belt, we are already seeing positive outcomes and are happy to report that agencies are already saving 10-14 percent on over $100 thousand worth of orders since the agreement was signed. We are estimating that the federal government will save over $1.5 million in FY 2016 and over $3 million in future years.

Salesforce Services Success

Late last year, we announced the award of the Salesforce Implementation, Integration, and Support Services (SIISS) BPA. Working closely with our customer agencies, industry partners, and the GSA Office of Information Technology, we developed – a governmentwide blanket purchase agreement (BPA) to centralize and streamline $503 million in IT Schedule 70 awards over five years. This BPA brings all Salesforce-related professional services, from development to implementation, under one easy-to-use acquisition vehicle.

Since launching this initiative, there has been a flurry of positive activity. Key among them is that multiple customer agencies are close to finalizing procurements leveraging the BPA.

We are also excited about several new Salesforce applications created this year that are now in queue to be packaged and placed on GSA Labs, a common repository of applications that leverages existing efforts and reduces duplication. Some of these applications include a vendor management module (VMO), executive business case tracking (EBC) and the presidential innovation tracker currently under development.

Based on feedback from partner agencies, GSA IT is creating a new utility that will organize the government’s existing Salesforce applications into one easy to read virtual library. This utility will provide a more comprehensive view of the different Salesforce implementations while reducing the burden on partner agencies by allowing them to only package applications in high demand.

Looking Forward

Using these as models of success, we look forward to continuing our work with OMB and other federal agencies to analyze the possibilities of other targeted agreements with our suppliers, looking for further opportunities to leverage the government’s buying power, reduce duplication, and bring significant spend under management. Innovative, Category Management-focused projects like these help agencies better meet their missions with direct and positive impacts for U.S. taxpayers.

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