Government-wide Desktops and Laptops, Smarter Buying

Posted by Mary Davie
on August 26, 2016

Note: This is a guest blog post by Kay Ely, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Integrated Technology Services.

ITS prides itself on providing federal agencies with IT solutions at the best value through the smoothest possible buying process. The recent addition of a new approach to buying hardware, the Governmentwide Strategic Solutions (GSS) for laptops and desktops, is a prime example of how several agencies worked together with our partners across government and industry to improve the buying process and at the same time get better prices for federal, state and local governments.

As govvies, we depend on laptops and desktops every day to get our work done and the amount we spend on computers proves it. Every year the federal government spends more than $1 billion to ensure that we have the critical equipment to do our jobs. 80 percent of that is spent on the same equipment from the same companies across thousands of contracts, with little visibility from one agency to the next as to what price is being paid. We knew there had to be a better way.

By working closely with agencies and industry partners an innovative approach was developed for acquiring the best equipment at the best price. To put it simply, standardizing requirements, and buying collectively – this is the “Governmentwide Approach”.

How’d we accomplished this?

Using a category management approach, IT Schedule 70 conducted a reverse auction to support the Office of Management and Budget’s recent GSS Laptop/Desktop buying events.

Thirty-six agency representatives attended these buying events to learn more about their computer purchasing options and five agencies have already collectively estimated intent to buy 56,000 laptops and desktops – this “acting as one” approach drove prices down by an average of 16 percent. And that is one good example! The GSS team plans to conduct buying events on a bi-annual basis moving forward.

To participate, suppliers submitted their initial quotes for six optimized configurations (three laptop and three desktop) to GSA via eBuy. Those who were rated technically acceptable were invited to participate in the pricing phase through the GSA Reverse Auction platform. Impress Technologies Solutions Inc. (Dell), ABM Federal Sales (Hewlett-Packard), and NCS Technologies Inc. (Lenovo) were awarded those contracts.

To make it easy for more agencies to benefit from this, we have been hosting Government-wide Strategic Solutions for Desktops and Laptops Buying Event Office Hours – informational sessions with agencies to explain the category management principles applied, the configurations and how to easily place orders.

Better Buying for the Future

Using this program, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has already placed an order for $230,845 which included 100 laptops and 125 desktops. This new pricing enabled the Museum to maximize their budget and get an additional 55 computers that they otherwise couldn’t have. Overall, this came to a savings, against the old pricing, of nearly $75K.

This is the first time that the government has bought laptops and desktops in this way. It’s a great example of category management at work — government and industry worked together, saving U.S. taxpayers an initial $8 million governmentwide, with additional savings to come as more agencies leverage these contracts.

By using this program, your agency could save up to 27 percent off the GSA standard pricing. Of course, the actual savings are going to vary from item to item, but overall this is very good for government. We’re encouraged by the initial success of this program. As we near the end of the fiscal year, government agencies can benefit greatly from the lower pricing to get the best value possible for their dollars spent.

To learn more about the configurations, contracts and to make your purchase, see GSA Advantage or the Acquisition Gateway.

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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Government IT Buying New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by Mary Davie
on February 11, 2016

(This blog post is part of a multi-week series reviewing data and trends from GSA’s IT acquisition vehicles for FY15. Read previous posts at http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/technology/)

Time to make our New Year’s resolutions for 2016!

In my last 13 blog posts, we looked at government IT trends for FY15 and what might be ahead in FY16 technology acquisitions for telecommunications, cloud, cybersecurity, mobility/wireless, hardware, software, and small business. We’ve got a good sense of the technology trends.

But how we go about buying the technology is equally important. I recommend these New Year’s resolutions:

  • Use existing government-wide contracts, like those from GSA and other agencies, instead of new and open market contracts.
  • Each time you need IT or telecommunications products, services, or solutions, check out the latest GSA offerings, which we continuously enhance.
  • Use the Acquisition Gateway for market research, to link to existing contracts that offer the IT solution you’re looking for, and to stay informed on best practices.
  • Collaborate across agencies every step of the way.

We can save lots of taxpayer dollars and achieve better acquisition and operational efficiencies with this resolution.

For more information about who we are and what we do, check out the slide presentation posted below.

And be sure to follow and engage us on Twitter @GSA_ITS and on the ITS LinkedIn page we launched last year.

This presentation covers ways to improve the acquisition process for customer agencies, by leveraging existing contracts, using category management and the acquisition gateway, and reducing IT acquisition duplication and costs.
Government IT Buying New Years Resolutions: To Improve What and How You Buy (PDF, 125 KB)

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Total Cost Savings Key in Federal Network Connections

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 14, 2016

(This blog post is part of a multi-week series reviewing data and trends from GSA’s IT acquisition vehicles for FY15. Read previous posts at http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/technology/)

Improving and maintaining reliable and flexible basic connectivity continues to be important for government, including a focus on total cost of ownership savings.

Connections II is the GSA contract agencies use to purchase network integration support and communications equipment to ensure connectivity from the user to the network provider.

FY15 Customer Buying Trends

Federal agencies obligated $172 million to Connections II network integration and support services via 292 task orders in Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15).

While building and campus connectivity remain the primary purpose of the Connections program, as technology continues to evolve we see a shift in what agencies are ordering. For example, traditional building and campus wiring and cabling projects are now becoming wireless.

Agencies are looking to Connections to support engineering, installation, testing, project management, and life-cycle management of Digital Antenna Systems, Wi-Fi, and other wireless technology that become the user interface to the broader networks of the world.

Connections II purchase data tells us that agencies need continued support and resources in this area. Five service types available from Connections II make up almost 80% of demand. Demand for telecommunications, network upgrades, and general network support were higher priority in FY15 than the year before.

Technology Solution Percentage of Total
Telecom Upgrades 20%
General Support 18%
Voice Operations and Billing Consolidation 15.6%
Unified Communications Expansion 13%
Network Cabling 10.5%

 

Connections II contractors offer strong integration skills, which are important during long upgrades or transition, to watch for technology changes and incorporate them into the final result.

Focus on Total Cost of Ownership Savings

Connections II customers are focusing on solutions that save dollars at both contract award and on long-term operational costs (total cost of ownership).

One agency awarded a large task order in FY15 that achieved more than 10% in labor savings and 40% in equipment savings over listed prices. Other agencies are anticipating more downstream savings as a result of consolidation and modernization.

Agencies are able to save millions with more efficient telecom operations and billing management over several years. They also reduce cost of operations and security, and increase network efficiency by modernizing technology such as nationwide Unified Communications Convergence.

Orders Increasing Year to Year

Demand for solutions from Connections II is growing every year. FY15 obligations represent an increase of 31% in obligations from FY14, and 60% in obligations from FY13.

In addition to Unified Communications, we see interest growing for Radio Access Networks (RAN), Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), and Land Mobile Radio (LMR). This is no surprise with the growth in mobile, since these technologies broaden the area signals can be received by mobile devices. They also assist with emergency preparedness.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join the conversation.

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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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IT Acquisition Best Practices & Dispelling Myths

Posted by Mary Davie
on July 28, 2015

In June, I read a great open letter from Susan M. Gordon, Deputy Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, that explained how to make sure we’re doing the best we can to get technology and related services to help us meet our missions.

This blog post is an open letter follow-up with seven best practices for agencies acquiring mission enhancing IT solutions such as software, hardware, telecommunications, cybersecurity, cloud, satellite, mobile, and other IT. These tips should help dispel some common myths.

  1. Make Market Research Personal – Don’t assume market research on paper and the Internet gives you the full picture. You’ll need to talk to experts each time you need an acquisition. Talk to industry, other agencies with similar requirements, and GSA. We administer many government-wide shared IT acquisition contracts. Check out the government’s open and independent resource – the Government Acquisition Gateway and hallways – as a starting point. You’ll find white papers, best practices, potential and existing contracts from GSA and other sources, and community discussion groups where you can ask questions and talk with other agencies.
  2. Always Talk to GSA – Each time you need IT, talk to us about pre-established contracts that might work well for you. It won’t take a lot of time to talk to us – we can use video conferencing or visit you in person. Contact a GSA Customer Service Director in your area to schedule a meeting. In addition to contract vehicles, GSA may be able to share an agency contact with you that recently addressed the same challenges and perhaps developed a best practice in the process. Even if you don’t have a live requirement at the moment, using GSA as a resource for strategic ongoing market research will make for better, well-educated, future buying decisions.
  3. Let Go of Preconceived Judgments – Some people have predetermined notions of many of the pre-established contracts. Letting go of preconceived judgments opens the door to finding the best solutions. For example, you may be surprised to learn how much control you have while using pre-established vehicles, and you may be amazed to find you can often and easily obtain lower pricing through additional negotiations than published, list prices.
  4. Know that Things Change – Don’t think that the government-wide contract you or your contractor checked a year ago is still the same. GSA and other agencies continuously refresh shared contracts and make them more user-centric every day. We’re talking more to government and industry. We constantly seek input on what agencies need today and what industry can offer. We are evolving contracts to meet those needs. For example, this year we’ve added a Cloud SIN to IT Schedule 70 to help agencies find their best cloud solutions easier than ever before. Even though a contract didn’t meet every need in the past doesn’t mean today’s options won’t be your best choices. The GSA of today is not the GSA of yesterday.
  5. Dig Further – If you have an industry partner working with you on market research and acquisition planning who recommends you go open source rather than use an existing contract, do you stop there? As a best practice, don’t. Keep in mind that in-house advisors have more involvement and financial benefit in doing steps required for open-source acquisitions, while pre-established contracts have those steps already completed. For example, if you have a contractor doing market research who recommends going open market for commercial satellite services, consider instead that GSA’s Custom SATCOM (CS2) and CS2-SB contracts have vetted partners and solutions without the overhead and cost of creating an entirely new contract. And remember to evaluate advisor recommendations to ensure they don’t steer toward a specific contract because they’re on it.
  6. Look for Efficiencies – Agencies who use existing contract vehicles with the IDIQ Fair Opportunity process or Multiple Award Contract/Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) save months in acquisition lead time. Why? Because many of the initial steps and approvals required to establish a full stand-alone procurement action, including pre-qualifying industry partners,  have already been done for you. Having to find and qualify contractors can add six months or more to the procurement process.
  7. Lower Agency and Taxpayer Costs – Government-wide contracts can achieve cost savings because multiple agencies are already using them, increasing volume buying from government to industry partners and driving competition to lower costs. I did a recent blog post, for example, about the FSSI Wireless BPAs and how they’re saving agencies on average 27% over what they had been spending on wireless services and devices. Start at the published contract pricing, but always request discounts and lower pricing. Whether you get discounts in initial years or option years, your actual cost will be lower than the initial cost evaluation.

The ultimate motivator and driver for all of us in public service isn’t what we perceive or think is best, but what we find after due diligence is really best for our missions and the American taxpayers.

If you chose not to use GSA for an IT acquisition, it’s ok. But a fresh conversation with GSA should always be part of the equation.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join the conversation.

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Connecting with ITS

Posted by Mary Davie
on April 15, 2015

If  you’re a regular reader of the ITS blog, you already know that we provide the government IT and acquisition communities with private-sector solutions for everything from simple IT commodities to complex infrastructure and emerging technology. Now, we’ve made it even easier for government buyers and our industry partners to get the information they need, whether it’s acquisition assistance or information about the latest telecommunications and technology initiatives: just visit gsa.gov/technology to connect with us.

gsa.gov/itshelp also provides access to statement of work (SOW) templates, ordering guides, ordering systems and the other tools government buyers need to get the job done, including the IT Solutions Navigator, a self guided decision tool that can point you to the contract vehicle that best meets your IT needs.

Check out what’s new  — The Acquisition Gateway

Among the challenges facing acquisition professionals when purchasing products and services is understanding how individual submarkets approach pricing and offerings, and what contracts already exist government wide to support acquisition of these services.

To address this need, GSA has turned to category management to reinvent acquisition, a tactic already used to help many Fortune 500 companies buy smarter. Work is now underway to develop the new Common Acquisition Platform (CAP), which will provide access and insights into transactional data from across government and help guide buyers through every step of the full acquisition process to include shared best practices from industry experts and thought leaders alike. CAP will also reduce the need for maintaining redundant and duplicative acquisition vehicles, systems and tools.

GSA has also launched the Acquisition Gateway, a space for acquisition professionals to  learn, connect, and act upon acquisition information, expertise, and advice.  Content on the Acquisition Gateway is divided into product and service category hallways and resources.

The IT category already has two active hallways, IT Hardware and IT Software, providing pricing tools and information, sample SOWs, best practices, and expert articles relative to that specific category for contract solutions across government. The Acquisition Gateway will be an important tool in supporting and improving how the federal community acquires IT.

By May 2015, additional hallways will be launched for Telecommunications, IT Security, IT Consulting, and IT Outsourcing, in addition to other categories outside of IT.

This is an exciting time to be a part of IT acquisition and I’ll have much more to discuss in June, but in the meantime, I recommend all government employees access the Acquisition Gateway.  Check back often as this is an agile platform that is expected to grow as its user base increases and becomes more collaborative.

Resolving Your Issues

Our goal is to resolve your issues within 48 hours and, even though federal acquisition can get complex, we’re doing quite well.

ITS FY15 Case Origin – How Customers /Vendors Reach Out to NCSC Number of FY15 Cases (Issues / Inquiries) Average Case Resolution Time Percentage of Cases Closed Within 48 Hours
Phone 693 36 Hours 85%
E-mail Inquiry 405 42 Hours 82%
Live Chat 244 34 Hours 87%
FY15 Total 1,342 38 Hours 84%

 

Stay Tuned

Getting updates on gsa.gov pages is an easy way for agencies and Industry to stay up to date on contract and program features, innovations, and changes.

For example, when GSA updates the free downloadable SOW templates on our website, you can receive an alert to let you they’re available.

You can subscribe to updates for a wide range of topics, including Technology and Telecommunications, Schedule 70, and Cloud IT Services. Just go to Get Updates, enter your email address, select your interests, set any preferences you prefer (including how often you’d like to receive alerts), and you’re ready to go. It’s that simple.  Of course, we’ll continue to share news “as it happens” on this blog.

And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join GSA’s IT acquisition conversation.

We Value Your Feedback

Our goal is simple: provide the support agency buyers and Industry partners need. Receiving feedback at every stage of the journey is critical to continuous improvement, driving value, and outstanding customer service. GSA already reaches out to agencies and vendors when we’re shaping specific programs, receives continuous feedback from customer and industry groups, and looks at our impact through our customer and vendor satisfaction surveys. You can find “Rate This Page”on the bottom right of our IT webpages.

Please help us to help you meet your IT acquisition needs by using the “Rate This Page” tool to fill out this form. It will just take a few seconds, but the information you provide about what’s working well and what’s not is invaluable.

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Trends in Federal Network Connections

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 7, 2015

(This blog post is part of a multi-week series reviewing data and trends from GSA’s IT acquisition vehicles for FY14. Read previous posts at  http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/technology/)

Connectivity is the lifeblood of government. Government investment in improving and maintaining basic connectivity may be a small part of our IT budgets, but an important one. Reliable and flexible connections remain vital as the mobile workforce grows.

Connections II is the GSA contract agencies often come to when they need to purchase support and equipment to provide connectivity from the user’s desktop to the point of interconnection of the customer’s network service providers.

Connections II Customer Buying Trends

Federal agencies obligated $124 million to campus and building networking solutions through Connections II and issued 133 task orders in FY 2014.

What Connections II purchase data tells us is agencies need continued support and resources in this area. Five service types available from Connections II make up almost 80% of demand.

Technology Solutions Percentage of Total
Voice Operations and Billing Consolidation 23%
Unified Communications Expansion 20%
General Support 15%
Telecom Upgrades 11%
Network Maintenance 10%

Customers predominantly look to acquire more consolidated support as it offers advantages for lowering costs and reducing redundancies.

Second, 20% of Connections II customers are seeking to merge Voice/Data/Video (Unified Communications). The emphasis is on need to communicate from any device, anywhere, any time.

Looking for Operational Savings over Time

Connections II customers are receiving solutions that save their operational budget over time.

For example, telecom operations, billing management, and VoIP/UC modernization for one agency is estimated to save $30 million over 3 years over existing operational costs. Another agency is performing a nationwide Unified Communications Convergence upgrade with an estimated operational savings of $25 million over 5 years.

Connections II has always had strong customer loyalty with most projects coming from repeat customers. Now, we’ve added a tiered fee potential for customers with multiple smaller tasks adding up to significant volume, to further reward these customers.

Orders Increasing Year to Year

Demand for solutions from Connections II is growing year to year. FY 14 obligations represent an increase of 29% in obligations from FY 2013 and 34% from FY 2012.

This growth occurred despite sequestration and the government shutdown for two and half weeks in FY 2014. Local connectivity is a necessity for workforce support, internal and external communications and core administrative activities that every agency needs.

Looking into the future, under Connections II, we expect to see more Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) as some customers do not want to own all their systems but instead buy the support.

In the world of wireless, we expect to see more about 802.11x technology, local LAN repeaters/amplifiers, etc. In security, we anticipate the need for new solutions for existing networks as well as future wireless networks.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join the conversation.

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Fireworks, Festivities, and Connections II Dashboard Launch

Posted by Mary Davie
on July 14, 2014

In July, we celebrate America, our independence, and our freedom. Thousands of fireworks take off one after another across our beautiful night skies and we have fun with family and friends.

This year, we have one more reason to celebrate — at least in the IT and data communities.

Over the July 4th weekend, our Connections II program launched an interactive, real-time Connections II dashboard. The tool allows Connections II users to view and analyze non-classified data on federal IT purchasing activity awarded under GSA’s Connections II.

Data turned into actionable information will allow government to buy smarter, help agencies make better buying decisions, and lead to smoother bid and proposal processes. More information can help agencies better understand purchasing trends, conduct better market research, and be better negotiators. Ultimately, government buying decisions based on consistent, shared information deliver dollar savings to U.S. taxpayers.

We collectively are opening up data, sharing it, and working together to find additional value. At GSA, we look for ways to make government purchasing data more open, transparent, and accessible, and the Connections II dashboard is one way to do this.

The Connections II dashboard creates a single point of access for all data on Connections II task order obligations, number of awards, agency/bureau, and industry partner activity.

Users have quick and easy access to the dashboard. Search results display in easily understood lists, graphs, and charts. The real-time dashboard gives meaningful and timely program information–whether to industry or government–at any time. Users can search for specific items, sort data, and create and download custom reports.

We try to give customers and industry partners real-time data whenever they need it – at both the agency and order level so government can increase data quality and spend analysis, and make better business decisions, and so industry partners can tailor their offerings.

Other Reasons to Celebrate

GSA is just getting the big data explosion started with using and sharing our data to everyone’s benefit. GSA has several other data transparency efforts underway for the government IT acquisition community:

  • Get spend data from our GWACs Dashboard and Networx.
  • Use the Prices Paid tool for GWACs and now Wireless BPAs for aggregate pricing information. (It requires a .gov or .mil login.)
  • Prices-paid pilot programs are underway for Schedules and our satellite program.
  • GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service is working on the common acquisition platform as a critical resource for federal buyers. It will contain even more tools, capabilities, and government-wide data on acquisition vehicles, intelligence, and prices paid.

If you want more information about Connections II, read about Connections II and transitioning to IPv6. We have several Statement of Work (SOW) templates you can download: IPv6 SOW to assist with IPv6 transitioning, DNSSEC SOW to help agencies with security transitioning from DNS to DNSSEC and email authentication based on the deployed DNSSEC, and a Unified Communications SOW template to help agencies combine voice, data, and video.

If you need help or information on GSA IT programs, go to our Need Help Page. Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join GSA’s IT acquisition conversation.

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The 4-1-1 to IPv6

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 2, 2014

Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) year-end FY14 deadlines are fast approaching for the federal government. If you haven’t started, now is a good time to consider how far we’ve come and what we have left to do to complete IPv6 transition.

The CIO Council’s IPv6 guidance tells us where we’ve been and defines the phased milestones we must meet. So how to get there becomes the question: Have you completed the transition? If not, do you have a plan of action to meet the IPv6 FY14 year-end deadlines?

New Resources are Available

Whether you have a plan and just need a bit of additional help or you’re in the early stages and want a lot of assistance, GSA’s IPv6 SOW Template and Connections II IPv6 resources can help.  

GSA’s IPv6 SOW Template, prepared with input from OMB’s IPv6 Working Group, will make the final journey to IPv6 easier to navigate. Our IPv6 SOW and related documents will help guide agencies through the acquisition process to obtain support to meet the full spectrum of IPv6 deadlines and requirements in a standard, achievable way.  

The template covers everything you need for IPv6: planning, systems analysis, hardware, software, labor, test and integration support. Customize it to suit your needs for any contract, system or equipment. We also include sample inventory and pricing charts, and a potential work breakdown structure. Agency acquisition documents will need to include IPv6 specifications going forward.

Besides providing the SOW Template, Connections II connects agencies to companies with expertise in IPv6 transition services and support. In addition, GSA’s:

  • IT Schedule 70 offers commercial IPv6-compliant IT products and services.

  • Networx allows federal agencies to build seamless, secure operating environments through customized telecommunications services, including IPv6 services.

  • Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs) provide IPv6 transition services as part of a total IT solution.

IPv6 Enterprise-wide Benefits

Today, both IPv4 (the legacy Version of IP) and IPv6 are in use. Agencies not only need to meet the deadlines to achieve business continuity across the Internet, but must leverage IPv6 protocol capabilities and ensure compatibility with new Internet services.

The CIO in its IPv6 Roadmap states: “There is more to the IPv6 transition than achieving the basic objective of providing additional addresses. As federal agencies integrate IPv6 within their current operations, they also have the opportunity to employ the new technology to optimize and enhance their business functions.”

“The technological advances provided by the new protocol,” the roadmap continues “will enable agencies to significantly enhance their mission capability by removing the limiting technology of the legacy protocol, IPv4, and adopting IPv6 as the new standard for supporting operational efficiency.“ It can also reduce agency network administration and security support costs downstream.

Rundown of IPv6 Milestones

1990s – Due to economic demand of greater “information accessibility” across the Internet, the worldwide community deploys high-performance infrastructure and begins to develop IPv6

2005 – OMB issues Memorandum M-05-22, “Transition Planning for Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6)”

2008 – Federal agencies must deploy IPv6 on federal government network backbones

2009 – Federal CIO Council issues best practices guidelines in “Planning Guide/Roadmap toward IPv6 Adoption within the U.S. Government” (the “Roadmap”), which has since been updated

2010 – OMB releases a subsequent memorandum titled “Transition to IPv6”

2011 – Remaining available IPv4 addresses are released regionally for consumption; Asia Pacific region exhausts its supply of IPv4 Internet addresses, and European and North American regions’ supplies being exhausted

2013 – GSA issues IPV6 SOW Templates and documents to assist agencies with looming deadlines for IPv6

FY 2012-2014 – Federal agencies must achieve phased objectives at end of FY12 and FY14

Be sure to also check out the Planning Guide/Roadmap Toward IPv6 Adoption within the U.S. Government from CIO.gov. It gives guidance on IPv6, worldwide implications, regulations and anticipated impact on government initiatives.

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