Navigating the Future of Mobile Services

Posted by Mary Davie
on December 15, 2016

(This blog post reflects my perspective as the government-wide IT Category Manager)

Today, the federal government spends more than $1 billion annually on mobile services. An agile and evolving federal workforce is driving an ever-increasing need for agencies to have the ability to meet their missions, and do their work securely anywhere, anytime, and on any device in order to serve U.S. citizens.

Fast-changing mobile technology and increased demand are putting pressure on agencies to determine how best to acquire, maintain, and manage mobile resources. So government needs a mobile plan that looks ahead. And that’s just what the Mobile Services Category Team (MSCT) aims to accomplish.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Category Management Leadership Council (CMLC) set up the MSCT to develop and implement a government-wide strategic plan to increase efficiency and drive savings related to acquiring government mobile services. The cross-agency team looks at how agencies can best navigate the future of mobile services. OMB, GSA, and the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and State lead the MSCT.

While they’re taking input from agencies across government and industry, the MSCT has already accomplished several goals, such as establish strategic objectives, prepare mobile device guidance, make plans for a mobile brokerage feasibility study, incorporate industry partners’ insights and expertise, and are taking on mobile reporting and data management.

MSCT Roadmap and Guidance

OMB’s August Mobile Services and Devices memo (M-16-20) assigns several responsibilities to the MSCT, and the first three are now complete. Documents from these tasks are posted on the Telecommunications Hallway in the Acquisition Gateway.

1. Mobile Services Roadmap – The MSCT published the roadmap so agencies can develop mobile tools and solutions that will conform to Category Management principles and best meet agency and user needs. It focuses on general-use needs similar for most agencies (also known as core commodity services). It also identifies another primary needs segment that requires customizing based on agency and mission. This second segment focuses on mobile applications and complex mobile solutions such as security and ID credentialing.

2. Mobile Device Procurement and Management Guidance – This guidance helps agencies select, procure, manage, and dispose of mobile devices. It focuses on what agencies can do to more efficiently manage devices, reduce costs, simplify processes, improve contractual terms, and meet government green initiatives.

3. Mobile Services Brokerage Model Feasibility Study: Project and Implementation Plan – This document explains how the MSCT will conduct a feasibility study for possible use of a brokerage approach to agency mobile acquisition efforts. Typically, smaller agencies have fewer in-house resources. The brokerage approach could support them by providing external support. MSCT’s goal is that no agency be left behind while improving management of mobility government wide.

MSCT Strategic Objectives

The MSCT has three primary objectives:

  1. Standardization – Define a common set of plans, devices, terms, conditions, and other mobility attributes that apply across contractors and agencies to drive competition based on quality and price.
  2. Simplification – Make it easier for agencies to acquire and manage mobility services and devices.
  3. Savings – Further reduce costs for wireless carrier services and other mobility category services.

Insights from Industry Partners

MSCT solicited and incorporated industry partners’ insights and feedback. In response to the RFI issued earlier this year, wireless carriers, systems integrators, and technology leaders gave their list of priorities:

  • Simplify core product offerings to reduce complexity and cost
  • Support ancillary service offerings and have flexibility to use open market offerings to streamline procurements
  • Have standard terms and conditions that require less negotiation and have already been validated across the federal government
  • Use self-service ordering, service options, and a suite of templates to increase speed and quality of fulfilling orders and responding to bids
  • Allow the ability to add new services to contracts in days and weeks, rather than months

Common Data Structures, Enhanced Data Collection

The MSCT is also tackling mobile reporting and data management. Billing records contain data to assess if agencies are overpaying or under-using mobile resources. Sharing data will strengthen our ability to make intelligent and informed decisions at the agency level and government-wide. In the future, we will focus on data quality and accuracy to help the IT category deliver strategies that maximize value and savings for the government.

Continuing to Collaborate

The MSCT is ready to work with agencies and industry in fiscal 2017 to improve and streamline mobility acquisition. Want to know specifics? Read the Strategic Roadmap.

Have questions or want to provide feedback? Contact wireless@gsa.gov.

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

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Agency Mobile Resources at the Ready following OMB Memo

Posted by Mary Davie
on September 7, 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 telecommunication acquisition solutions that provide government agencies the ability to meet their diverse set of telecommunication requirements. Acquisition solutions include Networx, Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions – EIS (the future replacement for Networx), SATCOM, Enterprise Mobility, Connections II, Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative – Wireless (FSSI-W), and the Federal Relay Service.

Many of you are aware that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued the Mobile Services and Devices memo on August 4, 2016. The intent is to vastly enhance acquisition and management of mobile services and devices across government.

Resources and Tools Are Available to Help Agencies

Agencies saw an early draft of the memo and now that it’s final, it’s a great time to review resources available to support every agency in achieving the goals set forth by and in the spirit of the OMB memo.

Leverage Government-wide Acquisition Strategies – Resource number one is the existing Government-wide GSA mobile solution. It gives agencies a variety of service plan and device options from leading national wireless carriers. Information about the program and how to order is available on the GSA website.

Another resource is GSA’s Wireless Economic Model downloadable Excel-based spreadsheet to give agencies a rough order of magnitude concerning your estimated costs and savings when using new wireless service plans. In addition, a Wireless Guide is available to help agencies move from existing contracts and carriers with step-by-step instructions. You can also access a User’s Guide, FSSI Wireless Ordering Template, and ordering instructions. For more resources and templates, visit the Enterprise Mobility Resources web portal.

Optimize Plan Pricing and Device Refresh Schedules – When it comes to OMB’s directive to optimize pricing, the GSA mobile solution has a strong three-year track record of success in optimizing plans and cost savings. About 85% of defense and civilian cabinet-level agencies are using FSSI Wireless Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs), achieving a government total $29 million savings compared to prior rates since the May 2013 FSSI-W award. Agencies that have moved to the existing government-wide FSSI mobile solution find average cost savings of 27% compared to previous wireless service costs. These agencies pay on average $14 less per unit per month. As a reminder, the BPA published prices differ from the actual service prices agencies have negotiated when using the FSSI-W BPAs so please check with us to get prices paid information when you are making comparisons. You’ll find that it’s hard to beat the prices we’ve achieved for the features in the service plans offered.

Carriers include devices at no cost with service plans and users have a choice of devices with each service plan. In accordance with OMB’s guidance, previous generation devices are typically equally capable of meeting government requirements and can be acquired at significantly lower prices. Agencies also have the option to buy service plans for government-furnished equipment (GFE) and user-owned devices.

Scheduling device refreshes is flexible too. No-cost device refreshes happen based on commercially available cycles of 10 to 20 months, although agencies can determine a refresh schedule that works best for their users.

Baseline Agency Usage and Quarterly Reports – Once an agency uses the existing Government-wide GSA mobile solution, the built-in requirements for carriers to provide usage reports will assist in agency quarterly reporting. These reports can help agencies to analyze usage and optimize mobile service levels, including identifying and terminating unused (or zero-use) devices and services. The pooling option for data and minutes saves dollars for agency customers by allowing agency high-volume users to leverage purchased and unused minutes and data from lower volume users.

Optimize Agency Requirements – The OMB memo also addresses actions agencies must take to consolidate contracts, track and improve inventory of mobile devices, and pool mobile services to avoid overage charges. Depending on size, agencies using the existing government-wide FSSI mobile solution can choose to consolidate wireless contracts at the bureau level and then into one enterprise-wide agency contract. Smaller agencies might fully consolidate initially without phases.

Reach Out for Personal Assistance

For more assistance, GSA has an Enterprise Mobility Team that is happy to help with any questions you have or support you need. You can contact us toll-free at (855) ITaid4U (482-4348), or contact our Enterprise Mobility Team directly through kelly.adams@gsa.gov, richard.jones@gsa.gov or jon.johnson@gsa.gov.

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

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Better Pricing, Better Value, & Better Shopping Equals A Better Schedule 70

Posted by Mary Davie
on July 29, 2016

Since 1949, GSA’s mission has been to deliver the best value in real estate, acquisition, and technology to government and the American people. We pursue this mission relentlessly, and have always welcomed input from all stakeholders as we seek new and effective ways to bring more value to our federal customers. That’s why we appreciate the recommendations presented in a recent audit by GSA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). Conducted between 2011 through early 2016, this audit  found that some contracts on GSA’s IT Schedule 70 offered identical products at widely varying prices. And that some items were being offered at prices higher than commercial sales.  

We agree with these concerns, which is why we have been working for the past three years to fundamentally transform the Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) program, reduce prices, and streamline processes. I’m a consumer too. I’ll come back to a store when I know I’m getting the best deal — anything to avoid going from store to store comparing prices. And that’s exactly what IT Schedule 70 shoppers have told us they want, too. As FAS Commissioner Tom Sharpe laid out in his October 2015 blog, we’ve responded to our customers by working to meet that challenge. Over the past few years we’ve been adding new tools and innovations to IT Schedule 70 so that we can give our customers what they want: better pricing, better values and a better shopping experience.

We heard from procurement leaders across government that price variability on Schedules was a problem. In response, we spearheaded the Competitive Pricing Initiative (CPI), which looks at the current prices of identical products offered by suppliers through MAS and identifies opportunities for more competitive prices. Since it began in FY 2015, CPI has led to price reductions on roughly 1.4 million items across all of GSA’s 15 products Schedules –savings we passed directly to agencies.

Our customers told us it was difficult and time consuming to compare prices between different contractors. To fix this, we asked vendors to standardize part numbers and collected existing Universal Price Codes (UPCs). Now government buyers can more easily find and compare products and prices on Schedules.

To help small businesses that don’t have the resources to conduct extensive analyses, we added a Horizontal Pricing Analysis application to our e-toolbox. This market-research resource  provides MAS contracting officers (COs) with additional data to pass on to MAS suppliers so they can be as competitive as possible.

To help our COs navigate pricing in a rapidly moving IT market we implemented GSA Price Point (XSB), an automated tool that lets them compare products and evaluate prices of all existing and future GSA Advantage! product listings and contract price modifications.  

And we developed the Formatted Product Tool (FPT) to help our MAS contractors and COs negotiate competitive prices for products on Schedule. FPT automates price comparisons for identical items, removes burdensome processes for both vendors and federal buyers, and improves our customers’ GSA Advantage! experience.

All these tools and capabilities help government contracting professionals negotiate prices that are in line and competitive with government and commercial marketplace prices. They also provide transparency and better value to both the government and Industry. Central to GSA’s mission is that we deliver value to the federal government and the American people. While IT Schedule 70 is not perfect, we recognize the challenges we’re facing and have have taken concrete steps to make pricing more competitive and to provide the tools to help buyers make smart purchasing decisions.

However, we are aware that we must continue to address the very issues identified by the IG and continue to transform the MAS program, reducing prices and streamlining processes.

Since that study began in 2011, we have fundamentally changed the way we do business with industry and how our contracting officers work. We have made significant improvements as we tackle pricing issues across the Schedules program. At the same time, we have also cut the time it takes to award contracts, determined a new path for startups to get on Schedule faster, and strengthened our focus on compliance.  With the new Transactional Data Reporting pilot we’ll start to collect and share more information on what the government buys and how much we pay for products and services. After looking at all the changes we have implemented, and looking forward to the improvements we’ll be making down the road, I am more confident and proud than ever that IT Schedule 70 will continue to provide the very best value to all of our important stakeholders.

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GSA Makes it Easier for You to Get on Schedule 70

Posted by Mary Davie
on April 26, 2016

A few weeks ago, GSA Administrator Denise Turner Roth announced the agency’s new Making It Easier (MIE) initiatives giving government suppliers and small businesses the support they need to help them work with the government. MIE provides strategies and tools that are especially helpful for new and innovative companies seeking an IT Schedule 70 contract, and this program supports the Administrator’s vision for enhancing GSA’s role as an economic catalyst in communities around the country and as a proactive federal partner.

Every year, tens of billions of dollars are spent through GSA’s Multiple Award Schedules (MAS), however the vendor community has told us that it’s just too hard to get on GSA Schedule. And how, once you’re on Schedule, it can be confusing to figure out how to make changes to a contract. MIE puts an end to all that.

Using Plain Language to Explain Complex Topics

Our website is full of very useful information about MAS and IT Schedule 70. But for first timers, the entire offer process leading to getting on Schedule is quite daunting. And it can be particularly challenging for small companies. We know many vendors hire outside help to advise them, or, in some cases, even fully manage the entire contracting process. So when our industry partners suggested we come up with a way to describe the process of getting on Schedule using plain language, GSA’s 18F and IT Schedule 70 teamed up and took on that challenge.

The IT Schedule 70 Roadmap: A One Stop Shop for Becoming a Schedule 70 Industry Partner

We listened, we heard you, and we worked with you to clarify the process for becoming an IT Schedule 70 contract holder. We’ve created the IT Schedule 70 Roadmap that explains the offer process in plain English and also provides step-by-step instructions on how to successfully navigate it. What’s more, we’ve made it easier for you to find the most relevant information by consolidating existing tools and information into one place. We’re hoping that these changes, plus an increase in available support offered from our end, will result in even more highly qualified companies successfully supporting our government customers.

From start to finish, the IT Schedule 70 Roadmap helps our future industry partners prepare for and complete the offer process.

This initiative, with the other MIE projects, encourages all of our industry partners – especially those with innovative solutions – to join GSA in providing the best solutions to our agency customers.

Visit the IT Schedule 70 Roadmap today.

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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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Satellite Solutions on Course

Posted by Mary Davie
on February 2, 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/)

Satellites Make a Difference

Use of commercial satellite systems continue to give government the ability to make a huge difference in the lives of Americans. Defense and other systems can monitor global events and rapidly implement communications infrastructure almost immediately without advance resource and lead-time commitments.

We depend on satellite solutions more and more to meet critical warfighter and disaster recovery communications requirements. In addition, satellites provide network diversity and resilience in the event that a terrestrial-based network fails.

We rely on satellites for weather alerts, search and recovery, shipboard and maritime navigation, distance learning and training, and many scientific and research programs depend on commercial satellite capacity.

SATCOM also supports additional remote and mobile applications in the areas of humanitarian relief, disaster-response communications, and counter terrorism efforts.

Satellite Use, by the Numbers

Use of commercial satellite services in Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) by government under GSA-DoD’s joint Satellite Communications (SATCOM) program continues to be strong.

Usage exceeded $532 million in FY15. Nearly 2,000 services and items have been delivered through the SATCOM contracts since inception in 2011.

A total of 44 agencies, including 34 civilian agencies, ordered satellite services in FY15 from the joint GSA-DoD program called Future COMSATCOM Services Acquisition (FCSA).

Defense needs continue to dominate the government’s commercial satellite buys under FCSA with approximately 93.7% of business volume from defense and 6.3% from civilian agencies. This is consistent with FY14 demand.

Agencies buying through the FCSA program obtain lower prices. Bandwidth prices in FY15 using the FCSA contract averaged 34% savings off of Schedule list prices. GSA estimates that the SATCOM centralized competition and increased price transparency driven by the GSA-DoD partnership saved the government $211 million in FY15.  

Today’s Satellite Buying Trends

The buying patterns on the SATCOM contracts remain consistent with last year, showing which satellite services are most often used and how agencies are buying them.

Most commercial satellite requirements (approximately 75%) continue to be satisfied through use of IT Schedule 70.

  • Agencies continued to order mostly transponded capacity from Schedule 70 Special Item Number (SIN) 132-54, to use dedicated bandwidth on a commercial communications satellite. Agencies pay for service from fixed and mobile locations to a satellite and back to the end user. In FY15, transponded capacity accounted for 57% of orders.
  • Subscription services (Schedule 70 SIN 132-55) continue to be the second most in demand, accounting for approximately 18% of government satellite solution demand in FY15.

In addition, more complex solutions that often contain customized components associated with technology, geography, mobility, or security are satisfied via Custom SATCOM Solutions (CS2) and Custom SATCOM Solutions – Small Business (CS2-SB). Use of CS2 and CS2-SB rose from 20% to 25% of GSA’s commercial satellite demand from FY14 to FY15.

The SATCOM program again proved to be a strong supporter of small business. In 2015, $63.9 million (12% program-wide) of purchases went to small businesses compared to $45 million (9% program-wide) in FY14. In FY15, $20.8 million was through GSA’s-DoD’s joint CS2-SB contract and $43.1 million through Schedule 70.

Planning for the Future with CS3

The past year also included the Department of Defense’s commitment to the next generation GSA-DoD joint satellite services solutions.

In FY15, GSA, DoD and other government agencies started to plan for what government commercial satellite contracts and solutions we’ll have for the future: Complex Commercial SATCOM Solutions (CS3).

CS3 will be the follow on contract for CS2 and CS2-SB which expire in August 2017 and February 2017, respectively. CS3 looks to build upon the success of CS2 and CS2-SB to create contracts as flexible and agile as possible to meet and satisfy the widely differing requirements of the federal government both now and for the next decade and beyond.

In 2015, we met several CS3 milestones, which included forming the GSA-DoD CS3 development team, issuing a Request for Information (RFI) to industry, engaging and collaborating with industry at a GSA-hosted CS3 Industry Day, and launching a new Interact Site to continue the dialog with industry on the future CS3.

On December 29th, we posted the CS3 Request for Proposals (RFP) on FedBizOpps.

Stay tuned for more in 2016 about CS3.

Join the Interact Site and follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to hear more and join the conversation.

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The Cloud IDIQ: Gathering Insights from Both Sides of the Contract

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 22, 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/)

As the federal government moves toward cloud computing in order  to increase mission agility and cost effectiveness, GSA is establishing a comprehensive IDIQ cloud computing contract that will serve as a one-stop shop and an improved way to buy cloud. This contract will serve as a single procurement source for all things cloud, with flexibility so as to incorporate valuable cloud services and technologies that emerge over its lifecycle.

Through interactions with federal stakeholders, we have identified common barriers that government agencies face during implementation of their cloud computing projects. This insight supports the foundation of the approach GSA is taking in this endeavor.

The Value of Strong Partnership

To further this customer engagement, GSA is partnered closely with DoD’s Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) through a Memorandum of Agreement, addressing in part how this comprehensive cloud computing contract can:

  • Support various levels of DoD’s rigorous security requirements and accommodate other buyers with similar security needs;
  • Best suit the government’s need to effectively budget while still leveraging the flexibility of the cloud; and
  • Establish a cloud computing contract that is as attractive as possible for DoD and other federal consumers.

Through the continuing DISA/GSA partnership we have identified and addressed over 200 DoD requirements and desirable cloud contract vehicle characteristics. Our careful adjudication of these requirements ensures that we’re creating a stronger, best-in-business contract.

Collecting Input from the Other Side

Customer insights, such as those from DISA, have helped GSA to serve its partners better but they don’t tell the whole story. GSA needed input from stakeholders on the other side – the vendor side – of the contract to get the full picture, so we sought feedback from cloud computing vendors who provide the services this contract needs.

The CCS PMO released a Request for Information (RFI) on February 11, 2015 to solicit insights from both government and industry. The RFI was part of a larger market research effort to determine the current state of cloud contract capabilities across the federal government.

We asked members, particularly of the vendor community, a variety of questions ranging from the challenges that they face in selling cloud services to the government to the types of cloud products and services that need to be offered in the future. Respondents were also asked if their companies see value to the government if GSA creates a new cloud contract to replace the expiring IaaS BPA.

Some specific questions were:

  • Given that cloud products and services are rapidly changing, what process or structure would your company propose for the acquisition contract to keep current with industry?
  • How would you suggest that awarded solutions be “updated” based on a technology change and pricing?
  • What would you propose as the easiest and most cost-effective way for government to offer cloud solutions to federal agencies?
  • Can GSA modify or change how it buys and sells cloud services to be more consistent with how solutions are structured and sold commercially within the limitations of the FAR?

Incorporating Feedback

There were a total of 72 respondents to the RFI, most of which were vendors. A few major response themes included:

  • Common barriers to cloud sales are security requirements, inflexible pricing structures and long procurement delays;
  • The need for professional services to be included in the same vehicle as the cloud offering;
  • A desire for on-demand, subscription or “Single CLIN” purchasing programs; and
  • The need for flexibility to make changes and modifications to the offerings as cloud technologies evolve.

A strong 72% of respondents were in favor of GSA creating a new cloud IDIQ contract to replace the expiring IaaS contract.

Moving Forward

In support of its mission and priorities and to build a better contract vehicle, GSA is committed to using the insights learned from both vendor responses to the RFI and from its strong partnerships. Understanding customer needs and service provider insights before building the contract ensures GSA is facilitating the federal government’s most critical achievements in the rapidly developing landscape of cloud computing. Stakeholders will see the fruits of these labors when the cloud computing IDIQ draft RFP is released by FY16’s end, at which time we’ll look forward to your contributions by way of feedback and input.

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

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The Cloud SIN: Making Sense of Cloud Options

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 21, 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/)

Success in our Cloud PMO

Our Cloud Computing Services Program Management Office (CCS PMO) was hard at work in FY15 working on a number of projects. They are fully staffed with both cloud technologists and cloud acquisition specialists. The team helps federal, state, local and tribal governments with their cloud adoption and acquisition strategies with the goal of speeding government movement to the cloud. The PMO manages the following GSA cloud acquisition tools:

  • IT Schedule 70 Cloud Special Item Number (SIN) 132-40
  • Cloud Email as a Service (EaaS) BPA
  • New Cloud IDIQ in process
  • Groundbreaking Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) BPA, now expired and to be replaced by the new IDIQ.

In FY15 the PMO completed over 150 separate agency engagements ranging in length from one day to six months, all focusing on helping agencies with their cloud strategies. And we are proud to say that since inception, the Cloud PMO has managed over $450M in dozens of cloud acquisition awards either directly through its own cloud acquisition tools, or by helping agencies direct their cloud orders to GSA IT Schedule 70 alone.

As I reported in a blog post this spring, GSA successfully implemented the Cloud Special Item Number (Cloud SIN 132-40) on IT Schedule 70 for all cloud offerings in April 2015. The Cloud SIN allows customer agencies to view all cloud-specific offerings in three sub-categories defined by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): Software as a Service, Platform as a Service, and Infrastructure as a Service.

Cloud SIN: What it’s all about

The goal of the Cloud SIN is to provide customers centralized, streamlined access to cloud computing services through IT Schedule 70 to meet their eligible government, state, and local needs. GSA customers can clearly distinguish cloud services from non-cloud IT products and services in order to get to the right solution quickly. In addition, the Cloud SIN provides industry partners with enhanced abilities to market distinctive cloud computing solutions and offerings on IT Schedule 70.

FY15 Awareness, Adoption and Industry Partner Excitement

Our Industry Partners have expressed significant interest in getting on the Cloud SIN. In preparation for increasing the number of vendors in the next fiscal year, GSA held an Industry Day for vendors, published more than 25 news articles and posted more than 30 notices through GSA social media outlets (e.g. GSA ITS Twitter account). GSA also held several webinars and training sessions for more than 100 Contracting Officers who will approve submissions for vendors to get on the Cloud SIN. And, I’m pleased to say that these Cloud SIN efforts are beginning to bear fruit.

DHS Vote of Confidence

In November, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Enterprise Computing Services (ECS) issued an RFI for a future acquisition that seeks to leverage vendors under the Cloud SIN to provide DHS components with the ability to efficiently procure secure cloud computing services on an ongoing basis. This type of procurement looks to be the first of its kind for the Cloud SIN, and GSA looks forward to working closely with vendors and customers in the coming year to ensure that it’s not the last.

For more resources on the Cloud SIN, including guidance for transitioning your company’s services onto the SIN or how to use the SIN to build a Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA), please visit our website.

In our next installment,we’ll highlight discuss our partnership with DISA and the plans for a government wide Cloud IDIQ contract.
Also, please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join the conversation.

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FY 2015 Sees Agencies Saving Dollars on Wireless

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 15, 2016

(This blog post is part of a multi-week series reviewing data and trends from GSA’s IT acquisition vehicles for FY 15. Read previous posts at http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/technology/)

As agencies move to a more mobile workforce, we have seen their demand for wireless services increase. Government use of GSA’s Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) Wireless Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) in Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) skyrocketed 500% over FY14.

This increase is due to greater demand for better management and savings as agencies integrate mobile technology into their IT enterprise. It’s also due to agencies transforming their work environments with more mobile and flexible options.

Embracing Cost Savings

In FY15, we saw an average of 27% in savings with FSSI Wireless BPAs compared to prior year expenses for those agencies.

These buyers found Monthly Recurring Charges (MRCs) per device dropping to $38.82 per user per month, from the $55.40 federal average at the start of the program, over many common voice and data smartphone plans. The BPAs are saving government agencies more than $16 per month per user. This marks a new low for the average MRC and highest monthly savings rate to date.

Since these are service costs, and not just one-time costs, the savings are compounding each month agencies are on the contract.

FY15 federal government savings for the program exceeded $10 million as a result of better pricing, management, and competition credits. This means the government is leveraging government-wide discounts to save more each year, while it deploys devices with a greater focus on meeting the ever-increasing data needs for agencies.

Managing Wireless and Mobile Better

Another big priority we saw in FY15 was agencies’ commitment to better managing wireless resources across the enterprise. 85% of defense and civilian cabinet-level agencies are using FSSI Wireless BPAs. Many of them are slowly consolidating wireless via phased task orders to fully consolidate and better manage mobile assets.

Managing wireless better, attaining volume-driven discounts, and consolidating orders makes agencies more efficient operationally as well as financially. Consolidation, standardization, better inventory management, and increased security are top priorities. Tools that can help them manage mobile resources, applications, and security will become even more important going forward.

Other Wireless Insights

Agencies want flexible features when buying wireless, which is fueling the growing popularity of the FSSI Wireless BPAs. Discounted wireless plan pricing, no-cost devices, and the pooling option for data and minutes are saving agency dollars by allowing an agency’s high-volume users to leverage the unused minutes and MBs purchased by lower volume users, further reducing overage costs.

The most popular data add-on and data-only plans continue to be 500MB Pooled and Unlimited Data plans. Like last year, the most popular voice plans under the BPAs are the 400 Minute Pooled and 100 Minute Pooled plans. This means that agencies have been getting better at driving their carrier costs down by purchasing what they need and optimizing their plans, rather than the “set it and forget it” wireless purchasing and management approach of the past.

About half of federal agencies using FSSI Wireless are using two or more contractors to meet their enterprise-wide wireless needs. This may be a factor of transitioning to a new contract, after which they’ll consolidate to one carrier. It can also encourage greater competition and cost savings in task order negotiations.

FSSI Wireless BPA users reported the ability to do faster procurements than anticipated. This is a plus when doing a phased approach to fully consolidate and allowing a flexible transition timeline depending on agency need, while driving down the transaction costs.

What’s in Store in FY16

GSA in partnership with our customer agencies is already working on the next generation of wireless and mobile solutions – known as Mobility 2.0.

Mobility 2.0 is a collaborative approach with a cross-agency task force to address the next generation of acquisition planning aimed at supporting how the government buys and manages wireless/mobility programs in the future.

We’re preparing to launch a new Mobility 2.0 Interact Community that industry and agencies can join to keep up-to-date on new initiatives and plans.

The February 9th Mobility webinar and April 14th live event are for agency officials to keep abreast of the latest trends, initiatives and collaboration about government wireless requirements, needs, and best choices for acquiring wireless and mobile resources. Save the dates and stay tuned to @GSA_ITS twitter account on how to register.

In the meantime, agency buyers looking for savings and management tools can start with GSA’s Enterprise Wide Mobility website.

The good news from FY15, and hopefully in coming years, is….The more agencies use government-wide wireless contracts, the greater cost savings for government and taxpayers.

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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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