Updated Software SINs Reflect Changes to Commercial Market & Federal IT Policies

Posted by Bill Zielinski
on April 16, 2019

GSA is where category management and IT acquisition intersect. Our acquisition experts specialize in understanding both the commercial marketplace and our federal partners’ needs.

To respond to the rapidly evolving software market and some important policy directives, we have updated the three Software Special Item Numbers (SINs) on IT Schedule 70. Now our offerings align better with the way software is sold commercially. Now it’s easier for our customers to get what they need, including transferring software licenses among federal entities.

Governmentwide IT Policies

In addition to our software market innovation, we in the federal acquisition community are also witnessing an unprecedented focus and collaboration around governmentwide IT, including software:

Special Item Number (SINs) Updates

The updates to Software Special Item Numbers (SINs) 132-32, -33, and -34 will make it easier for GSA to serve our federal partners, help them comply with policies, and give them new solutions by:

  • Adding language within Term Software SIN (132-32) to define term software  licenses and distinguish between Term Software and Software as a Service (SaaS) included in the Cloud SIN (132-40);
  • Including optional software identification tags and transferability rights under SIN 132-33 Perpetual Software Licenses;
  • Renaming SIN 132-34 from Software Maintenance Service to Software Maintenance Services;
  • Adding utilization limitations under SINs 132-32, 132-33, and 132-34 clarifying rights and ownership of derivative works; and
  • Defining Commercial Supplier Agreements (CSAs) to include Enterprise User License Agreements (EULAs), Terms of Service Agreements (TOSs), and other licensing agreements.

We are dedicated to aligning what we offer with what the current marketplace’s demands, as technology changes rapidly. We work to improve the federal government’s ability to serve our ultimate stakeholder, the U.S. taxpayer

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

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Think IT Modernization? Think GSA

Posted by Bill Zielinski
on October 29, 2018

Our mission in the Office of Information Technology Category (ITC) is to “maximize customer value and mission productivity through IT acquisition.” As the largest provider of IT acquisition solutions for government, it is absolutely critical that we ride the bleeding edge of IT innovation. As a service to agencies and taxpayers, we adopt innovative solutions early on and apply them to our own processes — we learn about new technologies by using them. Efforts like this position us to even more effectively help agencies face their future mission needs.

In a blog post last December, we announced our experimentation with distributed ledger technology (DLT) — commonly referred to as “blockchain.” At the time we had just completed a proof of concept to further enhance our Making it Easier FASt Lane proposal review process. We found that DLT can automate many of the manual business processes and steps required to award a new IT Schedule 70 contract. This includes time-intensive tasks such as financial reviews and development of pre-negotiation memoranda, freeing up our workforce to focus on more meaningful responsibilities. DLT also modernizes the award process making it easier, more efficient, and faster for those new contract holders.

IT modernization is a major focus of this administration. Our work with DLT is an excellent example of leveraging emerging technologies to enhance existing systems — to reimagine how we build using an agile methodology to effectively modernize over time. The crawl/walk/run method that we’re using to implement DLT highlights one best-practice path to modernization.

First, We Crawled – What We Did

In July 2017, we kicked off the proof of concept (POC) as an award under the simplified acquisition threshold. This acquisition strategy used an agile acquisition and development approach and had a short, six-week delivery schedule. The entire POC only cost $150,000.

Now We Walk – Development

The POC demonstrated how we could use DLT to help automate our acquisition workforce, specifically touching and entering data only once into a single solution.

To expand the project’s scope, this May we awarded a contract for a pilot. Where the POC tested the waters limited to IT Schedule 70, the pilot has a wider scope: the Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) program (aka the Schedules). We plan to look across the entire enterprise to find out where we’ll gain the most benefits within the Schedules program.

The pilot will create a DLT-based software layer over GSA’s existing infrastructure which creates transparency and documents activities between industry partners (contractors/vendors) and GSA.

This layer will make the proposal review process accountable and allow for a controlled reduction in fixed costs. Also, the pilot automates financial reviews and other GSA Schedules business processes.

For example, we can identify offerors with substandard financial ratios based on the average (as reported by the IRS) of their respective NAICs code. Offerors with poor financial ratios will be flagged for further review; if the ratios look good they will move to the next step.

This first pilot will break down and modularize the workstream and build out a micro-service for the financial responsibility process. Implementing a manageable business process, this will enable us to more simply capture information and to build analytics.

Next, We’ll Run – Production/Sustainment

If the pilot is successful, we’ll continue its development and our efforts to make this a reality by awarding another contract for a full-scale production.

Think IT Modernization? Think GSA

Our team has the expertise and agility to try new things and test new IT solutions. We launch, test, learn, and then use those lessons learned to support our customers.

So, when you think about modernizing your IT systems, think GSA! We have the experts and acquisition solutions in place to make IT modernization a reality for the federal government.

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

The five steps to accelerate the process to award contracts and make life better for the workforce and vendors.

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Saying Goodbye to a Career of Federal Service

Posted by Kay Ely
on October 1, 2018

I recently announced I’m winding down my career with the federal government.  Retirement is a great time for reflection as I approach the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next.

After 32 years of service in the government and private sectors, I have been fortunate to work beside people whose passion is to serve in the best interests of our customers. I leave my position as Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Information Technology Category (ITC) filled with pride from what we have accomplished and confidence in the excellent ITC staff.

But none of ITC’s projects and programs would be successful without the partnership, support, perspective, and engagement of our federal agency and industry partners.

I have talked often about ITC’s many successes to illustrate that the work ITC does has significant, real-world impacts — we manage more than 5,000 contracts, representing nearly $25 billion in mission-critical IT spending annually.

Our goal is to meet all agencies’ IT needs by giving them access to the best commercial products and services available, from laptop configurations to massive IT network overhauls and everything in between.

We’re always focused on how the market is changing, and which emerging technologies are becoming critical in the modern IT landscape.

This year, ITC launched initiatives aimed at modernizing and simplifying current solutions, eliminating duplicative processes, and deploying emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and distributed ledger technology (DLT), to enhance efficiencies and drive savings into the acquisition process for GSA and government.

During my tenure as Director of IT Schedule 70, we focused on cross-government and cross-industry collaboration, realigning ITC to better support industry partners and help customer agencies meet their mission objectives.

One such example is the FASt Lane program, which focused on getting new technologies into the hands of customers faster. It has two parts: a quick 48 hour e-Modification (eMod) process for current Schedule 70 contract holders wishing to add or update their current IT product offerings, and a program helps get new vendors on schedule in approximately 45 days, down from the average time of 110 days.

We also implemented an initiative to renegotiate Schedule 70 base prices for many of the largest contracts. As a result, the government is achieving discounts of up to 46 percent off original pricing.

The solutions that we have put in place are truly critical to enabling the government to do its ultimate job — serving the American taxpayers.

I look forward to following GSA’s and ITC’s future endeavors and celebrating their successes from a new vantage point.
Many thanks to this entire community for your tremendous partnership over the years.

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

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GSA’s VETS 2 GWAC Open for Business

Posted by Kay Ely
on March 22, 2018

By Kay Ely, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Information Technology Category

Veterans Technology Services 2 (VETS 2) Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) is now open for business and ready to accept task orders.

VETS 2 is the only GWAC in the federal government set aside exclusively for Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB).  It’s designed to meet diverse agency IT services requirements, including new and emerging technologies. SDVOSBs are foundational to helping the government make important changes to modernize aging and legacy IT systems.  GSA is committed to ensuring we tap into their expertise through contracts like VETS 2.

Like its successful predecessor, VETS 2 provides agencies with access to customized IT solutions from a highly qualified pool of industry partners.  The original VETS contract helped participating SDVOSB businesses deliver $2.1 billion in services and solutions to the federal government. We’d like to match or exceed that on VETS 2.

In developing the new VETS 2, we performed an unprecedented amount of market research that centered around customer and industry feedback.  In addition to issuing a request for information (RFI) and draft request for proposal (RFP), we also surveyed hundreds of past and current GWAC ordering contracting officers, created a government customer working group, and used the feedback to enhance the offering.

VETS 2 GWAC highlights include:

  • Best-in-Class – VETS 2 is a Best-in-Class (BIC) contract designated by the Office of Management and Budget as a preferred governmentwide solution
  • Comprehensive Scope – VETS 2 meets a variety of diverse agency IT requirements, including new and emerging technologies
  • Flexible Contract Types – fixed price, cost reimbursement, time & materials, and labor hour orders are all allowed
  • Allows for Long-Term Planning – VETS 2 has a five-year base period and one five-year option period
  • Robust Contractor Pool – VETS 2 provides access to 70 highly qualified SDVOSB firms
  • Socioeconomic Impact – VETS 2 helps federal agencies support our veteran community while achieving their prime contract goals using SDVOSBs

IT Services Scope

In addition to common IT services that the federal government regularly purchases, VETS 2 also fulfills projects that require new or emerging IT services.

Scope includes, but is not limited to:

  • Data management
  • Information and communications technology
  • IT operations and maintenance
  • IT security
  • Software development
  • Systems design

We look forward to working with you through the VETS 2 GWAC as we continue our commitment to providing IT solutions with the ongoing help of the veteran community.

For more information, including how to order, please visit www.gsa.gov/VETS2 or contact us at VETS2@gsa.gov.

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

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Working Hard to Improve Security, Safety, and Quality of Life for Americans

Posted by Mary Davie
on February 9, 2017

This blog post is part of a seven-part series reviewing the Acquisition Gateway and IT Category data, trends, expertise, and advocacy that GSA’s ​Office of Information Technology Category (ITC) organization offers to support other agencies’ missions.

(Note: This is a guest blog post by Amando E. Gavino Jr., Director, Office of Telecommunications Services. Gavino is responsible for a portfolio of telecommunication acquisition solutions that provide government agencies the ability to meet their diverse set of telecommunication requirements.)

ITC’s Office of Telecommunications Services provides a wide variety of offerings to federal, state and local governments which includes voice, video, data, managed network services, call center services, mobile and wireless, satellite services, last mile connections and much more. Because of our partnership with industry and our robust solution sets, we are able to provide government agencies seamless access and support, thus achieving shared value and expanding the benefits of modern technology. We’re continually transforming and enabling improvement to the security, safety, and quality of life for our nation and its citizens.

We enhance security by providing the communications services that connect law enforcement resources with information locally and worldwide to counter crime and terrorism. We also support the safety of our men and women in uniform, humanitarian relief, disaster-response, and counterterrorism efforts through satellites. And the telecommunications service we provide also improves government’s ability to respond  anywhere and anytime through mobile devices (i.e., tablets and wireless smartphones); enhances patient health care for veterans and aging population; supports farmers and ranchers; tracks wildlife and diseases; and ensures food safety and inspections.

A Look Back at 2016

We’re always trying to improve, and here are a few ways:

Simplifying, Standardizing, and Buying in Volume

The Category Management (CM) approach to simplify, standardize, and make use of volume to streamline enterprise-wide telecom is the focus of Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS). CM helps us adapt our solutions as the industry changes and as agency needs change. For example, we’re being less local and more global to ensure agencies adopt security and unified communication technologies that comply with best practices.

Managing Telecom as a Subcategory

We are managing Telecom and all of our offerings in IT as a comprehensive portfolio and have technical, functional and acquisition experts to help agencies buy in a more efficient way and improve mission delivery.

Engaging Agencies and Industry

In 2016, GSA continued to engage agency and industry partners to shape the upcoming EIS, which will replace Networx and local and regional telecom services. We formed the EIS Infrastructure Advisory Group (IAG) to define priorities share best practices, plan for transition and ensure the final EIS solution meets government’s needs.

Optimizing Telecom Use and Spend

Because of our strong partnerships with agencies, GSA’s telecommunications program is recognized as “the government’s telecommunications program,” and as a result, we are able to aggregate and leverage more than $2 billion in annual spend and document over $675 million in savings.

Providing a Range of Purchasing Options

We recognize that ease of use is critical for our agency customers so we offer a range of purchasing solutions across our IT and telecommunications contracts — everything from self service through delegated procurement authority … to monitoring contract service level agreement achievement … to providing advice and consulting to providing fully assisted services.

Enhancing Agencies’ Understanding of Telecom Purchases

Telecom has been managed as a category for a while. Because of standard service definitions and contract terms in contracts like Networx, agencies can make “apples to apples” comparisons around services. This makes it easier for GSA and other agencies to make comparisons between suppliers and to get the best value for their purchases. And, because of the data we collect on purchasing, GSA can clearly see purchasing trends which shape future contracts (e.g., EIS, etc.) and our discussions with agencies and suppliers. We continually refine this data driven approach to supplier management to get better value for agencies and taxpayers.

Here is what we have seen over the past 10 years. Demand for bandwidth has increased at a compound annual growth rate that exceeds 30 percent, but our normalized costs for the bandwidth has decreased. Part of this is simply an industry phenomenon. Bandwidth is getting cheaper; however, part of this is due to our data driven approach to our interactions with suppliers. We expect bandwidth to be “cheaper by the dozen” and we have an approach to ensure this is the case. Further, most agencies are modernizing their networks through increased bandwidth demand, especially via Ethernet services. For instance, enterprise network services are migrating towards 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet; our Networx extensions focused on this migration and Ethernet is an EIS required service.

The increased demand for these services drove purchasing up 10 percent on Networx in 2016, which further lowers telecom costs, especially for Ethernet services. The availability, performance, and price of Ethernet services will remain important for years to come. In 2017 and beyond, EIS is on target to continue lowering costs for government.

2017 Telecom Priorities

Our biggest priority in 2017 is to continue to collaborate across government and industry, and begin the transition to EIS.

The EIS Transition Challenge Government-wide

GSA and agency partners are preparing for the EIS awards so transition can begin and be completed by 2020. All agencies using Networx were required to submit Agency Transition Plans, which were due in fall 2016. We are excited to continue to work with industry and agency partners to take advantage of new solutions and new technology.

Mobility Savings and Enhanced Management

Mobile services are also in the spotlight in 2017. Five wireless service plans — three data and two voice plans — represent more than 90 percent of federal government’s purchases of mobile services. Standardized buying forces competition to focus on price and quality since many features and requirements are the same (Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative-Wireless (FSSI-W) customers paid 26%  less in 2016 than in 2012 because of this simple standardized strategy). In 2017, the government-wide Mobile Services Category Team (MSCT) will drive further savings as FSSI-W growth continues and the MSCT defines the next-generation mobility program.

Demands for Bandwidth, Security, and Satellites

Bandwidth demands and security capabilities will continue to grow in 2017, and we’ll also launch a new Commercial Satellite Custom Commercial SATCOM Solutions (CS3) contract.

In all these areas, we partner with agencies to find the best telecom infrastructure solutions to meet mission needs.

Learn More about Telecom Solutions

To find out more about available tools, best practices, and telecom solutions, select Telecommunications and Network Services on GSA’s website and visit the Telecommunications Hallway on the Acquisition Gateway.

Please follow ITC on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT. Visit all the IT Hallways on the Acquisition Gateway for more information on the IT category and subcategories.

 

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Hello ITC, Goodbye ITS!

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 5, 2017

By Mary Davie, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Information Technology Category

This blog post is part of a seven-part series reviewing the Acquisition Gateway and IT Category data, trends, expertise, and advocacy that GSA’s ITC organization offers to support other agencies’ missions.

“I thought GSA’s team was ITS. Is ITC a typo?”

No … it’s not a typo. Within GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, we are now officially the Office of Information Technology Category (ITC). This isn’t just a name change from the Integrated Technology Service. We also realigned internally to better serve our customers and to align with agencies and industry partners so we deliver flexible solutions, support agency missions, and drive innovative and agile improvements through IT Category Management (CM).

Yet with any new change, there are bound to be questions. The questions I’ve heard range from simple ones like “What does the acronym ITC mean?” to “Where does ITC fit into the big picture of Category Management?”

Agency Advocacy is Priority One

We changed from ITS to ITC to better support and serve other agencies.

Our top priority is to be a mission enabler for agencies by:

  • Helping agencies find the best solutions using our technological and acquisition expertise regardless of where they reside, rather than advocating for any specific GSA contract solution. (Yes, you read this correctly. Our ITC experts will recommend a non-GSA contract if it’s the best-fit solution for an agency);
  • Working with agencies to define better requirements, reduce procurement action lead time, boost innovation, and improve data transparency;
  • Using more qualitative and quantitative data analytics, including market research, to help you make better informed decisions;
  • Supporting CM and foster best practices and shared solutions. (We can deliver better services to fellow agencies and taxpayers by making it easier to do business with our suppliers, thereby enhancing agency missions and reducing total cost of IT ownership to agencies); and
  • Continuing to work with agencies and suppliers to make emerging technology available government-wide.

New Name, New Capabilities, Maximum Impact

As mentioned earlier, we’ve realigned the organization so we can provide:

  • Acquisition subject-matter experts,
  • Category experts, and
  • Solutions support experts.

And we’ve also added new divisions within ITC to give agencies and suppliers more focused support:

  • Customer (i.e., Agency) Engagement Division,
  • Supplier Management and Compliance Division,
  • Innovation Division, and
  • Acquisition and Category Management Support Divisions.

These organizations will coordinate activities and functions, improve collaboration and innovation, and help us gain operational efficiencies. As the Assistant Commissioner for ITC, I’ve already seen positive outcomes from our technology and acquisition subject-matter experts working together to generate great value for the government and taxpayers:

  • Our Commercial Satellite Communications program is in partnership with the Department of Defense to help civilian and defense agencies support our nation’s military men and women in uniform, as well as humanitarian relief, disaster-response, counter-terrorism efforts, and more.
  • We developed Health IT expertise to better partner with the Defense Health Agency, so they could have access to innovative and emerging health IT services (The SIN was recently awarded to 65 highly qualified industry partners).
  • Our software expertise has produced better agreements with vendors to provide geospatial services, Salesforce-related services, and security and electronic signature solutions…all while saving time and money.

ITC Role in Government-Wide Category Management

I’ve also been asked where ITC fits into the big picture of CM and if ITC is the same thing as the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) government-wide Category Management initiative.

In early 2015, OMB announced the government-wide CM initiative with goals to increase savings, reduce the number of new contracts, and increase spending under government-wide management. Soon after this announcement, OMB created the Category Management Leadership Council, which approved dividing the federal marketplace into 10 super categories (PDF).

Our realignment into ITC directly supports the IT category, which gives us purview over the IT marketplace. As well as being the ITC Assistant Commissioner, I also serve as the government-wide Category Manager for IT. My position, coupled with ITC’s great team, enables us to drive change in IT procurement across the government.

A Closer Look at IT Subcategories

With ITC’s expanded focus, 2017 is the perfect time to update you on what’s going on with the Acquisition Gateway and the IT Category. Our next blog post will focus on the Acquisition Gateway updates. Then, in the coming weeks, we’ll post more blogs in this space to look back at IT category insights over the past year and what’s ahead for each of the following IT subcategories:

  • IT Hardware,
  • IT Security,
  • IT Services,
  • IT Software, and
  • Telecommunications (Telecom).

Together these subcategories and their IT solutions emphasize what we can do as a nation to deliver many critical services to the American people. These include using satellite systems to enhance weather alerts…strengthening counter-terrorism and global security efforts…and leveraging geospatial software for USDA to increase crop yields and helping CDC to track down Zika outbreaks.

Select Get email updates when this page changes and choose “Great Government Through Technology” to sign up to receive email alerts when we publish new blog posts.

Please follow ITC on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT. Visit the IT Hallways on the Acquisition Gateway for more information on the IT category and subcategories.

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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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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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HSPD-12 A Look Back and Peek to the Future

Posted by Mary Davie
on February 5, 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/)

The USAccess Homeland Security Presidential Directive # 12 (HSPD-12) shared service is a comprehensive offering available to federal agencies to issue and maintain (PIV) cards, using a nationwide enrollment-activation infrastructure and high-availability hosted data centers, linked to federal agency data systems and commercial and government PKI certificate authorities, as well as physical card production facilities.

Fiscal Year 2015 was an exciting year for our USAccess Managed Service Office (MSO). The program finished the year in a strong position, while increasing the quality of services and value add being provided to customer agencies. USAccess continued the pattern of helping micro to medium-sized agencies improve each customer agency security posture by deploying Personal Identity Verification (PIV) Cards for employees and contractors.

Fiscal Year 2015 results

  • Addition of six new agency customers
  • Growth of 60,000 new cardholders
  • Demonstrated business vitality and being a good steward of taxpayer funding

As part of the National Cybersecurity Strategy and Implementation Plan (CSIP) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) cyber sprint push to improve federal agency physical and logical security – the MSO provided customer agencies accelerated deployment of fixed enrollment/activation stations and light activation kits. The net result to agency clients included:

  • Enabling more coverage for PIV card issuance particularly to remote sites
  • Increasing PIV compliance government-wide

As part of its effort to improve card delivery times and broaden its service offering the MSO worked with the Department of Commerce, US Census Bureau to augment mobile and fixed sites nationwide with “Local Printing” capability. The net end results:

  • A sponsored applicant now can enroll and receive an activated card in one site visit to a credentialing center.
  • Increased scalability of some 10,000% and reduced time to deliver for a PIV card from 3-5 days to real-time
  • Census typically averaged 75 applicants over three days. With the deployment of the new equipment, Census was able to enroll and provide a PIV card to 780 applicants over the same three-day period.

Quick look ahead

USAccess is committed to its agency community in finding new unique ways to deliver credentialing capability. The MSO has its eye to the horizon. Exploiting new:

  • Lightweight physical technology to collect applicant enrollment data
  • Cloud technology to deliver application hosting and support for PIV credentialing from anywhere, anytime and on any device
  • Logical technology that would enhance virtual credentialing, authorization and authentication, to include next-generation biotechnology, voice, fingerprinting, etc.

These are all long-term aims. Over time, this cutting-edge leadership, partnership development, and entrepreneurial spirit will open new markets for GSA to support, ensure a higher level of security posture for federal agencies, and help to keep costs to a minimum.

Remember to follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to 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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