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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FY 2015 Year-End Data Gives Insights to Government IT Needs and Trends

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 11, 2016

(This blog post is part of a multi-week series reviewing data and trends from GSA’s IT acquisition vehicles for FY15.)

What do you do at the start of a new year?

You make New Year resolutions and look back at the previous fiscal or calendar year and see what transpired and what insights you can gain.

I did this last January with my first Annual Year-End Blog series about FY14 trends in government IT buying.

Again this year I’ll run a series of blog posts here over the next few weeks. This time we’ll take a look at Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) purchasing trends and activity in different IT areas such as cyber, wireless services, commodities from IT Schedule 70, satellite services, network services and more.

We’ll also look at what happened in FY15 with category management and the Acquisition Gateway initiatives having a big impact on government buying.

Understanding Buying Patterns and Trends

Being the largest IT acquisition organization in the federal government, it is our responsibility to create an environment where agencies and industry can obtain the necessary information to understand buying patterns, trends, and best practices.

We work closely with CIOs, CFOs, and CAOs across government to understand current and future requirements, and connect agencies with better industry solutions.

As we look at buying patterns and trends and talk to officials across government, clearly these continue to be the top priorities:

  • Find mission-enhancing technologies with solutions that will expand and contract as needed and serve multiple purposes, without technology investments becoming outdated and stale.
  • Spend U.S. taxpayer dollars wisely, realize IT cost savings and acquisition efficiencies, and meet our service goals to the American people.
  • Enhance cybersecurity and ensure it is integrated into all IT components.

GSA Administrator Denise Turner Roth’s vision for GSA includes goals to be an economic catalyst, proactive federal partner and succeeding in operational excellence. ITS embodies this vision and we are proud to play a role in helping agencies buy smarter, faster, and for greater value.

Stay Tuned for Closer Looks at Each IT Area

IT investments made by government in FY15 give us the latest chapter in the story, including what technologies are important to government as a whole to support the government’s missions.

The data we’re using is based on activity and trends on GSA’s IT contracts. The data gives an idea of our aggregated IT priorities and trends in FY15, and what might be coming next.

Check back here often over the coming weeks as we look back at the insights we can gain from the FY15.

Also, follow and engage us on Twitter @ GSA_ITS.

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Regional Telecom

Posted by Mary Davie
on November 5, 2015

In my last post, we talked about GSA’s issuance of the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) Request for Proposal (RFP) on October 16, 2015.  On the heels of this important milestone, GSA is announcing some changes in our Regional Network Services Program.

The Regional Network Services Program (RNSP) resides within the General Services Administration’s Office of Integrated Technology Services (ITS).  The program provides telecommunications service delivery and technical support for federal agencies nationwide. (GSA services are available in all states and also in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, Samoa, and the Northern Marianas Islands.)

The program’s FY2015 business volume exceeded $450M managing more than 80 Local Service Agreements (LSAs) or contracts with all major suppliers of telecommunication services, including the largest and most well-known of the LSAs–the WITS 3 Contract.

The Regional Program offers significant economic value to its customers by offering excellent–and in most cases, the best–prices available to government agencies.

The following table shows the average monthly prices for basic telephone service offered by the program in FY2016 and FY2011. As noted, average RNS Program prices have decreased, whereas prices in the broader U.S. economy have increased for business local telephone service. Prices in eight of 11 regions have decreased.

Average Monthly Recurring Charge –
Basic Telephone Line
Region FY2011 FY2016 CAGR*
1 $27.14 $22.76 -3.46%
2 $29.77 $20.21 -7.45%
3 $21.61 $21.59 -0.02%
4 $22.54 $14.40 -8.57%
5 $24.23 $21.38 -2.47%
6 $35.28 $28.65 -4.08%
7 $20.70 $23.32 2.41%
8 $26.15 $31.01 3.47%
9 $28.03 $19.07 -7.41%
10 $17.66 $19.27 1.76%
11 $16.43 $9.29 -10.78%
Program Average
(Regions 1-11)**
$19.43 $14.41 -5.81%
Producer Price Index-Business Local
Telephone Service***
$101.80 $108.10 1.21%
  • * The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) provides a constant growth rate over a multi-year period.
  • ** All averages are weighted averages.
  • *** PPI – Business Local Service (Wired Telecommunication Carriers) is tallied by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Product Code No. 517110-112).

Full-Service Delivery Model

The Regional Network Services Program supports a full-service delivery model in Regions 1-10, where GSA works solely with telecom service providers on behalf of its agency customers. (The WITS3 program in Region No. 11 is an exception; it is a “customer direct order” contract.)

Full-service delivery allows agencies to focus on their missions rather than manage the complexities and risks inherent in telecom/datacom procurement and operations.

Moreover, agencies derive significant imputed savings (stemming from federal agency cost avoidance) when opting for full-service, since GSA assumes responsibility for the following:

  • Providing telecom requirements analysis and specification;
  • Conducting acquisition and “fair opportunity” decisions;
  • Placing service orders for moves, adds, and changes;
  • Transitioning service from one service provider to another (where applicable);
  • Assuring prompt payment to vendors;
  • Reconciling monthly invoices with inventory; and
  • Providing ongoing inventory management and vendor oversight.

As part of the recent introduction of category management, the Regional Program has instituted a common, nationwide fee structure for its services in FY2016. Effective category management makes use of market intelligence and expert guidance in procuring goods and services in the telecommunications category. In addition, category management aims for pricing transparency and simplicity. The Regional Program has accordingly introduced a common program fee structure across all LSAs in Regions 1-10.

GSA is also pleased to announce the extension of the GSA National Capital Region’s WITS 3 Contract effective September 10, 2015 with the WITS 3 contract holders, Level 3 and Verizon. Under the extension, the contract Period of Performance consists of the following:

  • A three (3) year base period (November 8, 2015 – November 7, 2018)
  • A one (1) year option period (November 8, 2018 – November 7, 2019)
  • A final option period (November 8, 2019 – May 30, 2020)

The follow-on contract to WITS 3 and the Regional LSAs is the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) Contract.  GSA is focusing increasingly on transition planning from the Regional telecommunications contracts to EIS.

Agencies should also be working on transition plans.  We look forward to collaborating with agencies for the transition to EIS.

If you haven’t already been in touch with us, please go to the EIS webpages and download the template for transition planning or contact your GSA Technology Service Manager.

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IT on the Acquisition Gateway

Posted by Mary Davie
on October 7, 2015

You’ll recall my April post discussing Category Management and FAS’s launch of the Acquisition Gateway, a space for acquisition professionals to  learn, connect, and act upon acquisition information, expertise, and advice. It will serve as an important tool to support and improve how the federal community acquires products and services.

When I wrote that post, ITS had successfully launched the IT Hardware and IT Software category hallways. We’ve since launched three more:

  • Telecommunications,
  • IT Services, and
  • IT Security.

Now the Acquisition Gateway has 17 category hallways, all of which fall into one of the 10 civilian-centric categories, which account for 80 percent of total federal spend.

With collaboration and support from our partner agencies, our IT category managers have collected pricing tools and information, guides, best practices, and expert articles that will help acquisition professionals make more efficient IT procurements.

Agile development process

The Acquisition Gateway is based on an agile development process, where software developers prototype early and iterate often, continuously focusing on end-users and the tasks they need to accomplish.

In this case, the development team involves all end-users in a transparent and collaborative development process. Success requires constant collaboration and a continuous process of incorporating user feedback, including customer-contributed expertise and content.

If you’ve visited the Acquisition Gateway in the past few months, you may have noticed new system changes and enhanced services, including:

  • Revamped Homepage – more easily accessible sections
  • Solutions Finder – revamped the solutions matrix to make searching governmentwide-available solutions easier
  • Communities – a place to connect with acquisition professionals and share knowledge
  • Project Center where users can build an acquisition, complete with project details
  • eBuy Open – an interactive web application that displays eBuy RFQ information to users and provides several filtering and search options, which enables users to quickly drill down to desired information
  • TechFAR Huba community of practice open to all federal government employees with an interest in successful acquisitions. The TechFAR Hub and the Gateway share the common goals of saving taxpayer dollars, making acquisition more efficient, and improving service to customers inside government and out
  • Prices Paid Portal an interactive web application that provides users access to selected data sets which can be searched, filtered, and exported
  • Shared Services – A hub to help federal departments and agencies find and leverage existing solutions rather than build new ones

Acquisition professionals and IT experts like you made these enhancements possible.

Over time, category hallways will capture the expertise of users, category managers, and industry experts and will become a more powerful and effective tool as users from across government share content, contract solutions, data, and industry expertise. Currently, only federal government users have access to the Acquisition Gateway.

However, because transparency is important, GSA is creating a public view of the Acquisition Gateway planned for early FY16. The Public view will be available to stakeholders such as industry, state and local government, and citizens.

When it comes to IT acquisition, having a single place to gather market research, connect with experts, and complete data-driven acquisition confidently and efficiently is invaluable. The Acquisition Gateway enables more efficient procurements by leveraging contract intelligence and spending data to facilitate smarter purchasing.  

We are looking forward to implementing the following enhancements soon:

  • Launch a Statement of Work (SOW) library across multiple categories (currently resides in the Professional Services category hallway)
  • Integration of Advantage Select which establishes FAR compliant, pre-competed, “click-and-pay”, contractual vehicles that any Government buyer can use. Advantage Select will enable more competition, more often, on the most commonly purchased commodity items, and then showcases and gives transparency of these products and pricing to the entire Government acquisition/contracting enterprise for the ultimate experience in low cost, streamlined purchasing.  

Get Started

To continue building on what we’ve already accomplished together over the past year, please go to the Acquisition Gateway and share your feedback with us. We need acquisition experts in all government agencies to share their knowledge.

So how can you start?

  • Sign up for an OMB Max account and login to the Acquisition Gateway
  • Tell your co-workers
  • Share your best practices, templates, and expertise
  • Participate in the communities
  • Share your prices paid / transactional data
  • Provide information on acquisition solutions
  • Join us for usability testing to help drive new features. If you are interested in participating in Acquisition Gateway usability testing, please contact Kelly Robinson at kelly.robinson@gsa.gov

For more information or to get involved, please email natasha.sheehan@gsa.gov. Follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join GSA’s ITS’s overall acquisition conversations.

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Collaborating for Better Government

Posted by Mary Davie
on September 16, 2015

Wikipedia defines “collaboration” as “working with others to do a task and to achieve shared goals.” According to the Free Dictionary, collaborating is a partnership, working as a team, or being in concert.   

For GSA, collaboration is more than just a buzzword or standing at a podium talking to stakeholders. It is a dialog a give and take that includes understanding and respecting everyone’s needs, goals, and values.

Successful collaboration happens when everyone is committed to the core principles of trust, understanding, and compromise– and the end result is a better outcome for all parties.

Creating the IT Portfolio of Solutions

At GSA, collaboration is a driving force as we re-shape many of our government-wide programs and contracts. For those of you working with GSA, you’ve seen or been part of any number of working groups, industry days, interagency meetings, and requirements teams. You’ve contributed thousands of ideas and comments on our RFIs, draft RFPs and in our Interact communities.  You’ve rolled up your sleeves and helped shape our offerings from adding a new Special Item Number (SIN) on IT Schedule 70, to developing OASIS, Alliant 2, Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS), Network Services 2020 (NS2020), cloud strategies, identity management solutions, mobility and wireless solutions, satellite solutions, software, hardware and so much more.  

The Government’s shift to Category Management (CM), has also guided our planning and resulting solutions. We have experts that know telecom, software, IT hardware, IT services and IT security. The category hallways within the Acquisition Gateway provide access to many government-wide contracts, tools, pricing information, buying guides, templates, best practices and access to other buyers across government so you don’t have to figure things out on your own and are able to leverage work others have already done.

Our collective work has led to a very clear strategy for GSA’s next generation of IT and telecommunications solutions.  As a result, GSA is implementing solutions that better meet agencies’ needs, provide flexibility in acquiring IT/telecom, provide savings, reduce duplication and are reflective of technology market offerings. The graphic below shows exactly what we’ve mapped out and what we’ve used to guide our solutions development. 

This graphic shows exactly what we’ve mapped out and what we’ve used to guide our solutions development.

Reducing Duplication While Providing Flexibility

Our category management approach ensures that our contract solutions provide different ways to buy technology based on agency collaboration and feedback. We’ve been asked why you see similar technology or services available on more than one of our contracts. Some might say this also results in “duplication” or confusion, but our customers are telling us that they  need flexibility to buy technology products and services in different ways based on what I refer to it as, “the nature of the buy.”  

ITS prides itself on providing both general and niche solutions for IT and telecommunications products and services to federal, state and local agencies.  These solutions draw on GSA’s acquisition and IT expertise and they help our customers by allowing them to direct more resources into focusing on their core missions. About 30% of federal IT spend flows through ITS contracts and programs. We hold ourselves accountable for increasing federal procurement efficiency, reducing costs for both government and industry, and helping government achieve better results.  Reducing overlapping and redundant contracts is important to ITS. We’ve taken a true portfolio approach to planning our solutions and ensuring we provide maximum flexibility for government buyers as they make complex procurement strategy decisions.   

For example, agencies today are procuring wireless services and devices in a number of ways.  Our FSSI Wireless BPAs offer certain terms and conditions, plans, features (such as aggregated pooling of minutes and data) and pricing for services with devices provided as part of the overall solution. On IT Schedule 70, agencies have the option of buying just devices or service plans and devices and constructing their own terms and conditions.  If an agency were to use Networx for the wireless services/devices, they may be doing so to consolidate mobile services on a broader enterprise platform implementation.  

Cloud is another great example. We have cloud-based services available on IT Schedule 70, on our IaaS and EaaS BPAs, through GWACs (especially where integration or transition services are also needed) and through our network services contracts (off premise hosting or data center solutions are examples).  Our network services contracts are telecommunications focused but also recognize broader, related products and services may need to be part of the overall solution. EIS will provide best in class virtual private network services, Ethernet, voice, and managed network services at significant discounts.  These services may also be related to an agency’s enterprise implementation of data centers or call centers — either on-site or cloud-based.  While these are just a few examples, you can see it really doesn’t make sense to try to define, “bucket,” and limit technology solutions to individual contracts.

Guiding Agencies to the best choice

GSA’s job is to understand the market, listen to agency and industry partners, and use what we’ve learned to create solutions. While creating solutions will involve some overlap, we want to act as an honest broker and help agencies get to the best solution for them. Sometimes that includes guiding agencies to other non-GSA enterprise contracts that might be a better fit for their requirements.

We are making it our responsibility to help agencies through the process, especially when overlap could cause potential confusion about which vehicle is optimal for certain requirements. We will accomplish this through our continued proactive management approach with both customers and vendors. Through collaboration, scope reviews, and relationships, we want to better understand the core requirements and make the best acquisition recommendation.

As I pointed out earlier, we don’t take a “one size fits all” approach. If an agency has a cloud requirement that is within the scope of multiple contracts, we will work with that customer to understand their requirements and help assess their acquisition choices. We will make the best recommendation to ensure the agency requirements are being met in the most efficient and effective manner with the highest quality vendors possible.  On contracts such as our GWACs, Networx, and EIS, GSA performs pre-award and post-award scope reviews ensuring requirements are not only within the scope of the contract but that the contract is being used most effectively.  In addition, on our GWACs and on EIS, training is mandatory for contracting officers who use these contracts prior to GSA issuing them a delegation of procurement authority.

Final Thoughts

Even with slight overlap, these vehicles will deliver flexibility to buyers across government through pre-existing, pre-vetted contracts, which ultimately saves government and industry from investing time and money on new and redundant open-market contracts.

A few final, important thoughts I want to share with you about collaboration:

  • Collaboration allows us to be responsive continually to existing and emerging needs of government agencies and industry
  • Continual collaboration is always a goal, often a challenge, and clearly an opportunity
  • We always look for ways to make IT acquisitions seamlessly support agency missions, rather than hinder them. We also work to align to industry partners’ business goals, when they do not detract from government goals
  • Customer convenience, flexibility, and choice will always matter

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join GSA’s ITS’s overall acquisition conversations.

Join us for a live webcast demonstration of the Acquisition Gateway with Q&A on Wednesday, October 07, 2015 at 2 p.m. ET, 1 p.m. CT, Noon MT, 11 a.m. PT. There’s no charge for this training, and you can earn one Continuous Learning Point (CLP). This webcast is open to all and only federal government agency personnel. Register today!

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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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Small Business GWAC Program

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 27, 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/)

Small businesses are the backbone of job growth and constitute a major force in the U.S. economy. They generate a vital portion of our gross domestic product (GDP) and contribute to growth and vitality of economic and socioeconomic development. In particular, small businesses create jobs and spark innovation, which complement the economic activity of large organizations by providing them with products and services that contribute to their bottom line.

Here at GSA, we pride ourselves on helping the government utilize small business. We have multiple acquisition vehicles that connect government to small business. This provides agencies the flexibility to choose the best acquisition vehicle to meet their need. Some of these vehicles reside in our Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWAC) program.

Small Business (SB) GWACs provide powerful and flexible contracts that support agencies’ complex projects and requirements. These contracts experienced a tremendous amount of growth in FY 2014. Total business volume growth increased by approximately $400M on our three active SB GWACs, comprising 8(a) STARS II, Alliant Small Business, and VETS, from FY13 to FY14; an increase of approximately 19%.

Scope Reviews: Lowering risk and increasing customer support

Part of that increase is due to our complimentary scope reviews for statements of work (SOW). The team works with agencies to help determine whether requirements are within scope of a GWAC within two to five business days. This service reduces the risk of protest.  The Small Business GWAC Pre-award Scope Review Team recently analyzed the pre-award scope review process to see how our contracts are being used.

The number of pre-award scope reviews conducted on our active small business GWAC increased by 12% (253 to 287) from FY13 to FY14.  Across all three of the small business GWACs, IT Support Services is the predominant type of work being considered.

During FY14, GSA conducted 285 reviews and performed those reviews in 1.3 days on average. Retrospectively, the scope review process provides a clear understanding of the requirements, establishes a baseline for proposal evaluation, reduces evaluation and negotiation time, and most importantly minimizes the need for future changes. Understanding the trends of these scopes gives us a better understanding of how to promote small business contracting and satisfy our customers’ needs.

Buying Trends

Some of the most popular uses were for IT Support Services like Help Desk, software maintenance, and system operations.

Small Business GWACs represent 45% of GSA’s total GWAC obligations for FY14.

  • The Alliant Small Business Program experienced a 17% increase in obligations for FY14 compared to FY13.
  • 60 of 80 Alliant small business primes have at least one task order award
  • The 8(a) STARS II GWAC is the follow-on to the very successful 8(a) STARS GWAC.  The contract was awarded August 31, 2011 and resulted in 645 awards in FY14 with over $641 million in obligations.
  • The 8(a) STARS II Program has seen a 41% increase in obligations for FY14 compared to FY13.
  • The Veterans Technology Services (VETS) GWAC has obligations from 16 different federal agency customers.  All contract holders have received task orders totaling over $1 billion in obligations. In FY14, VETS added 14 task orders with $17.1 million in obligations.

Looking Ahead

The future of Small Business GWACs is bright. We’ve seen agencies increase the use of our GWACs to reach their small business goals and meet their IT demands, and we’ve seen businesses grow beyond their small-business designation due to their participation on our program.

This next year is going to be an exciting time for our Small Business GWACs. We’re going to continue to exceed customer expectations by bringing additional value like our complimentary scope reviews and prices paid data. Our flexible vehicles and focus on customer service should help us continue to expand the usage of these vehicles as we look into the future toward our next generation Small Business GWACs.

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

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FY 2014 Delivers Enterprise Growth in Wireless

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 23, 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/)

As we all know, the explosion in demand for wireless and mobile services is continuing at a pace hard to keep up with. And with that popularity comes government’s continuing need to find ways to exploit those technologies while simultaneously saving money and increasing acquisition and operational efficiencies.

In FY 2014, we saw agencies increasingly turn to GSA’s Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) Wireless Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs). Initially launched in the second half of FY 2013, the BPAs experienced substantial growth in FY 2014, with multiple enterprise level buys (greater than 2,500 units) awarded and task order-level competition yielding very competitive rates and cost savings for most federal users.

Since June 2014, month over month program growth exceeded 30%. Additional awards are anticipated in early FY 2015 increasing agency usage and savings (>20%) for the foreseeable future.

Cost Savings, Choice, and Efficiency

The growing demand of the FSSI Wireless solution is largely due to the >22% cost savings they deliver and the flexible features they offer (including no-charge refreshable devices, open market premium devices, agency-level pooling to reduce overage costs, and adherence to federal policies and administrative priorities). The achieved savings by participating agencies is compared to their prior rates or government-wide average and not list prices.

FSSI Wireless BPA task order competitions have driven rates lower from the award value to rates as low as $42, $40, $38, and $36 per user per month for many common smartphone plans.

This competition lowered the average monthly rate across all federal mobile users to approximately $40 per user. The prior average rate across government based on the contracts we reviewed was nearly $55, which was comprised primarily of devices with limited data capabilities. This means the FSSI Wireless BPAs are producing considerable additional savings for agencies as they deploy devices with a much greater data-intensive footprint.

The BPAs have the added advantage they include government-wide discounts that apply as government-wide usage increases, which adds even greater value.

The more agencies use the BPAs, the greater the current and future cost savings for the government and taxpayers.

Initial savings are through the discounted wireless plan pricing and no-cost devices. Two of the four carriers on contract have committed that the BPA prices are the lowest they offer government buyers.  In addition, agencies can see the published prices on all the BPAs in a single place.

In addition, the pooling option for data and minutes are saving agency dollars by allowing high-volume users to leverage the unused minutes and MBs purchased by lower volume users, further reducing overage costs.

Savings came in acquisition efficiencies too. In the past year, some agencies procured services from the BPAs in as little as 3-5 days.  One agency procured 3500-plus devices in less than two months and indicated they could have executed the order in less time.

Wireless Buying Trends

The most popular data add-on and data-only plans are the 500MB Pooled and Unlimited plans. The most popular voice plans under the BPAs are the 400 Minute Pooled and 100 Minute Pooled plans.

We’re finding agencies default to unlimited when they don’t know what they will use to avoid potential overages. The FSSI wireless contracts offer agencies usage data enabling them to structure the right plan and pooling arrangement that will satisfy individual needs reducing risk of overages.

During 2014, government agencies also took advantage of additional assistance offered by GSA to help manage the mobile component of their IT enterprise by using GSA’s Managed Mobility sources of supply list or the FSSI Wireless BPAs to add mobile management resources they can bundle with wireless service plans.

Overall, 2014 was a successful year for GSA’s wireless and mobile programs.  Building on the FSSI Wireless Program and Managed Mobility Program, we consolidated these solutions and category management approaches under the GSA Enterprise Mobility Program.

Going forward in 2015, we expect wireless BPA usage and savings to continue to grow. Several agencies indicate the BPAs will be their contract vehicle of choice for all future acquisition of wireless services.

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

 

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Alliant GWAC: Exploring Success

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 22, 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/)

The GSA Alliant GWAC had an outstanding year helping agencies achieve their mission through a fast, flexible, and safe acquisition vehicle. Agencies obligated  $2.682 billion dollars to Alliant during FY14, marking Alliant as the largest utilized single GWAC in GSA history by dollar value. Alliant is GSA’s premier enterprise GWAC, providing flexible access to customized IT solutions from a large, diverse pool of industry partners. Alliant allows for long-term planning of large-scale, complex program requirements. The success can be attributed to several factors that deserve a closer look.

Alliant FY14 Success Analytics:

Since contract inception, more than 60 agencies have used Alliant and awarded an estimated $18.7 Billion in task order value.  Fourteen agencies used Alliant for the first time in FY14. This steady growth can be attributed to numerous factors. For example, approximately 1200 federal acquisition & program professionals have received the Alliant GWAC Delegation of Procurement (DPA) training to including 229 just in FY14 – an 18% increase in buying power! Lastly during FY14, 85 Statements of Work (SOWs) were submitted for review.

Top Agencies and Vendors:

The top three agencies utilizing Alliant (obligated dollars) are the Department of Homeland Security at $2.74 billion, the Air Force at $2.70 billion, and the Department of State at $2.52 billion. The Army comes in at a close fourth at  $2.24 billion, marking a significant task order increase of 47% between FY13 and FY14.

Currently, SAIC is the dominant vendor with over $1.6 billion in obligations spread across 42 task orders. Booz Allen Hamilton Engineering Services follows with $720 million across 43 task orders, increasing its capture by more than 60% over the past three years according to a recent study conducted by Govini. Northrop Grumman follows suit with $550 million across 36 task orders.

Strong relationships between Government and Industry:

As pre-competed vehicles, GWACs can streamline the acquisition process, which naturally leads to saving time and taxpayer money. Our pre-competed vehicle consists of 58 exceptionally qualified contractors. The Alliant program office takes pride in the individual relationships that have been created through the years between the Enterprise GWAC division and the outstanding Alliant contractors. To date, 50 out of 58 primes have received awards, exemplifying the diverse pool of credible talent and the constant interaction between government and industry.

The Enterprise GWAC division recently invited representatives from each of the 58 Primes to participate in Alliant’s twice-a-year Program Management Review (PMR). The event spans two days and allows industry to interact with government and partake in collaborative program updates and breakout sessions.  Success on projects through Alliant is a three-part partnership – GSA, the procuring agency and the company performing the work under the task order. We’ve built this model over a number of years through all of our GWACs, and it’s because of that focus and approach that Alliant has served the federal community so well.

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

 

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Satellite Solutions Reach New Heights in FY14

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 9, 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/)

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

Therefore, it’s no surprise that use of commercial satellite services to government under GSA-DOD’s joint Satellite Communications (SATCOM) contracts grew more than 10% from 2013.

In total, usage exceeded $530 million in Fiscal Year 2014 (FY 2014). Nearly 1,200 services and items have been delivered through the SATCOM contracts since inception in 2011.

Worldwide communications, national defense, 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.

In total 64 agencies, including 45 civilian agencies, ordered satellite services from SATCOM contracts through the Future COMSATCOM Services Acquisition (FCSA) Program in FY 2014. Of total orders, approximately 90% came from defense and 10% from civilian agencies.

Satellite Buying Trends

The buying patterns on the SATCOM contracts reveal which satellite services are most often used and how agencies are buying them.

Most commercial satellite requirements (around 80%) are being satisfied through use of  IT Schedule 70. These are mostly for satellite bandwidth (transponded capacity) and managed service solutions offered on a subscription basis. More complex solutions that often contain customized components associated with technology, geography, mobility, or security frequently leverage task orders via Custom SATCOM Solutions (CS2) and Custom SATCOM Solutions – Small Business (CS2-SB).

Transponded capacity, which agencies ordered from Schedule 70 Special Item Number (SIN) 132-54, is the use of dedicated bandwidth on a commercial communications satellite. It accounted for 70% of orders in FY 14. Agencies pay for service from fixed and mobile locations to a satellite and back to the end user.

FCSA offers bandwidth in eight separate frequency bands, the most popular being Ku (using frequencies of about 12 GigaHertz for terrestrial reception and 14 GigaHertz for transmission). Ku band dominated with 92% of the transponded capacity. Satellite service in Ku band uses smaller dishes, which can be physically mobile and more easily follow soldiers deployed around the globe to achieve their missions and communicate with their families.

Subscription services  (Schedule 70 SIN 132-55) accounted for 10% of government satellite solution demand last fiscal year. Custom satellite solutions through CS2 and CS2-SB orders accounted for 20% of the demand.

The SATCOM program is a strong supporter of small business. In 2014, $45 million (9% program-wide) of purchases went to small business. Of this, $19 million was through GSA’s-DOD’s joint CS2-SB contract and $26 million through Schedule 70.

Savings and Acquisition Efficiency for Satellite Services

In FY 2014, bandwidth prices using the FCSA contract averaged 34% off Schedule list prices. GSA estimates that the SATCOM centralized competition and increased price transparency driven by the GSA-DISA partnership saved the government $229 million in FY 2014, with $180 million of the savings attributed to DoD orders.

Also of note, the GSA-DoD joint contracts in FY 2014 continue to achieve a reduced number of contracts and acquisition cycles for satellite solution procurements, thereby generating further administrative savings.

For non-custom satellite solutions, the reduced acquisition lead time for task orders under Schedule 70 reduces time to award by about nine months (versus creating new contracts). Shorter acquisition times generally translate into lower administrative costs.

Looking to the future, defense needs will continue to dominate the government’s commercial satellite market. However, we also anticipate growth in civilian demand. This is especially true for the two predefined Schedule 70 SIN solutions, which lend themselves to quickly activated solutions for humanitarian and disaster support services.

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

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