Acquisition Gateway – Act as One for Smarter Acquisition

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 11, 2017

This blog post is Part II 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.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

2016 was a landmark year for the Acquisition Gateway. To start, we reached 10,000 users, and counting! Even more important, acquisition professionals across the federal government contributed to the Gateway’s success. From sharing sample templates to participating in usability testing and design workshops, agency experts brought insight from every corner of the acquisition lifecycle. Together, we built an online workspace packed with category-specific tools, expertise, data, and content.

We’re excited to celebrate this achievement as one acquisition community, and I want to personally thank those of you who either contributed to the IT Hallway or logged in to explore. As I wrote in a previous post, the Acquisition Gateway supports category management by expanding the use of high-quality, high-value strategic sourcing solutions to improve the government’s buying power and reduce contract duplication.

Acquisition professionals visit the Gateway to:

  • Find advice, market intelligence, and acquisition sources in the IT Hallways,
  • Gather and download samples and templates in the document library,
  • Search and compare government-wide contracts in the solutions finder, and
  • Access various tools and price indexes in eBuy Open and the Prices Paid Portal.

Whatever your need, the Acquisition Gateway has all the helpful information and search tools to help you navigate the process and the universe of purchasing options.

IT Hallways

Two years ago when the Acquisition Gateway launched, IT Hardware and IT Software were two of the three category hallways that went live. Today, you can find 19 hallways aligned with the 10 common federal government nondefense spend categories.

The IT category now houses six hallways:

  • IT Hardware
  • IT Software
  • IT Security
  • IT Outsourcing
  • IT Consulting and
  • Telecommunications

The IT Hallway welcomed over 3,000 visits last year. Each visit provided an opportunity for an acquisition professional to experience a neutral, unbiased repository and community of practice. We packed content and expert advice into more than 150 articles in collaboration with acquisition experts across government. There were more than 2,800 views of IT-specific articles, covering topics from Governmentwide Strategic Solutions (GSS) for Desktops and Laptops Initiative to Negotiating Cloud-Based Contracts.

Document Library

The Gateway continues to evolve thanks to acquisition expert feedback and contributions. For example, what started out as a Statement of Work (SOW) library has now expanded to an ever-growing document library with 50 new document types to choose from across all phases of the acquisition process. Since its expansion this past summer, the document library has been viewed more than 3,500 times. Today, you can find 100 IT category-specific documents alone and can contribute new documents of your own directly into the library with a few simple clicks.

Solutions Finder

The solutions finder, which began as a spreadsheet covering a handful of governmentwide contracts, is now a robust search tool. It allows you to find and compare 100 IT solutions out of more than 200 governmentwide contracts, purchase agreements, and shared services. For example, a quick search for “IT Software” with the selected agency as “Navy” provides 25 governmentwide contracts to choose from. Users can filter and compare multiple contracts to include the description, solution type, fee information, expiration date, points of contact, available offerings, and prices paid information, just to name a few.

Monique Davis, a Human Resources Specialist with the Office of Personnel Management, visits the Acquisition Gateway daily. “I am currently working to place human capital project management support; I use the Gateway to research potential solutions,” she said. Davis has more than 15 years of acquisition experience and finds that the solutions finder is the feature she uses most to support her day-to-day activity. “The acquisition gateway allows me to research and compare different contracts / solutions, decreasing the amount of time I spend on market research for a particular requirement.”

eBuy Open and Prices Paid Portal

While the Acquisition Gateway has added more IT category hallways and more information articles in the document library, and has given users a more robust search tool, the Gateway also empowers agencies by giving them access to acquisition information, data, methodologies, and tools so they can make good decisions.

“Being able to access eBuy Open through the Acquisition Gateway is invaluable to me and my program. It allows me to research and analyze open, closed, and cancelled Requests for Quotes (RFQs) submitted through GSA’s eBuy system. From a review standpoint, it’s a great way to support my staff and apply checks and balances,” said Jeffrey Hale, a small business officer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Acquisition and Grants Office. (Hale gathers information and resources to advise management on small business procurement policies and regulations).

Since March 2016, users visited the Prices Paid Portal more than 9,000 times. It enables agencies to use taxpayer dollars more efficiently because they show contract intelligence and spending data so agencies can make informed purchases.

Lynda Potters, a program manager for the U.S. Navy, and her team, negotiates agreements for Enterprise Software Licensing (ESL) and Enterprise Software Initiative (ESI). The Gateway allows them to identify potential cost savings and help ensure the federal government uses its purchasing power to get the best prices possible.

“With the Prices Paid Portal, we can access different views than our web sites,” Potter said. “Without it, we can only access [U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force] data. It allows us to see agency data across the federal government, which gives us a much broader picture when gathering market research or assisting customers.”

When a customer wants a particular product that isn’t Navy-specific, the Gateway allows Potters’ team to gather the information they need to find a product they can use.

“We visit the Gateway to see what types of agreements exist, where spend exists,” Potters said, and added “We have access to pricing data, but find the way the data is analyzed and displayed on the Gateway very helpful. The display features and filters make it easy to use when conducting market research.”

Next Steps

Success requires constant collaboration and a continuous process of incorporating user feedback, including customer-contributed expertise and content. Our approach means we can keep improving the site without taking it down for repairs. Among some of the anticipated changes in the next release, users can expect:

  • Expanded development options to integrate new apps
  • New tutorials for the Gateway and its tools
  • Robust document library content and expanded filtering capabilities
  • Enhanced milestone management within the project center and
  • Improved search capability in the hallways.

Learn and Earn CLPs with Acquisition Gateway U

Beginning January 23, we are hosting Acquisition Gateway U, a two-week series of webinars designed to help you get the most from Acquisition Gateway. Offered through GSA and the Federal Acquisition Institute, Gateway U is open exclusively to federal agency personnel. Also, webinar attendees can earn one Continuous Learning Point (CLP) for each session fully attended.

Review the sessions being offered, and register today!

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

Continue Reading...

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.

Continue Reading...

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.

Continue Reading...

IT Solutions Navigator Gets a New Look

Posted by Mary Davie
on October 5, 2016

Our team here at GSA’s Integrated Technology Services (ITS) continuously strives to provide world-class value for government agencies. One of the ways we do this is by providing electronic tools (e-tools) to help agencies improve management of procurement transactions, place orders, or learn more about business services and products. Moreover, our e-tools make it easier for government — federal, state, local, tribal and other eligible purchasers — to buy IT and telecommunications products, services, and solutions online.

We just made it a whole lot easier for agencies to select the best acquisition solution to meet their unique requirements from GSA’s broad array of IT offerings by launching our new IT Solutions Navigator.

The IT Solutions Navigator, first released in August 2013, has been redesigned to help acquisition professionals find and evaluate GSA’s IT and telecommunications solutions. In fact, we improved the overall functionality so it’s easier for potential buyers and program managers to choose the IT solutions and services that best fit their acquisition requirements.

Our original user base gave a thumbs up

Over the summer we conducted usability testing. We wanted to learn from our current users about the site’s overall functionality and level of usefulness when it comes to meeting their specific needs. Based on the initial feedback, our current users gave a thumbs up! on the IT Solutions Navigator’s new look and feel:

  • “I like how [IT Solutions Navigator] matches the best GSA contracts with my needs and simplifies what would otherwise be a very complex task to perform.”
  • “I like the contract comparison matrix. It makes it much easier to compare multiple contracts.”
  • “It was easy to navigate throughout the site. I really like the print [and] save view — it has a lot of useful information laid out nicely.”
  • “The system is also very fast and responsive. Overall this tool simplifies the market research process in a very straight forward simplistic way.”
  • “You’ve covered a lot of areas and somehow made a tool that is easy to use and very useful.”
  • “The new [IT Solutions Navigator] looks like a major improvement from the previous site.”

Aside from the fact the IT Solutions Navigator makes it easier for acquisition professionals to select the best solutions from GSA’s broad array of IT offerings, we also:

  1. Improved the review and selection experience;
  2. Optimized the search results to tailor IT and telecommunications solutions; and
  3. Increased best option identification.

Improved acquisition professionals’ ability to review and selection experience. The new IT Solutions Navigator gives agency acquisition professionals the ability to identify and evaluate appropriate acquisition vehicles to meet IT requirements. For instance, on the new site users can access ordering guidelines and other online resources for assistance, as well as easily compare multiple GSA IT contract vehicles in order to select which solution will best meet their needs. It’s also easier to register and to use Navigator on mobile.

Optimized the search results to tailor IT and telecommunications solutions. It gives agencies expanded acquisition decision support capabilities for all levels of government: federal, state, local, and tribal government. For instance, the site presents users with a refined set of GSA IT contract vehicles based on their acquisition requirements and priorities, and even will rank the available contracts in order to easily determine which GSA IT Solution will best meet the customer needs.

Increased best-option identification. Finally, it gives users more resources and real-time one-on-one support online via the National Customer Support Center Live Chat.

Other enhancements

Users can use the IT Solutions Navigator tool to:

  • Reduce acquisition lead time through streamlined access to GSA’s IT product, service, and solution offerings;
  • Search for IT solutions based on keyword: Product Service Code, Federal Supply Code, Special Item Number, or North American Industry Classification System code;
  • Identify Green IT product/service categories available to help agencies meet their sustainability goals;
  • Save and view previous contract match searches upon future visits to the system; and
  • Link to information about contract vehicles and assisted services, as well as other resources, to include ordering guidelines, eTools, and Section 508 assistance.

Acquisition Gateway

Both the IT Solutions Navigator and Acquisition Gateway are tools we offer government to help find the best IT solutions and services online. The IT Solutions Navigator solves an immediate need for an automated decision support tool to help agencies narrow down the choices of acquisition solutions available through GSA IT contracts based on their own unique criteria. The Acquisition Gateway is rapidly developing new capabilities to offer agencies state-of-the art tools for conducting research across all government enterprise contracts. Together, they support our government’s IT acquisition requirements.

You can send your questions or feedback to:

Information Technology Customer Service Center (ITCSC)
Phone: (855)ITaid4U (482-4348)
Email: ITCSC@gsa.gov
——————————————————————-
Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.
Learn more about GSA’s e-Tools here.

Continue Reading...

Agency Mobile Resources at the Ready following OMB Memo

Posted by Mary Davie
on September 7, 2016

Note: This is a guest blog post by Amando E. Gavino Jr., Director, Office of Network Services, ITS/FAS/GSA. He is responsible for a portfolio of telecommunication acquisition solutions that provide government agencies the ability to meet their diverse set of telecommunication requirements. Acquisition solutions include Networx, Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions – EIS (the future replacement for Networx), SATCOM, Enterprise Mobility, Connections II, Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative – Wireless (FSSI-W), and the Federal Relay Service.

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

Resources and Tools Are Available to Help Agencies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reach Out for Personal Assistance

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

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

Continue Reading...

Recent Network Services Updates Benefit Agencies, Suppliers

Posted by Mary Davie
on August 16, 2016

Now that the launch of Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) is just around the corner, some recent Network Services updates will benefit both federal agencies and telecom suppliers.

In July, we unified 11 Regional Network Service programs and one program office into a single national Network Services program.

In the past, GSA’s regional and national network services’ offices provided separate solutions — regional programs provided local telecom services and the national program office provided long-distance telecom services to agencies. Each region managed regional-based contracts with different fees that provided similar services. Agencies made buying decisions geographically and GSA provided local personnel in each region to support local and long-distance ordering and service delivery.

This made sense when lines between ordering local service and long-distance service were more distinct, but it’s not true today.

Now, our agency customers will have one person to go to for their regional and long-distance (wide-area network) telecommunications.

What to Expect Going Forward

Service delivery representatives have begun to reach out to agency customers to provide guidance on local service ordering. You will see:

  • A standard single fee for local service
  • One mailbox for service requests (tsr@gsa.gov) and one for trouble reporting (fas.phonehelp@gsa.gov)
  • No more regional boundaries for Network Services
  • No more service delivery inconsistencies across the program
  • Consolidated order writing and billing departments means a central group will help you with any billing/inventory questions or disputes
  • One group of pricing and technical experts will help gather agency requirements
  • Beginning in FY 2017, consolidated agency-facing website and operational budget

When EIS is awarded, agencies and suppliers will also have:

  • Fewer contracts to manage
  • Easier-to-understand offerings, with a streamlined acquisitions portfolio
  • One portfolio of contracts with
    • consistent offerings and pricing,
    • transparent fee structures,
    • a deeper field of technical expertise,
    • consolidated operations, and
    • standard procedures

New EIS Transition Website

At the same time we’re realigning, another big priority remains transition planning to move services to EIS. The EIS transition must be complete by May 2020.

To meet this deadline, we need you to be working now on EIS transition planning.
To help you with this effort, we have:

What You Can Do Now

With realignment off and running, and transition planning in full swing, here’s what you can do:

  • Stay tuned for your new local ordering instructions
  • Work with your GSA customer service representative
  • Submit telecom service requests to tsr@gsa.gov
  • Send telecom trouble reporting to fas.phonehelp@gsa.gov
  • Confirm your agency’s telecom inventory now and have the agency EIS transition plan completed and to GSA by October 2016

Once GSA awards EIS, federal agencies will begin to issue task and service orders and start moving telecom services to EIS starting in early 2017.

If you need assistance or have any questions about agency transition, please email ITCSC@gsa.gov or call (855) 482-4348.

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

Continue Reading...

Updates on Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS)

Posted by Mary Davie
on August 15, 2016

We at GSA, customer agencies, and industry partners have been working diligently to prepare for Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) — the 15-year, multi-billion-dollar contract that can transform government infrastructure and telecommunications while improving government efficiency and effectiveness and saving hundreds of millions of dollars.

Our road to EIS has been a collaborative, open, and transparent journey, and we’re almost there.

We want to be sure you’re aware of the next steps and when you can expect each one.

Transition Readiness

We’ve been talking over the past year about how important it is for your agency–and others–to prepare for transition, including confirming final inventories and delivering your transition plan to GSA by October 2016. The goal is for agencies to be ready to start transitioning and do fair opportunity competitions for EIS task orders early in calendar year 2017 after EIS is ready for agency use.

With EIS just around the corner, you need to already be planning to move services to EIS now. All agency transitions will need to be completed by 2020, and it’s going to be complicated.

To meet this deadline, think of us as your business partners. We hope you’ve already started to plan. Download a copy of GSA’s EIS Transition Handbook from the GSA Interact community site. If you need help with agency transition or other matters, reach out to us at the IT Customer Service Center at (855) 482-4348 or ITCSC@gsa.gov.

Proposal Evaluation Status and Discussions with Offerors

We are evaluating offers submitted on February 22, 2016 in response to the EIS Request for Proposal (RFP), issued in October 2015.

On July 28, 2016, we posted on the GSA EIS Interact site that we planned to contact offerors by mid-August. We are finalizing the information we intend to discuss with offerors.

Award Date and EIS Availability for Use

We want to award EIS as quickly as possible and plan to do so in early calendar year 2017. EIS can transform government infrastructure and telecommunications for the next decade.

Since we take this responsibility seriously, we’re being diligent, thoughtful, and thorough to maximize value for the government, industry, and the American people.

We remain committed to collaborating and working openly with you now and going forward.

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

Continue Reading...

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.

Continue Reading...

GSA Continues to Develop Health IT Service Offerings

Posted by Mary Davie
on July 19, 2016

As stated in the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan, federal agencies are purchasers, regulators, developers, and users of health IT. In their various roles, they set policy and insure, pay for care, or provide direct patient care for tens of millions of Americans. Over the past seven years, our nation’s health information technology (health IT) landscape has experienced a remarkable transformation.  

With an annual growth rate of 7.4%, Health IT Services is one of the fastest growing markets in both the government and private sector.  Therefore, it is not a surprise that GSA’s IT Schedule 70 is seeing increased attention and interest in its Health IT Services solutions.  So, to ensure that IT Schedule 70 stays at the forefront of the Health IT market and to make it even easier for our government partners to get access to new and emerging health IT services, I’m pleased to announce the release of the new Health IT Services Special Item Number (SIN 132-56).  

GSA’s growing subject-matter expertise in the Health IT market, coupled with our existing online procurement tools, will allow us to provide a best-in-class solution for Health IT market research, acquisition planning, and procurement.

What are Health IT Services?

Health information technology (Health IT) makes it possible for health care providers to manage patient care through the secure sharing of health information. A simple example of Health IT is having an electronic health record (EHRs) instead of your medical history and health information on many pieces of paper stuck in a manilla folder.

Other products and services that fall under Health IT include mobile and tele-health technology, ePrescribing, medical sensors, remote monitoring devices, and other assistive technologies.  Health IT allows individuals and healthcare providers from federal, public health and community-based support organizations to electronically collect, share, and use health information.

Given the wide range of activities, and agencies’ desire for Health IT accessibility, the government is in an optimal position to improve healthcare and reduce costs through the secure use of information technology–making Health IT a valuable and strategic market for GSA.

Goals of the Health IT SIN

The Health IT SIN simplifies the procurement process, making it easier for IT Schedule 70 customers to get access to new and emerging health IT services. At the same time, it fosters competition and promotes small business participation. The new Health IT SIN gives industry partners a way to distinguish their Health IT services offerings from other IT related services already under the IT Schedule 70 program, letting them stand out to agencies seeking Health IT services.  It will also allows agencies to more easily identify Health IT solutions and the experts within the healthcare market.  

The Health IT SIN also supports the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan to expand adoption of Health IT services, reduce prices, advance secure and interoperable health information solutions, and strengthen healthcare delivery systems.

Health IT SIN Development and Collaboration

The new Health IT SIN is the result of collaboration between federal agencies and industry partners.  IT Schedule 70 worked closely with the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and the Defense Health Agency (DHA) to ensure the Health IT SIN is a valuable resource to federal, state, local and tribal governments. We co-hosted industry days and agency meetings, and issued multiple RFIs to ensure we captured comments from both customer and industry partners.  Since the beginning of the Health IT SIN development process, VHA has referred vendors to IT Schedule 70 for possible inclusion under the Health IT SIN.  Additionally, DHA has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with GSA as DHA’s singular Health IT procurement solution.  

This collaboration creates a win-win for both agencies and industry. Our customer agencies stay involved as active participants by using the Health IT SIN, while our industry partners are committed to providing innovative Health IT Services to government users.

Participation is Easy

Current IT Schedule 70 contract holders must submit a modification to their contract through GSA’s eOffer/eMod web page. Industry partners not yet on Schedule 70 must submit an offer. Please follow the steps outlined in our convenient online guide.

Both new and existing industry partners may be eligible for our FASt Lane program, which gives suppliers shorter processing times for IT Schedule 70 contract actions.  Contact FAStLane@gsa.gov for assistance and visit the IT Schedule 70 Interact page to download detailed instructions and a pricing proposal template.

Also, I encourage agencies visit the IT Schedule 70 Health IT SIN web page for more information on how to use the SIN to purchase Health IT services.

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

Continue Reading...

Focusing on the EIS Customer Experience

Posted by Mary Davie
on June 30, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Customer Takeaways

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Industry Takeaways

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

Common Threads for Everyone

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading...