GSA is close to hooking a major SmartBuy deal

The General Services Administration, working under its SmartBuy enterprise licensing program, is closer than ever to catching one of the big fish in the software vendor pond.

A GSA official, who requested anonymity, said the SmartBuy program office is entering serious negotiations with a large database vendor and hopes to have an initial deal in place by November. 'This is the big one we have been hoping for,' the official said.

The official would not identify the company, but sources outside GSA say it is Oracle Corp.

Michael Sperling, an Oracle spokesman, confirmed that the company is looking at SmartBuy. 'We're talking to GSA and supportive of its efforts, but we're still early in the process,' he said.

The contract initially would include only a few agencies'both large and small'and would be expanded to others in time.

The program office also is coming up with a formal process to announce imminent SmartBuy contracts, the official said. GSA announced Novell's deal on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site.

The official said two of the major challenges are establishing a level of trust and determining what exactly the SmartBuy deal would cover.

The money's in maintenance

Many large vendors don't want to negotiate software maintenance fees because that is where most of their profits come from.

Also, other sources said, many vendors still don't understand the program's benefits to them. The official said GSA will set up a meeting between the vendor and agency CIOs and senior procurement executives. 'It is one thing for the vendor to tell us what is on the table to negotiate, but it is another to tell their customer,' the official said.

While the negotiations continue, agencies can request a waiver should they have an immediate need to renew software licenses.

GSA earlier this month detailed the waiver process in a memo to CIOs and procurement executives. GSA said agencies should request a waiver after notification by the SmartBuy program office that a contract is imminent, or if they are renewing enterprise deals with ESRI of Redlands, Calif.; Manugistics Inc. of Rockville, Md.; or Novell Inc.

Requests should be sent to Mary Mitchell, deputy associate administrator of GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy. She said GSA had granted 14 waivers as of Aug. 11.

CIOs and senior procurement executives may request a waiver only if there is a serious impact on agency operations or additional cost if the software is not purchased immediately.

But the memo made it clear that appeals should be rare. 'Requests for waivers are discouraged, but for compelling reasons they will be considered and granted,' the memo said.

Representatives from the CIO, Federal Acquisition, Chief Financial Officers and Small Agency CIO councils and the SmartBuy project management office will decide whether to grant the waiver.

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