GSA reinvents SmartBuy'again
Program's chief calls original goal for broad deals 'unrealistic'
- By Jason Miller
- Oct 08, 2004
The SmartBuy program has fallen far short of the General Services Administration's vision of a big-box store for government software, a sort of Costco for federal enterprise license deals.
GSA has set agreements with only two of the top 25 software vendors to government since the program began more than a year ago. Now, SmartBuy's chiefs say they will take a less ambitious approach to reducing the price agencies pay for software. GSA is shifting its focus away from governmentwide contracts and to deals for agencies with immediate software needs.
In all, GSA has brought four vendors onto SmartBuy: ESRI of Redlands, Calif., Eyak Technology LLC of Anchorage, Alaska, Manugistics Group Inc. of Rockville, Md., and Novell Inc. The most recent deal was set this month with Eyak Technology for its WinZip compression software.
GSA officials pointed to a lack of buying data from agencies as one of the chief obstacles to making SmartBuy a success. Agencies still have not completed their software inventories, said Tom Kireilis, SmartBuy program manager.
'There is a serious shortcoming across government when it comes to agency inventories,' Kireilis said. 'It is an impediment for us not to be able to determine what the requirements are for agencies.'
Originally, the agency had wanted to negotiate deals by last fall with most of the biggest vendors to government. Instead, GSA is now trying to land some of the largest software vendors by aggregating the needs of smaller groups of agencies under separate contracts. GSA then would replicate the terms and conditions as other agencies need to renew licenses, Kireilis said.
NASA is working on one such deal, but Kireilis ware. He would say only that the company is a large one.
'It is unrealistic to do a governmentwide deal,' he said. 'And the vendors agree with us. We need to get agency numbers of how many licenses they need and work from there.'
Larry Allen, executive director of the Coalition for Government Procurement in Washington, said lack of government backing has hamstrung SmartBuy. It is no longer getting the attention from GSA and other administration officials that it did early on, he said. 'There is no driving political force behind it anymore.'
Lawmakers also have backed off. Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, sent letters to GSA earlier this year about the program's slow pace but has done little follow-up.
'We anticipate this will continue to be a high priority of the oversight agenda of [the committee] in the next Congress,' said Bob Dix, staff director for the Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census.
'We recognize the need to do a large deal, but large deals also are more difficult,' Kireilis said. 'Essentially, we are changing the way these vendors do business with the government, and they are reluctant to change their business practices.'Big fish
As to the vendors GSA does have SmartBuy agreements with, only ESRI and Novell are among the top 25 software vendors across the government. And Allen said they sell what buyers consider niche products.
GSA has lured few name-brand companies, such as Microsoft Corp. or Oracle Corp., to the table Sources indicated recently that GSA was negotiating with Oracle, but no agreement has been reached.
The Office of Management and Budget originally set a goal of $100 million in cost savings this year for SmartBuy, a target GSA said it has reached. Kireilis said the three established SmartBuy deals'with ESRI, Manugistics and Novell'have translated into $101 million in savings.
Kireilis said GSA is working on some larger deals and expects one to be signed by the end of next month.
Meanwhile, GSA also will be looking at more small deals such as the one with Eyak Technology. For the WinZip agreement, GSA piggybacked on an enterprise deal reached by the Army Small Computer Program Office.
The Army struck an agreement with Eyak that lets all agencies buy WinZip 9.0 at 98.4 percent below retail price. Agencies will pay 45 cents per license, which includes two years of upgrades and maintenance.
David Bahary, product leader for the Army Small Computer Program Office, said WinZip sells for $29 retail and some DOD offices were spending $6 to $8 per license. Under a previous contract for WinZip, the Army and Air Force paid $1.50 per license.
The Defense Department's Enterprise Software Initiative teamed with GSA to award Eyak Technologies the $5 million, five-year SmartBuy contract.
The Army's Network Enterprise Technology Command placed the first task order against the contract for 45,000 Army users, with delivery scheduled for February.
Bahary said the Army eventually will buy 500,000 licenses, which was a main reason Eyak agreed to lower the price.