GSA to link Alliant to enterprise architecture
- By Rob Thormeyer
- Mar 03, 2006
READY TO RIDE: John Johnson and other GSA officials expect Alliant to be a a full-service IT vehicle for their customer agencies.
After months of delays, reanalysis and industry speculation, the General Services Administration unveiled a few new tweaks to its highly anticipated governmentwide IT services contract, Alliant, last month and promised to award the vehicle by next summer.
And while the verdict remains to be seen on whether changes will be embraced by both government and industry, one thing is certain'GSA needs Alliant to work and win over customer agencies.
'This is huge for GSA,' said Neal Fox, a former Federal Supply Service assistant commissioner who left GSA last summer and now is a consultant. 'They have a lot invested in Alliant and it is critical that Alliant is seen by GSA's customers as a vehicle that supports them.'
Some key changes
At an online industry day late last month, GSA's John Johnson, assistant commissioner for the Office of Service Development and Delivery, and Jim Ghiloni, Alliant project manager, de-tailed a few key changes. The officials said another round of draft requests for proposals will go out this summer.
One significant change, Ghiloni said, is that the statements of work in the Alliant GWACs will reflect the Federal Enterprise Architecture. With this approach, GSA doesn't need to list all the exact requirements in the statement of work. 'Instead, we will capture the requirements in a flexible model that will change over time along with the IT industry,' Ghiloni said.
GSA officials envision Alliant as a full-service IT vehicle for their customer agencies. There will be two awards'a $50 billion Alliant full and open procurement, which is geared toward large IT companies and systems integrators, and a $15 billion Alliant Small Business procurement.
The 10-year GWAC will offer all government agencies IT solutions and complex integration services and will replace the expiring Millennia and Applications and Support for Widely Diverse End User Requirements (Answer) contracts.
To date, though, crafting a final strategy for the Alliant procurements has been a challenge.
After rolling out an initial draft RFP in March 2005, the agency'in the midst of an ongoing reorganization plan'reshuffled the personnel behind the acquisition and last fall placed the contract under Johnson's management.
Although GSA officials pledged to issue the final RFPs before the end of last year, Johnson put the program on hold until his team could analyze and review the comments on the draft and the overall Alliant strategy.
During the virtual industry day, Ghiloni said GSA still sees a need for Alliant and will move quickly so agencies can switch over to the new system as the legacy contracts expire.
Objections to FEA
But GSA's tweaks are not sitting well with industry experts. Some said that tying the statements of work to the FEA could be akin to putting the cart before the horse.
Fox, who ran the Alliant program before leaving GSA, said the FEA, which aims to bring a business-like approach to the government's mission, would fit better at the task-order level rather than in the statement of work.
'Saying that Alliant will be aligned with the FEA is very nice-sounding, but trying to contractually tie it to the FEA will be tricky, since FEA really ties in at the task-order level,' he said.
The scope of work under the GWAC isn't truly known, Fox said, until an agency signs up with a company on the Alliant contract and negotiates the kinds of services it needs.
Getting too specific at the master-contract level could also limit a customer's choices, said Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, a Washington industry association.
'I think GSA needs to be careful here because whether you're talking about the government or private customers, what a customer says they want and what they really want aren't always the same thing. GSA needs to anticipate what a customer wants,' he said.
Meanwhile, after the virtual industry day, GSA released a request for information seeking input on whether and how it could carve out a portion of the Alliant contract for medium-sized businesses.
GSA officials also said they want comment on its definition of medium-sized businesses'defining them as companies that have annual revenues between $21 million and $500 million.
But Fox and others questioned the relevance of this request, arguing that there is no legal definition of a medium-sized customer for GSA to rely upon.