New, improved BPA

Only a few years ago, we regularly heard complaints about the fact that you could buy a
computer and printer with a single General Services Administration Multiple-Award Schedule
order-but not the cables.

Now GSA has award- ed the ultimate blanket purchasing agreement: a national, three-year
deal in which the prime contractor can aggregate orders from any agency for any of tens of
thousands of computer products from scores of large and small MAS vendors.

Officials of Government Micro Resources Inc. of Manassas, Va., the BPA's prime
contractor, expect to add more services and telecommunications products to this BPA later

If the no-cables rule was the ultimate in logical process taken to absurdity, then the
new national BPA brings to completion the government's drive to simplify agency
information technology buys.

This contract, as well as several regional BPAs awarded by GSA's Federal Acquisition
Services for Technology program office, signals change for all parties.

Agency technology buyers ought to get what they want more quickly. Traditional
resellers, whose supplier relationships are formal and difficult to change quickly, will
find tougher going. Small, minority-owned and disadvantaged vendors have more hope of not
getting lost in the crush of large vendors with more visibility and marketing muscle.

PeopleSoft Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif., has joined a growing number of vendors promising
to tailor software for federal customers [GCN, June 2, Page 65]. PeopleSoft makes
financial and human resources packages and is one of the fastest-growing companies in the
software business.

The question arises: Should the government want tailored versions of software for
universal functions such as accounting? In the interests of governmentwide
interoperability and lower lifecycle support costs, shouldn't agencies and Congress change
the way the government operates so it can use commercial packages without modification?

As a practical matter, applications such as PeopleSoft's don't necessarily need all
that much modification for the feds. And what smart vendor wouldn't do whatever it takes
to keep large customers satisfied? But that doesn't absolve customer agencies from
examining their own processes to lower costs for themselves and vendors alike.

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