Bring on the Beans

In this context, bean counter is a compliment--and it's just what FTS needs as it moves
into the era of FTS 2001 and desktop seat management. By all accounts, Fischer, now GSA's
chief financial officer, is a deliberate and thorough executive.

The massive FTS 2001 telecommunications contracts, like the waning FTS 2000 program
they will replace, will need a steady hand to guide them through evaluation of bids and
final awards. Telecommunications vendors are a contentious bunch, likelier than other
classes of vendors to challenge government requirements and contract activities. The
industry has become cutthroat as even big outfits such as MCI Communications Corp. show
the strains of the very deregulation they fought for.

Moreover, awarding local service contracts will take a steely, clear-eyed approach.
Congress last year was in such an emotional frenzy over the prospect of local competition
that it delayed the FTS 2001 requests for proposals to encourage more competition. But as
Woods' outgoing deputy, John Okay, noted with characteristic understatement, "The
great momentum [of local competition] that was going to sweep us all away has slowed

In reality, the momentum has ground to a halt. The silence is deafening.

Seat management, under which agencies use service contracts to acquire computing needs
instead of buying desktop computers, has the potential to change the economics of the
federal PC business.

It will take someone with well-grounded analytical ability to sift through competing
claims of finance companies, resellers and manufacturers. It's akin to leasing a
car--often the fine print and a little knowledge reveal that the shiny BMW at $399 per
month is a lousy deal.

The fact is, desktop computing and telecommunications are largely commodities now, even
though vendors prefer to compete on features. So the ability to cut through the hype and
judge the real value delivered will take, well, a good bean counter. And don't forget, a
reformed GSA FTS is obligated to make a profit on the services it delivers.

We wish Dennis Fischer luck.

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