Interior lets others use IDEAS

The idea behind IDEAS is to automate procurement activities from end to end. Three
agencies have bought into it so far: the Customs Service, the Federal Trade Commission and
the Federal Communications Commission. To date, only FCC is upgrading from the MS-DOS
IDEAS to the Microsoft Windows version, said Joan P. Moreci, IDEAS program analyst.


Interior offices that have the original version of IDEAS will receive upgrades
throughout 1998.


The new front end is the Procurement Desktop from American Management Systems Inc. of
Fairfax, Va. It adds a graphical interface, a World Wide Web requisitioning system and an
interface to federal financial systems.


Interior began IDEAS through a $27.8 million development contract with Price Waterhouse
in 1993, around the time of President Clinton's mandate to pilot EC systems by Sept. 30,
1994. When IDEAS went into testing at three Interior sites in June 1994, it was the first
civilian EC system.


The original configuration was designed to run under MS-DOS on existing networked 286
or faster PCs. Its core was the Standard Automated Contracting System from CACI Inc. of
Fairfax, Va., and it had digitized versions of standard departmental acquisition forms and
an EC module for routing digital documents.


Procurement officers connect to vendors through a Defense Information Systems Agency
gateway.


As Interior's work force shrunk, the need for end-to-end EC grew, senior procurement
analyst Wiley Horsley said. The work force has declined by 24 percent since 1993.


"We will leave much of that decision to the bureaus," he said.


The department has 80 major offices, fewer than 20 of which now use IDEAS. There are
about 1,000 smaller offices around the country. Government purchase cards have reduced the
workload of many procurement officers in the field offices, so not every site needs IDEAS,
Horsley said.


As originally conceived, IDEAS "didn't have all the bells and whistles our
customers were looking for," such as a graphical display and an interface to
financial systems, Moreci said. "A Windows version of our old software wasn't
included in the contract," she said, so Interior recompeted IDEAS this year.


The fast-track competition had a 25-page limit on proposals. AMS received the award in
March. Pilot testing ended in June.


The requisitioning module in AMS' Procurement Desktop will let Interior employees fill
out forms online with their Web browsers and route them to procurement officers. At the
other end, the interface to core financial systems can close out transactions without
creating documents for payment and accounting.


The end-to-end electronic process will reduce errors and eliminate rekeying information
into the financial system, Moreci said.


It also will reduce the department's late-payment penalties, he said.


About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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