Who will grab a seat?
contracts for the General Services Administrations Seat Management Program are going
to be the most heavily touted buying vehicles in a long time.
Charles Self, assistant commissioner of GSAs Information Technology Service, said
GSA would put its own dollars behind selling the program and encourage the eight
contractors to do the same. I just hope I get a Seat Management mug.
GSA also has asked Harris Corp. to create a model that agencies can use to measure the
total cost of ownership of their desktop computing resources. The presumption is that
after agencies see how expensive it is to run PCs and LANs, they will flock to Seat
And thats not all. Self told 300 or so vendors gathered at a Washington breakfast
that his office will encourage agencies to change their cultures to more readily accept
the outsourcing of their desktop PC infrastructures. He said GSA has to wean users away
from the personal in personal computers.
Its clear GSA wants the proverbial horses to drink from the trough of Seat
So the question is, how thirsty are agencies? Judging by the urgent push to sell the
heck out of Seat Management, the level of demand is unclear.
Whatever the demand for Seat Management services, all this contract-selling activity
shows how entrepreneurial government has become. Old-time industrialist Henry Kaiser used
to say, Find a need and fill it. That type of thinking led to the
governments widespread use of indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts.
Today, marketers often invent the need, then come up with the product to satisfy it.
For example, in a form of automotive seat management, one car ad features air conditioned
front seats, whatever those are. But the Seat Management Program isnt that trivial,
because desktop computing can be a truly expensive affair.
Seat Management appears to fill a third need: one of which the agencies are unaware. So
GSA, having already created the way to fulfill the need for lower-cost computing, is
working to eliminate the chance of potential customers not realizing their need.
Will it work? Who knows. But if Seat Management turns out to be a yawn, it wont
be because GSA didnt give it the old college try.
Thomas R. Temin