GSA pushes Seat Management

The General Services Administration is launching an all-out marketing push
for its Seat Management Program.


“We will do whatever it takes to sell this concept,” said Charles Self,
assistant commissioner for information technology integration at GSA’s Federal
Technology Service, during a speech at a Federal Sources Inc. monthly breakfast meeting in
McLean, Va. “There is some confusion today. That is our challenge—to
unconfuse.”


FTS will prod the winning vendors themselves to get the word out. FTS will create an
industry advisory board, consisting of the eight Seat Management vendors, to develop a
marketing plan for the contracts, Self said. FTS also plans to fund marketing programs and
add to the Seat Management Program staff, he said.


GSA must first convince agencies that vendor-management of desktop systems will let
agencies get back to their basic tasks, he said. “Our basic message to government:
Focus on your primary mission,” Self said.


FTS and vendors used marketing and public relations to explain the concept of desktop
outsourcing in the first place, he said.


“It took a long time to explain what GSA’s Seat Management is about, but
people finally understand,” he said. Now that awareness is up, information technology
executives have begun to debate its merits.


“We’ve had a big challenge with Seat Management, [but] the big challenges are
yet to come,” he said. There will be few takers in the first year of the contract,
Self acknowledged.


GSA and vendors must convince IT executives that the Seat Management Program makes
economic sense. A recent Association for Federal Information Resource Management survey of
government IT executives revealed little enthusiasm for seat management.


The AFFIRM survey found that 48 percent of the respondents were not yet sold on the
concept, because they weren’t convinced desktop outsourcing would save them money or
serve their agencies’ interests.


But at least half of the respondents said they might give the GSA program a try through
a pilot.


At least 15 percent of the survey respondents said they would probably use GSA’s
Seat Management contracts.


Cost was a secondary concern to agency IT executives, the poll showed. Freeing staff to
focus on the agency’s core mission and improving service delivery were the biggest
benefits executives would seek by outsourcing PC operations.


Determining seat management cost benefits is difficult because current costs for PC
support and maintenance are difficult to calculate, respondents said.


Most respondents said they could determine the true costs with 70 to 90 percent
accuracy.


But Self said he doubted the findings. “I challenge any federal manager to
accurately get hold of your costs today,” he said.


Self said Harris Technical Services Corp. of Alexandria, Va., through an agreement with
FTS, will provide cost studies for agencies that want to get a better handle on what they
spend now before moving to seat management.


“In some organizations [seat management] will make sense. In some it will
not,” said Jeff Depasquale, senior principal consultant for Harris Technical.


Many agencies have a good fix on management and support costs but lack accurate numbers
on other items, Depasquale said.


“They don’t have a good idea with some of the hardware, software, network
components or communications costs,” he said.


Managers also don’t measure intangibles, such as the loss of productivity when an
agency employee helps a colleague figure out a computer problem instead of relying on a
help desk, Depasquale said.


The most difficult part of selling Seat Management will be changing how agencies view
desktop computers, Self said.


“The hardest sell to government is going to be taking the ‘personal’ out
of personal computers,” he said.


That change will occur naturally, as agencies increasingly rely on private companies to
handle their IT, he said.


“They know how to do this a whole lot better than we do,” Self said.

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