Unisys launches Web portal to compete for online orders

Unisys launches Web portal to compete for online orders

By Chris Driscoll

GCN Staff

Unisys Corp.'s federal unit has launched an all-in-one information technology Web portal for products it sells through government contracts.

Unisys officials said the site will compete with the General Services Administration's GSA Advantage, the National Institutes of Health's Electronic Computer Store II and other vendors' ordering sites.

The site, at www.unisysfederalonline.com, replaces an earlier site called IT Select. It gives users single access to Unisys wares available from the federal group's open-market program and on contracts on the GSA schedule, NASA's Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement II and NIH ECS II.

An Instant Assistant button on the site triggers a free telephone call from a technical support agent, Unisys federal spokesman Mark Root said. The call will come within three or four seconds if you have already put your phone number into the system, he said.

Although Unisys and GSA representatives avoided discussing competition between their sites, what they offer is similar. Both have advanced search engines that allow searches by product, manufacturer, federal contract or key word, or by combinations of criteria.

Like Unisys' site, GSA Advantage has a customer service button that brings a call back in about a minute, said Ed O'Hare, deputy chief information officer for GSA's Federal Supply Service. O'Hare is responsible for developing upgrades to GSA Advantage.

'GSA is piling 80 percent to 90 percent of its development budget into improving Advantage's search engine' over the next few months, O'Hare said. The site will change in January to a new search engine that categorizes search items.

Impact player

'I guess the Web sites are competing with each other in some sense,' O'Hare said, 'but I think, more importantly, the GSA schedules program is competing with other contractual vehicles. Advantage needs to be up, it needs to be used, and it needs to work quickly so that whoever uses it can find that schedule item.'

The Unisys site resells more than 100,000 products through four vehicles, Root said. Delivery is within 48 hours for approved buys of in-stock items.

Four computer equipment distribution companies deliver the products: Ingram Micro Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., Insight Enterprises Inc. of Tempe, Ariz., Merisel Inc. of El Segundo, Calif., and Tech Data Corp. of Clearwater, Fla.

The site offers four ways to search for products and services, said Dave Hylton, the Web site's manager. A buyer can search by contract, by product category, by product under all the contracts at once or by key word. In addition, an advanced search feature can make sophisticated combinations of criteria.

'You can also search the open market,' Root said. 'You can combine the purchase of schedule products and open-market products and put that on one order.' The site accepts payment using government IMPAC credit cards.

The Unisys subsidiary last year did about $1 billion worth of business with the federal government. 'About 75 percent is maintenance services, systems integration, consulting and software development, and the rest is hardware and software,' Root said. The corporation as a whole had about $7.2 billion revenue last year.

'Certainly the trend for the future is for government to buy online,' he said. 'Are 100 percent of users buying online today? No. But the trend is in that direction.'

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