Buying in to online procurement

Buying in to online procurement

Software tools can bring e-government to life

By Kevin McCaney

GCN Staff

The push toward electronic government involves more than the information, forms and services government offices provide to citizens. A big part of the process'and a big part of the potential savings in time, money and paper'lies in procurement.

In a recent GCN Reader Survey, 56 percent of the feds polled said they make at least some of their purchases online [GCN, June 5, Page 20]. The figure is likely to increase steadily, as the number of government-oriented online marketplaces increases and agencies set online buying policies. Presidential candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore both have made a nearly complete shift to online procurement as one of their goals for federal agencies.

The tools for online buying aren't limited to a vendor's Web site or to online marketplaces such as GSA Advantage or

There are a number of software products available for buyers that can streamline the process and help procurement officers plan their buys.

Here is a look at several products that are tailored for government use.

The Gateway Client/Server Federal System from Technical Services Associated Inc. of Mechanicsburg, Pa., is a Microsoft Windows program designed for end-to-end tracking of a government procurement.

The modular program includes an array of software functions that automate the process'from request for proposal forms to a catalog database'and can be used with organizations of any size, TSA said. TSA recommends a Pentium client for using Gateway C/S federal.

The program requires at least 16M of RAM with 2M of free storage. It runs under Microsoft Windows 3.1, Windows 9x and Windows NT.

TSA also offers FAR-Master, a program for the retrieval of Federal Acquisition Regulations and supplements as they become available. FAR-Master is sold through one-year subscriptions that include updates. The software requires only 640K of RAM and 5M of free storage. TSA has versions available for Windows, Mac OS, Unix and IBM operating systems.

Contact TSA at 717-691-5691, or check the company's Web site, at

Procurement Desktop is one of several products and services aimed at federal procurement from American Management Systems Inc. of Fairfax, Va.

The workflow management software, which runs under Windows, automates the procurement process and can be scaled to small or large organizations, AMS said. It has a relational database, a Web interface and external interfaces that provide access to other administrative systems.

AMS also offers a set of procurement services it has developed in alliance with Ariba Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., Requisite Technology Inc. of Westminster, Colo., and FreeMarkets Inc. of Pittsburgh. They include combinations of AMS' financial and contract management systems with Ariba's eProcurement, and linking AMS services with online auctions conducted by FreeMarkets.

Contact AMS at 703-267-8000, or go to its Web site, at

NIC Commerce Version 3.0, released in April, is the latest online procurement system from NIC Commerce Inc. of Reston, Va. Designed for government users, Version 3.0 expands the software's product comparison and customization features. It also lets vendors more easily update products, prices and order statuses, the company said.

The software uses Java and the Extensible Markup Language for interoperability, allows attachments of requests for quotations and other forms, and uses public-key infrastructure security.

Contact NIC Commerce at 703-742-7827, or visit its Web site, at

Virtual Procurement Office and the Planning module from Compusearch Software Systems Inc. of Dulles, Va., lets government offices, bureaus and agencies plot and track procurements over a span of several years.

Users input information into the Planning module, then calculate when the requisition should begin, the company said.

The VPO suite takes over tracking. Its array of functions includes electronic notification, online bidding, bid analysis, invoicing and archiving.

Contact Compusearch at 703-481-3699, or visit the company's Web site, at


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