Feds still in the dark and wary of seat management

Feds still in the dark and wary of seat management

Procurement officers and purchasing managers cite unfamiliarity, loss of control as major problems

By Richard W. Walker

GCN Staff

Not sure exactly what seat management is? You're not alone.

Or, if you know what it is, do you have doubts about it? You've got company, too.

A fair number of feds are uncertain about what seat management is or how it works, while others say there are too many question marks about it for their agency to adopt it, a recent GCN telephone survey of 100 procurement officers and purchasing managers found.

More than a quarter of those contacted'26 percent'said either that they didn't know what seat management is or they weren't familiar enough with seat management to discuss it.

A large number of survey participants, 69 percent'including those who reported that they weren't familiar with seat management'said that their organizations weren't likely to adopt seat management.

About 19 percent of feds surveyed said their agencies use seat management, although that percentage is probably misleading because some participants took seat management to denote any sort of outsourcing.

Of those who said their agencies had adopted seat management, 68 percent said they use the General Services Administration's Seat Management Services contract.

About 23 percent of respondents not involved in seat management said it was 'somewhat likely' that their agencies would adopt it. Only 4 percent said they 'definitely planned to' move to a seat management approach and another 4 percent said it was 'very likely' that they would adopt it at some point.

Nearly 33 percent of purchasing managers who participated in the survey declined to offer thoughts or comments about the concept of seat management because their agencies had no need or plans to adopt it.

Of other feds whose agencies don't use seat management but were knowledgeable about it, 42 percent voiced wariness about the approach and enumerated a variety of doubts.

The largest single issue was cost. Nearly 13 percent of respondents thought it would be more expensive to move to seat management than to own and manage computer assets internally.

'I don't think it's cost-effective,' said an Air Force systems accountant.

Is it worth it?

At an agency in Washington, another systems accountant said his only real problem with seat management was cost. But it was a big enough concern that it would likely deter his agency from taking a serious look at it, he said.

'It's difficult to get a handle on how the costs justify themselves,' said a senior technical adviser at the IRS.

Other participants, totaling 10 percent, voiced misgivings about the mechanics of seat management contracts. 'I'm worried about length of the commitment,' one fed said. 'I hear the contracts can be limiting.'

Some were apprehensive about vendors fulfilling upgrade requirements.

'Upgrading the systems is my primary concern,' said one buyer. 'I wonder if it can be done quickly enough to do our daily tasks at the level we are doing them now.'

Perceived lack of flexibility was the primary worry for a Navy business-area manager in San Diego. 'I hear [seat management] is too structured,' he said.

Another anxiety was loss of control. Nine percent of participants were wary of giving up control of their systems.''I just can't see my agency relinquishing control of our systems to a second party,' an Interior Department purchasing official said.

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