What's seat management? ... Is that your final answer?

What's seat management? ... Is that your final answer?

By Richard W. Walker

GCN Staff

What's in a name? A great deal, apparently, when you're talking about seat management.

Patrick Schambach, chief information officer of the Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco, whose agency implemented seat management three years ago, has joked that seat management sounds like something airlines do'manage seats.

The lack of knowledge about seat management is a bit of a surprise to Mark Hagerty, program manager of the Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA, one of two federal seat management contract vehicles.

But Hagerty agreed that the term generates confusion.

'I'm sure that there is some misunderstanding about what's included when you call it seat management or desktop outsourcing,' he said. 'Folks don't have a full understanding of what it includes, so I think there's a weakness in communications in that area.'

Hagerty said it wasn't surprising that feds responding to the survey expressed doubts about such matters as cost, flexibility and contract details.

'That's something we continue to run into,' he said. 'There are misconceptions about desktop outsourcing and seat management.'

The concept of seat management is still relatively new. The government's two seat management contract vehicles, ODIN and the General Services Administration's Seat Management Services contract, were rolled out just two years ago.

So what exactly is seat management?

GSA defines it as 'a way [for agencies] to acquire their entire distributed computing environment, including managed lifecycle support, from a single point of contact.'

Pure and simple

In seat management's purest form, agencies buy a unified service, with pricing figured on a per seat'or per user'basis. The seat contractor delivers all hardware, software, help desk, network support, planning and design, and maintenance and installation services.

In other words, you're turning over the whole computing shebang to someone else. Outsourcing, in contrast, is a general term that applies to contracting for any or all of these parts. An agency can outsource network services, for instance, while continuing to manage its equipment or other assets. Under seat, you don't own or manage anything.

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