GSA chooses Web, XML access to data

'GCE didn't just talk about what they could do'they showed us in a prototype. They also offered us a negative incentive if they didn't meet the Oct. 1 deadline. These two things were pretty significant.'

'GSA's David Drabkin

The cost of reporting data to the Federal Procurement Data Center this fall will drop to less than $1 per transaction from a current average of $32.

The General Services Administration expects to save the government about $20 million annually on about 500,000 transactions by revamping the Federal Procurement Data System.

GSA late last month awarded Global Computer Enterprises a five-year, $24.3 million contract for the upgrade. The deal includes incentive clauses to extend the contract if the Gaithersburg, Md., systems integrator performs well.

GCE has tapped Business Objects Inc. of San Jose, Calif., IBM Corp. and Oracle Corp. as subcontractors.

GSA evaluated 44 proposals and found GCE's to be the best value, said David Drabkin, GSA deputy associate administrator for acquisition policy. Drabkin was not on the source selection team but reviewed finalists' proposals.

'GCE didn't just talk about what they could do'they showed us in a prototype,' Drabkin said. 'They also offered us a negative incentive if they didn't meet the Oct. 1 deadline. These two things were pretty significant.' He said the small business offered GSA $100,000 if it failed to get the new system up and running by Oct. 1.

Under the GCE proposal, GSA will own the data and the company will retain ownership of the hardware and software.

Better data

GSA expects the new system to provide more accurate and timely information as well as give more information about agency contracting habits than the current version does, Drabkin said.

The high cost of maintaining the current system, developed in 1979 and updated in 1996, comes from the manual labor agencies and data center staffs must do, he said. Agencies send batch files of procurement information to a feeder system, where data entry personnel further format it. Then data center employees check for errors and enter it into the repository.

To reduce costs, GCE will develop and implement a repository system that uses Web services and Extensible Markup Language to connect to agency legacy systems and transfer data, company president Ray Muslimani said. The change will greatly reduce the amount of manual data manipulation, he said.

GCE built a prototype to test the commercial and government software that agencies now use.
When an award is entered into the legacy system, 'our Web services software will transfer it using an XML schema to the new system in real time,' Muslimani said. 'We are using open standards so any agency system will be able to connect to the new system.'

Drabkin added that GCE's use of open standards played a significant role in the company's win. The changes will reduce the overall lifecycle cost of the system, he said.

No more summaries

The upgraded system will provide specific information about purchases between $2,500 and $25,000. The current system gives only summarized reports about those buys, Drabkin said.

Agencies will not have to change the data elements they collect now because, Drabkin said, they all agreed on a data dictionary before GSA issued the request for proposals.

Muslimani said the developers must educate agencies about the new system. GCE will publish a directory of Web services codes and XML schemas that will show agencies how to integrate their systems with GSA's.

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