GSA revamps Advantage portal

GSA revamps Advantage portal

Contracting officers now can find the proverbial needle in the haystack when searching for products on GSA Advantage, the Federal Supply Service's procurement portal.

Using software that sorts the portal's 13,000 catalogs and 7 million products, feds now can drill down to the exact product they are looking for, instead of having to sift through mounds of search results, said Nancy Goode, director of GSA's Systems Management Center.

'We categorized all the items in GSA Advantage using the United Nations Standard Products and Services Code,' Goode said. 'This was the No. 1 issue with our customers: They couldn't get to what they needed quickly. Now, hopefully, they can.'

Chuck Popelka, deputy director of the center, said when an agency contracting officer wanted to find a company that sold something as simple as paper towels, they would receive thousands of results for any company that sold paper, towels or paper towels. The new search tool would turn up 62 companies that sold only paper towels, he said.

The search enhancement is part of an overall redesign and five-year strategy GSA has outlined for the portal, Goode said.

'We developed a GSA Advantage business case that we will use to provide us with strategic direction over the next five years,' Popelka said. 'We built this plan to work with the FSS enterprise architecture as well.'

Along with the new search engine, GSA has redesigned the Advantage home page to ease navigation, moving up functions such as order status and express ordering.

Bu the tagging of products to speed and fine-tune searches is the feature GSA officials are most excited about, Goode said.

The project team used AutoClass sorting software from Zycus Inc. of Princeton, N.J., on top of a search engine from Verity Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif.

'One of the best features is that the search engine will give a user the most frequently used categories,' said Tim Dempsey, a systems analyst for the center. 'So if a user puts in computer, they may get computers, computer desk and computer chairs.'

Popelka said many of the revisions are in response to user survey and focus group suggestions.

In the future, GSA plans to offer agencies virtual storefronts. Popelka said GSA wil list all the blanket purchasing agreements an agency has negotiated in one place so employees can see pricing and discounts. GSA already is working on storefronts now with the Agriculture Department and the Air Force.

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