Victor Powers | In RFQs, keep all vendors in play

Interview with ECS III program manager Victor Powers

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POWERS OF PERCEPTION: 'ECS III is primarily an IT commodities store, not a services contract. The services offered are limited to the IT equipment purchased from the contract.'

In a GCN interview, program manager Victor Powers explains the advantages of buying from ECS III and what is being done to streamline ordering while meeting increasingly stringent strict performance requirements of OMB.

GCN: What are the main advantages of using ECS III for IT purchasing, as opposed to other governmentwide acquisition contracts, single-agency multiple-award contracts and other procurement methods?

Powers: It's tried and true. We already have the processes in place to make sure customers are complying with the [Federal Acquisition Regulation]. A second item would be ease of use. We have the [request for quote] system that we are continually enhancing. It is step-by-step instruction.

GCN: What kinds of products do agencies typically buy from ECS-III?

Powers: Workstations, networking equipment, BlackBerrys, personal digital assistants, software and maintenance for the specific equipment purchased are our most popular items.

GCN: What steps do you take to ensure that customers are getting the best prices and quality for the products and related services?

Powers: The ECS III contracting officer ensures that all Contract Line Item Numbers and IT refreshment requests ... are reviewed for price reasonableness and commercial availability, and whether they fall within the scope of the ECS III contract. Spot price reductions are available, which reduces the cost to the customer. There is also ongoing, open discussion with vendors on the contract and on pricing issues.

GCN: In a January presentation, you talked about a recent internal audit that pointed out some areas of improvement. One task suggested by the audit involves keeping services to a reasonable percentage of product costs.

Powers: ECS III is primarily an IT commodities store, not a services contract. The services offered are limited to the IT equipment purchased from the contract, and the ECS III contracting officer reviews each item requested for price reasonableness. We feel it's important to review those kinds of orders and make sure they're in scope.

GCN: How does ECS III determine who is an eligible vendor for a particular RFQ?

Powers: When vendors were selected as prime contractors for ECS III, each had defined the IT equipment they could provide based on designated Lots 1 to 6. When a customer asks for IT equipment, they request by lot number and the request is sent to all vendors who provide goods for that particular lot.

GCN: The audit also found that a small subset of vendors received the biggest dollar share of business, and in response, ECS III has enhanced the RFQ system to route RFQs to all eligible vendors. Why weren't all eligible vendors included before, and what do you think will be the effect of this change?

Powers: All eligible vendors have always been included in the RFQ system. What we have found is that where vendors utilize effective marketing strategies for GWACs, the net result is a larger number of customers and orders. [The National Institutes of Health's Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center's] Outreach and Education Team is working with large and small vendors to assist them in enhancing their marketing strategies to gain market share.

NITAAC is ensuring compliance with the Fair Opportunity to be Considered rules and the President's Management Agenda. Changes in the RFQ system will assist customers in complying with these mandates.

Customers have always been able to select vendor quotes through the system. Federal requirements stipulate that customers must ask for quotes to determine which is best value.

ECS III took that requirement a step further, and automatically sends the request for quote to all vendors who can supply the IT equipment and services, and automatically provides a Best Value Report and sends it to the customer. This is an effective way of keeping the goods and services as competitive as possible.

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