GSA preps agency IT buying portal
- By Paul McCloskey
- Oct 30, 2014
GSA offered a glimpse into its progress building an online portal that supplies a mix of pricing data and expert analysis to help agencies make better IT buying decisions.
GSA’s Common Acquisition Platform (CAP) project, announced in April, would set up a virtual shopping portal through which agencies could access price information and impact analysis on various IT contract categories.
CAP is a tool in GSA’s “category management” strategy to improve government acquisitions by adding transparency and structure to the process, said GSA officials, who gave a briefing on the project at the recent ATC/IAC Executive Leadership Conference.
The strategy calls for organizing agency spending by product or service categories and managing each category as strategic business unit.
“Right now there are tens of thousands of contracts across our government,” said Tom Sharpe, commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service. “One company alone can have hundreds of contracts with the federal government; there is a way to radically change federal procurement, and it’s as simple as working and acting as one.”
GSA is currently is working the “acquisitions gateway,” a component of CAP that would act as an online entry point to help contract officers and program managers navigate their category and purchasing options.
“Ultimately, we want to be able help agencies understand the category in a way that results in accelerated processes, reduced price variability and ultimately smarter purchasing by government,” said Laura Stanton, director of program management for the CAP.
For each category, agency buyers will be offered a “solutions matrix” of contract information, including a list of optional contract vehicles and fees, systems and services associated with the contracts. Written business analysis and guidance would also be offered.
“We have expert articles that talk about what are the trade-offs if you’re doing a lease versus buy for IT hardware,” said Stanton. “Why would I care; what do I need to think about. How do I think about enterprise licensing agreements, what do I need to know to do the right thing for the government?”
The development team has found the scope of the IT categories so broad it broke them into a series of sub categories covering IT hardware and software. Over the next year, the team expects to refine the categories and expand the tool, Stanton said.
“What it comes down to is giving people access to that information so they can have a single repository of all this data,” she said. “We want to put the information out there
so that it’s not hit or miss and instead is a consolidation of what a contract officer or what a program manager needs to know in order to set up the requirements.”
“All of this information is really just the basis for actually being able to build extra decision support,” said Stanton.
A beta version of the gateway was launched in early October. Three hallways have now been built covering administrative and IT contracts.
“GSA and the acquisition community are in there kicking the tires,” Stanton said, adding that GSA in interested in feedback from industry. “Your ideas, your feedback and your collaboration is really important to make the category management work and to make CAP work,” she said.
Paul McCloskey is senior editor of GCN. A former editor-in-chief of both GCN and FCW, McCloskey was part of Federal Computer Week's founding editorial staff.