Cross-agency team hammers out mobile procurement strategy
- By Amanda Ziadeh
- Oct 05, 2016
Agency mobility leaders are working to establish a governmentwide strategy for buying and managing mobile devices and services but say they need more accurate usage data to do so.
To simplify the federal government’s over 1,200 separate mobile agreements for more than 200 unique service plans for voice, data, and text capability, the Office of Management and Budget in August issued a memorandum on improving the acquisition and management of mobile devices and services. It requires agencies to report mobility service usage, remove unneeded inventory on a quarterly basis, reduce the number of contracts for mobile devices and services and improve plan pricing and device refresh schedules.
To move the effort forward, OMB established a Mobile Services Category Team, or MSCT, led by the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the General Services Administration and OMB. As Jon Johnson, program manager for GSA’s Enterprise Mobility Programs, explained, this team of mobile device and service subject matter experts works across government to address the memo’s requirements and push federal mobility usage forward.
In the memo, the MSCT is responsible for creating a strategic plan by Oct. 31, for at least one next-generation governmentwide acquisition solution to be awarded before May 31, 2018. “We’ve actually completed that. It’s in review right now,” Johnson said at the Advanced Technology Academic Research Center’s Oct. 4 Federal Mobile Computing Summit. “We’re expected to release that very, very soon.”
Additionally, the MSCT is tasked with developing device management guidance and best practices so agencies can efficiently adopt new devices and better manage costs. Johnson said the MSCT is working to build sustainability into the strategy by exploring business practices such as device recycling for agency credit. MSCT is also working on a brokerage concept that establishes a single pool of minutes and data for all contract holders.
Along with defining best practices for mobile management and increasing industry-government interaction, the MSCT is largely focusing on data, according to Rob Palmer, deputy CTO for DHS’ Enterprise System Development Office.
The right kinds of data are needed to accurately measure an agency’s and the government’s full mobility service usage, activity and spending. “In many of our organizations, that’s still scattered. We have more contracts than we probably should, which adds complexity in terms of aggregating that information and where we’re spending those dollars, which then decreases the ability to leverage that buying power,” Palmer said.
This is where the memo’s Integrated Data Collection comes to play. Federal agencies must report all mobile usage and pricing data to the IDC quarterly so OMB can post it to the Acquisition Gateway to help other agencies with their market research and contracting. The reported data includes information about application deployment and maintenance so the MSCT can start standardizing mobile services and consider mobile application vetting.
To that end, the MSCT and OMB are working to better define data fields in the IDC. “We see that as a really good opportunity to get a solid set of standard data elements from these contracts,” Palmer said. Making the data visible to agencies will provide insights into how the government is spending on devices and, overall, will improve decision making.
As is, procurement activities for mobile services that aren’t being reported in the database are difficult to assess. In fact, when OMB said the government spends $1 billion a year on mobile contracts, that’s just a best guess based on the data available, Palmer said. He hopes the next memo will have a more accurate number. “Once we get to that point, then we can really start making decisions.”
Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.