‘The Sky’s the Limit’ for Alliant Small Business GWAC

‘The Sky’s the Limit’ for Alliant Small Business GWAC

By Steve LeSueur
Editors note: This section on the Alliant Small Business program is reprised from an 1105 Custom Media report of 4/26/2010.)

When GSA officials began planning the Alliant Small Business (Alliant SB) program, they drew from best practices across agency’s stable of small business governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWACs), including 8(a) STARS, COMMITS Next Generation, and Veterans Technology Services (VETS). Consequently, when Alliant SB was launched in February 2009, GSA officials incorporated lessons learned for training agency users, collaborating with industry contract holders, and supporting agencies throughout the task order process.

The payoff was a strong first-year performance. Alliant SB issued 17 task orders worth $251 million, according to Stephen Triplett, Director of the GSA Small Business GWAC Center. In addition, Alliant SB has 8 additional task orders under consideration.

“We had a great first year with a lot of excitement about the program,” Triplett said. “We think that the sky’s the limit.”

Helping Agencies Achieve Small Business Goals.
Alliant SB is 10-year GWAC and has a $15 billion ceiling to provide IT services and solutions to all federal agencies. Although the contracting vehicle has 73 companies, officials say that the average number of bids submitted for each task order has been less than five. “We have just the right amount of competition per opportunity,” Triplett said.

The program is self-funding, and so agencies pay a fee of 0.75 percent per task order. Alliant and Alliant SB offer a fee cap of $150,000 annually per task order on orders in excess of $20 million per year.

Alliant SB officials take seriously their role as advisors to help agencies satisfy IT requirements using qualified small businesses. They emphasize that each of their small business GWACs have unique capabilities and specialties that can satisfy a customer’s need.

“When customers come to the Small Business GWAC Center, they can choose from the many contracts we offer,” Triplett said. “We serve as an honest broker to help them find the best fit.”

And when agencies select Alliant SB as their contracting vehicle, they receive continuous support, which starts in a program’s planning stages until the final solutions are delivered. “We don’t want to be there just in the beginning. We will be there throughout to make sure they get the results they were promised,” said Matt Verhulst, Contracts Branch Chief at the Small Business GWAC Center.

Ensuring Scope Compliance
One of the more popular services offered by the center is its Scope Compatibility Review. At no charge to agencies, the center will review an agency’s statement of work (SOW) to ensure that its requirements fall within the scope of the Alliant SB contract. SOWs are reviewed twice a week by the center’s panel of experts, who will help agency’s refine the document to ensure their needs are met. Following the process, the center will issue a written statement certifying that the project is within scope of the contract.

Agencies can use a template provided by the center to submit their SOWs online at the Alliant SB website.

The center has reviewed 52 SOWs for Alliant SB thus far this year. When all GSA small business GWACs are included, the total number of SOWs reviewed by the center over the same period was 209 SOWs from 20 agencies worth $3.9 billion

The review process “has been broadly embraced by both DOD and civilian agencies,” Verhulst said. “Many use it as a quality assurance tool to make sure that their work requirements will be a good fit and are compatible with one of our contracting vehicles.”

Training Agencies to Use Alliant SB
Contracting and program officials can receive training on how to use Alliant SB through a variety of venues: an online course; a webinar, on-site training, or at a GSA conference or other event. Training is free and typically lasts about an hour. Federal employees also receive  continuous learning points that they can count toward training within their agencies.  

Alliant and Alliant SB officials collaborated on the training program, and so people learn how to use both contracts. Upon completing the course, warranted contracting officers receive a Delegation of Procurement Authority that authorizes them to use both contracting vehicles.

GSA’s GWAC Program trained more than 3,600 individuals to use Alliant, Alliant SB and other small business GWACs in fiscal year 2009, and received a 98 percent satisfaction rating from participants in follow-up surveys.

Partnering with Industry
Alliant SB works with its business partners through the Alliant Small Business Industry Council. They collaborate on messaging and marketing strategy to ensure that agencies understand the solutions Alliant SB offers and how the contract works. The contractors also help Alliant SB officials keep informed about planned projects and requirements among the agencies.
GSA officials also help their business partners by sponsoring events that bring together Alliant and Alliant SB prime contractors to share strategies, learn about each other’s capabilities, and find teaming opportunities. “Part of our responsibility at the Small Business GWAC Center is to help our small businesses grow and become large companies if they wish, and to give them opportunities to work within the federal government,” said Dean Cole, Business Development Specialist for the center.

Looking Ahead
During the coming year, Alliant SB officials will be expanding their outreach activities in several areas, said Jean Oyler, who is Director of the Business Development Division at the center. Among the targeted groups are the Small Business Utilization Directors within federal agencies, who are key stakeholders for the center. “We want them to know that they can use these contracts to help them achieve their socioeconomic goals for their agencies,” Oyler said.

In addition, the center is getting set to launch a new online dashboard that will enable the center to share information with industry partners and customer agencies. Industry, for example, will be able to see which agencies are submitting SOWs to the center, or how many delegated contracting officers work within specific agencies. Agencies will be able to view profiles of industry partners to help them evaluate their GWAC options.

The center will continue providing support services to agencies. This includes helping agencies develop requests for information and reviewing SOWs before task orders are awarded, and then providing continuing training and helping to monitor contractor performance after awards. As a result of these efforts, the GWAC program received high markets in the fiscal 2009 annual GSA GWACs customer satisfaction survey. The program received a satisfaction score of 77.8 (on a 100-point scale), nearly 10 points higher than the federal government average of 68.7, as reported on www.theacsi.org.

In the survey responses, customers cited the streamlined, faster acquisition process and ease of use as key reasons for using GSA GWACs. And the GWAC program scored especially high
in customer loyalty categories, receiving an 87.4 rating for “Likelihood to use in the future” and 86.4 for “Likelihood to recommend.”

“We are extremely proud of Alliant Small Business,” Triplett said. “Small businesses can do a lot of positive things if given the opportunity to compete in the federal government arena.” 

Alliant SB GWAC Features

*A $15 billion program ceiling and Period of Performance of February 3, 2009, to February 2, 2014, with one, five-year option

* Scope aligned with Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) and Department of Defense Enterprise Architecture (DoDEA)

*All contract types, e.g., fixed-price, cost-reimbursement, labor-hour and time-and-materials terms

* Ancillary support permitted when it is integral and necessary to the IT effort

*Access to exceptionally qualified small-business industry partners

* Pre-competed, easy-to-use contract with streamlined ordering procedures based on FAR 16.505

*Complimentary scope-compatibility reviews

*In compliance with National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2008

* No protests on orders $10 million and under, except on the grounds that the order increases the scope, period, or maximum value of the GWAC