IT Schedule 70 steps up its game

New programs and services provide easier access to latest technologies

The General Services Administration (GSA) is implementing many new programs, services, and tools to ease the acquisition process for agencies using IT Schedule 70 and provide them access to the most up-to-date technology products and solutions at the best possible prices.

Among the innovations are streamlined processes for putting cutting-edge commercial technologies on the Schedule, a new rule allowing agencies to conduct small business set-aside competitions using the Schedule, and a program to make it easier—and less expensive—for agencies to buy commodity IT products, such as laptops, desktops, tablets, and monitors. GSA leaders said they are striving for continuous improvement to ease the acquisition burden and support agencies’ mission activities and goals.

“Agencies can use IT Schedule 70 to leverage our work and the infrastructure we have put in place to award the task orders, conduct research, and establish ordering procedures, so they can focus their resources on important post-award activities,” said Dennis Harrison, GSA Director of the Contract Cost and Price Analysis Division.

Negotiable Prices, Wide-Ranging Services
IT Schedule 70 is the largest and most widely used acquisition vehicle in the federal government. IT Schedule 70, which generated $16.2 billion in fiscal 2011 sales, is also available to state, local, and tribal governments. Agencies use IT Schedule 70 because of its broad selection of IT products and services and many benefits, particularly the cost and time savings it provides. Program staff offers online and in-person training to help customers learn to use the Schedule effectively. The program is a component of GSA’s Office of Integrated Technology Services (ITS) under the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS).

GSA offers numerous tools to help agencies use IT Schedule 70. For example, GSA Advantage! ® is an online shopping and ordering system that enables agencies to conduct market research into thousands of contractors and millions of products and services. A component of GSA Advantage! ®, eBuy, facilitates the request for submission of quotations for commercial products and services. And GSA’s eLibrary can assist with market research and identify the latest information about contractors, their contracts, and offerings.

State and Local Sales Jump in 2011

GSA officials expect continued strong growth in IT Schedule 70 purchases by state and local governments, following a huge jump in sales from $482 million in fiscal 2010 to $641 million in fiscal 2011—an increase of nearly 33 percent.

Since 2002, state and local governments, as well as tribal organizations and educational institutions, have been allowed to purchase products and services from GSA’s IT Schedule 70 through the Cooperative Purchasing program. Sales were initially slow but state and local organizations are fast becoming more familiar with the schedule’s benefits and more experienced using it.

“We’ve enhanced our efforts to educate state and local government agencies on how to leverage their buying power by using Schedule 70 to fulfill their IT requirements,” said Patricia Waddell, Deputy Director for the Center for IT Schedule Business Programs. “We’ve received requests from state and local government agencies to speak at their events, and our efforts have paid off.”

Industry partners pay a funding fee of 0.75 percent to cover GSA’s expenses to manage IT Schedule 70, but this fee is built into industry’s pricing. Agencies do not pay an additional or separate fee to GSA to use the Schedule or its tools and features.

“One of the biggest misconceptions about IT Schedule 70 is that the offered prices are non-negotiable,” said Patricia Waddell, Deputy Director for the Center for IT Schedule Business Programs. In fact, agencies often negotiate better deals with contractors. “Our contracting team diligently evaluates our industry partners’ pricing and ensures that pricing on IT Schedule 70 is fair and reasonable,” Waddell said. “However, the Schedule pricing is the ceiling price and customers can and are encouraged to seek additional discounts from industry partners.”

Many agencies are pleasantly surprised by the amount of direct assistance that GSA offers to IT Schedule 70 users. Customers can take advantages of the Schedule’s many self-service tools to acquire IT products and services on their own; but they also can tap into the expertise of the programs’ professional staff to ensure they get what they need. “We are assisting our customers and helping them with activities such as creating Statements of Work, Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs), and Performance of Work statements,” said Dan Baskin, Senior Program Manager for IT Schedule 70. “Schedule 70 has evolved to the point where we are providing assistance and helping customers put together solutions.”

Help for Small Businesses
In November, the administration issued an interim rule for FAR Case 2011-024 allowing agencies to conduct small-business set aside orders and BPAs issued under federal Multiple Award Schedules such as IT Schedule 70. This means agencies can now set aside task orders and BPAs for small business categories:
• 8(a) business development participants
• HUBZone small business
• Service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOBS)
• Economically disadvantaged women-owned small business (EDWOSB)
• Women-owned small business (WOSB) concerns eligible under the Women-Owned Small Business Program

Government and industry officials expect the new rule to increase agencies’ use of IT Schedule 70 to meet their small business goals. “We are already receiving inquiries from agencies asking for guidance on how to utilize the Schedule to create small business set-aside task orders and BPAs,” Harrison said. “With this new rule, agencies can focus and target their requirements toward the small business groups that align with their socio-economic goals.”

The rule is good news for small businesses as well. “IT Schedule 70 is already one of the most successful small business programs on a governmentwide basis,” said Roger Waldron, President of the Coalition for Government Procurement. “The new rule will further enhance the ability of small businesses to be successful.”

Quicker Access to Technology
To speed the process for adding innovative technologies and solutions to IT Schedule 70, GSA officials created Special Item Number (SIN) 132-99, “Introduction of New Information Technology Services and/or Products”, in February 2012. The new SIN incorporates new IT products, services, and solutions that fit within the scope of IT Schedule 70 but are not available under another SIN. Prior to the new SIN, product refreshes and innovative new offerings were often difficult to categorize, so officials would delay putting them on the Schedule until an appropriate SIN could be decided upon. The new SIN allows agencies to take advantage of new technologies while officials are determining where to place them on the Schedule.

“This is going to be especially helpful for our small, innovative businesses that want to get something on the contract faster,” said Kay Ely, Director of the IT Schedule 70 Programs. “And the sooner we can help emerging technologies get on the Schedule, the sooner government can benefit."

Tailored Customer Training

Kay Ely, Director of the Office of IT Schedule 70 Programs, says her staff of acquisition and technology officials has a straightforward approach to helping agencies. “We try to view everything we do through the lens of the customer,” she said. “If I were a customer, what kinds of tools and assistance would I need?”

Ely and her staff recognize that making IT Schedule 70 easy to use is essential for attracting and retaining customers, and so effective training is a must. Working in partnership with the Federal Acquisition Institute, GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) has developed a basic course for understanding the fundamentals of placing orders and making better buying decisions, and advanced courses for maximizing cost savings and buying potential through the Schedule. Customers learn how to use eTools to streamline the ordering process, as well as how to create Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) and other specialized tasks.

GSA offers online Webinars and on-site training to federal, state, and local customers. The agency has recently enhanced its onsite training to tailor it to an organization’s specific needs. “We are happy to customize training for agency personnel to assist them with making the best buying decision for their agency,” said Ely.

Another way that GSA officials are using IT Schedule 70 to give agencies faster access to technology is through its new IT Commodity Program. Under the program, GSA is creating BPAs off of IT Schedule 70 for purchasing IT commodities such as laptops, servers, and integrated support services. The new program, which is poised to award its first BPA, will feature streamlined ordering, faster procurement, and lower prices resulting from bulk purchasing by government. The BPA also will help agencies meet mandates and directives for the Cloud First policy, cybersecurity, green purchasing, and the “25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology Management.”

“Once we get the BPAs in place, our plan is to put new products and technologies on the BPAs within 24 hours,” Ely said.

GSA also has made it easier for industry partners to prepare and submit both their GSA Schedule offers and their contract modifications through the online features, eOffer and eMod. Officials said these applications use the latest digital authentication technology to ensure the integrity of data and electronically sign the offer and modification requests.

A Mirror of the Commercial Marketplace
These and other programs that accelerate the introduction of innovative solutions for improving efficiency and mission performance will make IT Schedule 70 even more valuable to federal agencies, government and industry officials. “The Schedules are supposed to mirror the commercial marketplace, and that marketplace is always changing—with new technologies, new services, new demands, and new ways to meet those demands,” Waldron said. “And so the ability to add new technologies quickly is vital to the success of IT Schedule 70.”

IT Schedule 70 Contact Information
Helpline: (877) 446-IT70 (4870)
E-mail: [email protected]

About this Report

This report was commissioned by the Content Solutions unit, an independent editorial arm of 1105 Government Information Group. Specific topics are chosen in response to interest from the vendor community; however, sponsors are not guaranteed content contribution or review of content before publication. For more information about 1105 Government Information Group Content Solutions, please email us at [email protected]