Research Report: The Virtual Public Sector

Automation is key to SEWP innovation

As much as SEWP is a provider of advanced technology to NASA and other government agencies, it’s also a major innovator in the way it uses technology to enhance the service it provides to SEWP customers. Its plans for the future depend on a continual evolution in automating the way it receives and handles orders, and how it communicates with both agency buyers and contract holders.

That evolution is codified as one of the main acquisition objectives in the SEWP V RFP, which says it is “imperative” that SEWP embraces innovative procurement transitions and processes. The objective is to put as little administrative burden as possible onto the government customer and contractor, and the only way that can be done, according to the RFP, is through technology.

“The government envisions a virtual system in which the customer is empowered to choose what goods and services they need to accomplish their mission, order them [if within their authority], receive them directly, and authorize payment,” the RFP states.

At a minimum, that will require standardized electronic communications processes for order processing, pricing exhibits and management reporting. What changes have been made up to now have largely happened because of a continual interchange of ideas between the SEWP program office and both customers and contract holders. That kind of partnering is expected to ensure the on—going evolution of the various tools SEWP provides in the next iteration of the contract.

The list of online tools SEWP already offers is fairly extensive:

  • A Quote Request Tool, which, thanks to user input, was changed from a scroll format to a paginated format, and now allows users to create requests and save them for finishing up later. Delivery order submission can be tied directly to a request. The tool also collects reasons for request cancellations.
  • A Quote Verification Tool, which is used to verify and display quoted line item information from the SEWP catalog, and which will also provide information about the status of authorized resellers along with available savings from the item’s catalog price.
  • Manufacturer Lookup, which lists all of the original equipment manufacturers available on SEWP contracts and indicates how many contracts and line items are available for any given manufacture.
  • A Product Verification tool, which provides a snapshot of the current SEWP products and which allows a potential buyer to make sure the products they want to order are actually on contract before they issue a delivery order.

The advanced planned for SEWP V will build on these tools. For example, the fact that SEWP IV has an order ticketing system that automatically tracks orders as soon as customers send them into SEWP, and that allows SEWP contract officers to provide both contract holders and agency buyers with immediate updates on the status of orders, will make it that much easier to implement the more detailed tracking planned for SEWP V.

It should also help keep SEWP at the top of both buyer and industry lists of preferred IT contracts. In past surveys, SEWP has regularly posted well over 90 percent ratings from users.

If other contracts continue to do things the wrong way, said Donna Norris, SEWP IV program manager at PCMG, the SEWP program will only continue to excel as an example of the right way to do contracting and to work with its customers and industry. The people in the SEWP program office are not flawless, she said, but they keep on top of industry trends and such things as shortages and component supply problems, and they let people know about that through the SEWP Web site.

“They are flexible and can make changes on the fly,” she said. “Other contracts don’t even know what’s going on in the IT industry.”