Research Report

Flexibility and Simplicity is Goal of ITES

A decade seems like an eternity when it comes to anything associated with technology. The pace of change for anything IT is so quick, what was state-of-the-art a year ago now seems positively ancient. How can any government IT contract vehicle keep pace with this rate of change?

The Army’s set of IT Enterprise Solutions (ITES) contracts have managed to do just that. The original contracts started their lives with different goals from the ones they are expected to fulfill today. They have evolved to keep pace with the technology and its applications.

ITES-2S focused on enterprise services and solutions, and ITES-2H was the hardware contract. Of the two, ITES-2H has probably changed the most. As its five-year, $5 billion ITES-3H successor contract shows—it was awarded in February 2016—hardware is no longer a good descriptor.

The new contract, according to the ITES-3H statement of work, “is intended to be a total solutions-based contract vehicle and include items that are for the fielding of a complete system, or as part of a total design solution for all equipment items provided on the contract.”

When ITES-2H started in 2006, it was definitely very product-centric, says John Meier, general manager for Iron Bow’s DOD East & Intel sales team. It provided for individual sales of components like computers, servers, network routers, network switches and so on. It also included the integration services that went along with those.

“Now it’s a blending of all of that into one solution set, more aligned with the current notion of hyperconvergence,” says Meier. “Along with that goes the security that’s needed to overlay everything these days, and that’s something that wasn’t there for 2H.”

The hyperconverged market makes hardware a commodity these days, he says. Everything is more defined by software. “That’s by far the most important element,” he says, of the kind of product solutions ITES-3H is expected to provide.

That fits well with the way the whole focus has changed from when ITES-2H was first awarded. Back then, the vendor that produced a particular product was still an important part of how buyers made decisions. Buyers now are much more comfortable buying solutions based on heterogeneous environments. It’s no longer possible to find an agency solely focused on IBM, Microsoft, or HP, for example.

That also means a shift also in how vendors on the contract have to organize themselves. It’s no longer enough to provide a strong catalog of products. They must add and subtract technologies quickly, as required by the agencies. To that end, they need a strong stable of technology partners.

On the one hand, the Army has designed the ITES contracts to be specific in what they offer. It wants to ensure it’s getting the products and solutions the Army feels is best suited to their mission. It wants to have better control over what it’s spending on IT and what it’s getting for its money.

On the other hand, the contracts have to be flexible enough to provide the buyers with what they want. Occasionally, they’ll go to vendors with a specific product and company they want to employ. In that case, vendors have to be able to tell them whether that does or doesn’t comply with the contract’s requirements. The ultimate value of the ITES contracts is they provide the technology solutions the Army needs in what has become a difficult IT environment, says Meier.

“The challenges they face include such things as dealing with BYOD, needing faster access to applications and data, and all the security that comes with that,” he says. “ITES takes all of that and simplifies it for them.”