Source: Winvale – GSA Schedule Blog
Source: Winvale – GSA Schedule Blog
Source: Winvale – GSA Schedule Blog
On Monday, the GSA issued RFQ835999 for Microsoft system, application, server, enterprise, online and premier software and support services. This is a Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) for Schedule 70 vendors. Multiple five year contracts will be awarded with a potential value of $5.3 billion.
The Federal Strategic Sourcing effort is opening this RFQ as an expansion effort to enter into the software world and conquer the best IT products. The GSA issued the RFQ and asks potential Schedule 70 vendors to begin bidding as soon as possible. This new BPA will serve to cover perpetual software licenses, maintaining IT software, and professional services for whichever vendors are awarded the BPA.
The GSA issues this RFQ as an opportunity to “reduce the federal government’s total cost of ownership of Microsoft software and services by offering reduced pricing, optimized terms and conditions, and improved license structure over what exists in the current FSS 70 contracts.” The GSA is attempting to reduce their numerous contracts to a single set of agreements that can procure the future of Microsoft software usage for all government agencies. Schedule 70 vendors should also note that new BPA for Microsoft will be under the GSA’s SmartBuy program, which allows agencies to pay less for software and support services.
Vendors seeking more information need to access their eBuy accounts to view the offering.
On April 10th, Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel announced his plan for the 2014 federal IT budget and the administration’s goal to continually increase innovation. He announced that there will be a $2 billion increase from the $80 billion federal IT budget in 2009, the first increase in four years. However, a limited number of agencies will receive more IT money, while many others will continue to cut their IT spending. The agency receiving the most money is the Veterans Affairs Department (VA), up 22% from 2012, this is an aim to work on integrated health records with the Defense Department (DoD) and to reduce their benefits backlog. Next, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will get 11.9% more and the Small Business Administration (SBA) increases 11.3% from 2012.
Unfortunately, according to VanRoekel, the General Services Administration (GSA) will be one of the agencies with an IT budget cut. The GSA’s budget will decrease more than 9%, along with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is receiving less money as well. As the attention on cybersecurity continually increases, VanRoekel wants to keep innovating and strengthening federal cybersecurity and stated that the 2014 budget will receive $13 billion to cyber-related initiatives.
However, just because the budget is increasing by $2 billion does not mean it will continue that way. IT budgets have been steadily decreasing over the past several years and numbers in new budgets are adjusted for inflation. Most importantly, VanRoekel wants to invest this money in new ways. He says, “We’ve got a real opportunity to innovate, deliver, protect, and analyze.”
Many companies are designing new “cloud” offerings. However, each company has a different definition, which is leading to a lot of confusion and miscommunication. Before the cloud era moves forward, it is important to let the sun shine through and shed some light on the matter.
This is incredibly important for Federal IT executives, who are trying to improve service with a shrinking budget. The definition is trying to be cleared up with FedRAMP and other cloud regulatory clauses. Also, it’s not 100% guaranteed that moving to the cloud will lower cost. Therefore, another problem that will arise is once an organization moves to the cloud and the cost savings are not seen, how easy is it to get out of it? Dr. Paul Tibbits, Deputy CIO for Architecture, Strategy and Design at the VA, asked a similar question at the 1105 Media’s Enterprise Architecture Conference. Unisys’s Mark Cohn, answered it this way, “That’s an important question to ask, and if an agency doesn’t have that answer, it better be careful.”
The problem an agency will face if it does decide to move away from one cloud to another or to an on premise solution, is money and time. Migrating to the cloud takes time and migrating away will also take time. This is something executives need to consider, because if the cloud starts to rain, it could cost jobs. Khalid Kark, an analyst at Forrester Research, Inc., said “2013 is going to be a peak of investment in the cloud, and we’re going to see a huge maturation process in how the Federal government uses those investments.” If that is true, the way Federal agencies view the cloud is changing. They are starting to look to the cloud as friend and not foe. In my opinion, the true test will come when the first FedRAMP approved cloud provider is awarded. That being said, cloud vendors it’s off to the races with FedRAMP, and to the winner goes the spoils.
To start off the New Year, the General Services Administration (GSA) is moving forward with planning for a massive schedule modernization endeavor. The modernization is focusing on four key tenets: Data Driven Pricing, Flexible Contracting, Enhanced Service Delivery and Increased Knowledge Management Capabilities.
One aspect of GSA’s proposal that has gotten a lot of attention falls under the Flexible Contracting tenet. GSA is seriously considering consolidating the current 31 GSA Schedules into fewer schedule programs, but with a broader focus. The current draft consolidated schedules proposed are:
- Facility & Security
- Office and Furniture
- Engineering, Environmental, Logistical, & Scientific
- Business Management
- Information Technology
Over the fall, GSA conducted several focus groups with industry (contractors) and customer (other Government agencies) participants to gather thoughts on the modernization proposals. The industry partners included in the focus group seemed to be in favor of this consolidating, saying that it would make using the schedule easier for customers. But they also stressed that implementation would be crucial, and some were concerned about any implications this might have on ongoing projects/task orders. The customers (from federal agencies) in the focus group agreed that fewer schedules would make for easier acquisition, and hopefully make it easier to find qualified small businesses. But some expressed concern that the broader schedules would make it even more difficult to find what they were looking for, and they emphasized that SINs would be important to allow buyers to drill-down to find the solutions and contractors they need.
In theory, this should allow for more contracting opportunities and allow for customers to find qualified contractors without having to spend as much time determining which schedule to pursue, as there is some crossover now. As always, implementation will be key. We don’t see this happening in 2013, as it will be such a significant undertaking that requires extensive planning and preparation. Perhaps this will be on the table for 2014. We will keep an eye out for more GSA news on this front.
If this is the first time you’ve heard the term “gamification” – it’s time to catch up! As of now, this concept has been mostly used within social media by marketers and website product managers but is predicted to become the next big thing – even the GSA uses it. Gamification is expected to grow from a million to a billion dollar industry and to be utilized by all types of social establishments including governments according to an article in Computer world.
You might even have indulged in some gamification without knowing it- the term refers to the use of game mechanics to any application in order to engage audiences and solve problems. The most familiar gamifying IT application is probably Foursquare –a mobile application which awards users with “digital prizes” such as trophy’s and points for frequently checking into various locations through social media such as Facebook. The objective is through game design techniques get consumers in an entertaining way to interact with their brand.
The government is already gamifying. For instance, a gaming platform known as Ground Truth is deployed by a The US Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This application is best described as a simulation and analysis program adapted into a game surface simulating a virtual environment where employees can play through various border crossing scenarios essentially to control movements across the border and catch suspects. The impact of their decisions is immediately evaluated through an advanced metrics system.
As Gamifying goes mainstream critical voices claim this is only a short term solution to motivate people into doing things they may not really be interested in and that it cannot accurately be deployed in more complex situations. And truly, its effect has not yet fully been measured but since the technique can be used in almost all kinds of environments and for almost any type of purposes (such as employee training programs, personal activities, education, surveys etc.) we should expect to see its growth.
Even the GSA is also beginning to consider gamification techniques and is currently using Chatter, a solution from Salesforce that allows everyone within GSA to discuss issues and solve problems in a game type environment in order to increase engagement and collaboration within the department.
The General Services Administration recently announced that 599 small disadvantaged Information Technology (IT) businesses have just been awarded the 8(a) STARS II Government Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC). GWACs are multiple-award, indefinite delivery indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts that help agencies meet their technology requirements through customizable solutions. The 8(a) STARS II program, which stands for Streamlined Technology Acquisition Resources for Services, is reserved exclusively for qualifying certified 8(a) small businesses to act as prime contractors. The 8(a) classification represents small sized businesses that are 51% or more owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantage individuals. As the GSA strives to support small disadvantage businesses, the 8(a) STARS II GWAC is designed to foster strong advantageous relationships between federal agencies and designated 8(a) IT contractors.
The 8(a) STARS II contract is comprised of several features and benefits for both federal ordering agencies and contractors. Features for contractors include a multiple award, indefinite delivery indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract vehicle; contract length of five-year base with one five-year extension option; $10 billion program ceiling; and Directed Order Authority, including Directed task orders up to $4 million for federal civilian and Department of Defense activities. Benefits for federal ordering agencies include 8(a) socioeconomic credit; pre-competed, easy to use contracts; access to proven 8(a) small business technology providers; shortened procurement lead time; and a low user access fee of 0.75% built into the contractor’s ceiling price. Additionally, the pricing and services available through this contract are pre-negotiated to be at least 10% less than the initial prices offered to the government.
Now in its third generation, the GSA 8(a) STARS program has been triumphed as a major success in promoting federal agency use of 8(a) classified businesses to purchase IT services and products. While the current 8(a) STARS II contract is now closed to proposal submissions, those contractors looking to participate can seek partnership opportunities with current contract holders. A list of contract awardees can be found at www.fbo.gov. Contractors, who wish to apply for the 8(a) certification, can do so at the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website at www.sba.gov.