Should IT be an office supply?

As GSA explores expanding the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative to more products, it has IT in its sights. While it will increase pressure on pricing, it might not be all bad.

The General Services Administration’s strategic sourcing industry day is next Tuesday (Aug. 6) in New York City, and I’ll be curious what comes out of it.

GSA has a blog set up for the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative – Office Supplies, known as the fssios3blogger. That’s quite a handle, but you can read it at this link. One idea to be discussed in New York is how to expand the scope of the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative.

FCW is reporting that GSA is considering adding “plug-in” IT items, such as printers, monitors, keyboards and other hardware.

The agency also might move away from schedule-based contracts under the strategic sourcing program, and instead will use separate commercial item procurements, according to Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Business Partners. He was interviewed by FCW.

That’s significant because it could allow further expansion of FSSI contracts, allowing GSA to pull in manufacturers who could sell directly rather than through resellers, Allen said.

What isn’t being said directly is that the moves are all focused on the bottom-line – lower prices for the government, so the wider the scope, the more pressure points GSA can apply.

A second thought that occurred to me was that GSA also is really trying to show its customers – government agencies – that it can get them the best deals.

You can see the competitive juices flowing over at GSA. I heard it last week when Mary Davie spoke at a Deltek event. Davie is the assistant commissioner of the Office of Integrated Technology Services.

She spoke candidly about conversations with the Air Force around the topic of “Do you really need NetCents?”

While she failed to persuade the Air Force, you can bet the same conversation is going on with other agencies. The message from Davie is that GSA has flexibility, and is ready to leverage its buying power.

There are other procurement shops at other agencies, and I think that they should be on notice that GSA wants their business, and is going after it; however, I think they are going after it the right way – better vehicles and more flexibility, rather than political maneuvering, as has happened in the past.

For contractors, it’ll be more of the same – pressure and more pressure on pricing.

But that could be an opportunity, too; why not take commodity products off the table so you can talk to customers, and try to understand what they are really trying to do?

After all, buying a laptop or other basic IT really should be a no brainer. Let’s make room for the hard stuff.