FedCenter Provides One-Stop Shopping

Government seems an unlikely front-runner in the electronic commerce game. However, a recent directive mandating government agencies to conduct as much business as possible electronically, as well as the massive buying power sitting squarely behind procurement officials, has IT vendors scurrying to sign up with FedCenter (

This Internet cluster site dedicated to serving the needs of the federal IT community provides government users one-stop access to corporate vendor presentations, seminar listings, and an on-line mall of sorts that provides retail outlet space to more than 100 schedule vendors.

"We've created a site that's targeted toward a very specific, vertical market that really addresses a need, and that is organized in such a way that users can make intelligent decisions," explained Dave Beers, president of FedCenter. "The federal government represents $26 billion of technology buying power. And we have hundreds of contracting officers coming to our site. These guys are very serious, qualified buyers."

Current vendors using FedCenter to promote and sell their products include Oracle, Lotus Development Corp., Microdyne Corp., BMC Software, Ameridata, Tektronix, and IBM Federal. Beers notes that the site already receives hundreds of thousands of hits daily by government end users and is adding one to two vendors every day.

For contracting officers, FedCenter offers a way to shop according to certain criteria and make an informed decision in considerably less time and at a significantly lower cost than the traditional search and order methods. Thanks to the Web site's powerful search engine, government users can search for products using a variety of criteria including standard product description, price, 8(a), women-owned, preferred vendor offerings, geographic preference and more. "This is empowering to the contracting officer because they can determine the best deal by price, but they can also determine it by a lot of other criteria that they want to factor into their decision that should be part of the procurement process but hasn't always been practical in the past," Beers explained.

For vendors, FedCenter offers instant access to a strong base of buying customers without having the expense of setting up an electronic ordering system and marketing it. Beers added, "It also takes them out of the price-only game and allows them to position themselves favorably by providing additional information about their company and the products they're trying to sell."

Companies get equal opportunity to promote themselves through the "What's Hot" section or the "Companies and Products" section, which offers information on each company in a consistent, standard data format. "The information is formed such that there are templates and so that [users] can cut through excessive marketing hype to make an apples-to-apples comparison quickly and easily," Beers explains.

Each company site, for example, provides a company overview, major contract awards, and product spec sheets, as well as a hyperlink that transports the user to the larger, more comprehensive corporate Web site.

When a product has been selected, a user orders directly from the vendor, with no help from FedCenter, which is really just a facilitator between the two parties. The government user can order across the electronic system or simply search for the most appropriate product and then order by more traditional methods.

FedCenter is working to get as many vendors on board as possible in time for the government's prime procurement season, which runs from July through the end of September. During that time, government conducts about 40 percent of its annual buying.

"Electronic commerce is an area where the government is actually being very progressive," Beers said. "They're looking for ways to buy more effectively, to cut their procurement cycle costs and to get products at less expensive prices. We hear some grumbling in the industry about that sometimes, but it's the exact same thing that we all do everyday in our businesses: Negotiate with suppliers and try to get more for less every year. For the government, this is a very competitive way of getting more goods in a very price-competitive environment."

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