Integrators Sweat GSA Seat Management Shot

Integrators Sweat GSA Seat Management Shot<@VM>Integrators Sweat GSA Seat Management Shot

Charles Self

By Richard McCaffery

It's game time for systems integrators battling for the first job in a large-scale effort led by the General Services Administration to manage federal government desktops.

The release of a draft task order under the Seat Management contract has eight integrators scrambling to prove they have the best team for the job.

And there is no lack of confidence among integrators in the running: EER Systems Inc., FDC Technologies Inc., IBM Corp., Litton-PRC Inc., MultiMax Inc., Science Applications International Corp., TechServe LLC (a joint venture led by DynCorp) and Wang Government Services Inc. All of these companies won rights in July to provide seat management services to GSA and other agencies under the nine-year contract, which is potentially worth $10 billion.

"Managing seats is our core competency," said Chris Stergiou, GSA Program marketing manager at IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y., whose Seat Management partners include InaCom Corp. of Omaha, Neb., Nichols Research Corp. of Arlington, Va., and OAO Corp. of Greenbelt, Md.

"We're going to knock their socks off," said Bob Weisenbeck, Federal Data Corp.'s program director for seat management. The Bethesda, Md., company's team boasts players like Unisys Corp. of Blue Bell, Pa., for network design; and Entex Information Services of Rye Brook, N.Y., for help desk services. Comdisco Inc., Rosemont, Ill., will handle asset management.

A task order should be awarded by mid-November to an integrator to manage all aspects of the agency's desktop computers, Charles Self, GSA assistant commissioner at its Information Technology Integration office, told Washington Technology this week.

Plans call for GSA to outsource at least 15,000 desktops at three sites and gradually relinquish the role of buying, installing and maintaining thousands of desktop computers, Self said.

GSA's problems are common throughout the federal government: It has a hodgepodge of aging hardware, lacks standardized software and has no clear idea what it costs to operate desktops, Self told an Oct. 16 seat management conference hosted by Federal Sources Inc., McLean, Va.

"We want to get a better hold on our costs, take advantage of economies of scale the industry could provide, and standardize our platforms," Self said.

"What the government really gets out of this is a partnership," said IBM's Stergiou. "What that means is you want to make sure you go with someone who knows what they're doing."

Weisenbeck said FDC started to form its team about two years ago. "We're well-entrenched and ready to go," he said.

Big-name integrators that did not make the July GSA Seat Management cut were: Boeing Co., Seattle; Computer Sciences Corp., El Segundo, Calif.; Electronic Data Systems Corp., Plano, Texas; and Lockheed Martin Corp., Bethesda, Md.

Seat management is a new idea in the public sector. Historically, federal agencies have managed desktops with in-house programmers, integrators and engineers, leaving little time for federal IT employees to focus on developing new applications and services. Also, the trend is for agencies to focus on their core missions.

One government official compared seat management to taking a taxi as opposed to buying or leasing a car. "It's a totally new way of doing business."

"The bottom line is we've got to do a better job managing desktops," said Dennis Fischer, commissioner of the Federal Technology Service at GSA. "I don't think we have a choice."

Robert Deller, an analyst at Market Access International Inc., Chevy Chase, Md., said the teams led by Federal Data Corp., IBM and Wang have the most experience with seat management projects and the strongest name recognition.

Because the seat management concept is so new to the government, early users will likely go with the contractors that are more seasoned, he said.

"But that doesn't mean other contractors can't provide the service," Deller said. "I don't think the first task order will make or break the contract." Few will take an early success or failure too seriously, he said.

Dennis Fischer

But integrators are eager to score an early success. "The GSA task order is vital," said Kris Menon, vice president of federal systems at EER, which has nine partners and began assembling its team 18 months ago. "I can't emphasize that more."

Not only is GSA's task order large, all the other agencies will be watching, he said. "It's the future of business in the federal government."

EER's teammates include GE Capital IT Solutions, a subsidiary of Stamford, Conn.-based GE Capital Corp.; TRW Inc., Cleveland; and Mantech Systems Engineering Corp., Fairfax, Va.

Payton Smith, an analyst at Federal Sources, agreed the first task order is critical. Many agencies have taken a wait-and-see approach because the idea of seat management is so new, Smith said.

"GSA is putting their money where their mouth is," he said. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms are early adopters whose officials are bullish about the results.

Both made the move to desktop outsourcing although they didn't use GSA's seat management contract as the vehicle.

"This has been the greatest thing for our organization," said Patrick Schambach, ATF's assistant director of science and technology.

The bureau is spending $34 million over three years to outsource its desktop services to Unisys, which won the contract last October.

From January to April, Unisys provided the ATF with thousands of computers, servers, printers, software, integration, training and deployment.

Under the deal, Unisys owns the equipment and will manage it for the next three years.

"I wanted one neck to reach for," Schambach said. "If something goes wrong, it's Unisys'."

Staff writer Nick Wakeman contributed to this story.

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