GSA Expands Reach of IT Solutions Shop

GSA Expands Reach of IT Solutions Shop

By Nick Wakeman, Staff Writer



The General Services Administration is widening the reach of an online service that allows agencies to e-mail solicitations for task orders and lets contractors respond electronically.

Called the IT Solutions Shop, the system was rolled out in GSA's National Capital Region in March. Procurement shops in GSA's nine other regions should begin using the system between June and September, said Andr'e Speaks, IT Solutions Shop coordinator for the National Capital Region.

"The key right now is getting [contractors] registered," Speaks said. GSA is promoting the Web page (IT-Solutions.gsa.gov) to companies that hold GSA contracts and schedules, he said.

About 2,500 companies signed up for the pilot in region 9, which includes Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada. So far in the National Capital Region, 300 companies have signed on. The agency ran a pilot of the program in its Western region last year.

Under the program, companies receive solicitations on the types of products and services they indicate they are interested in when they register for the service. GSA uses this information to create profiles of companies using its service, but they only receive e-mail solicitations that match their profile, Speaks said.

GSA also is marketing the service to other agencies. It's trying to increase the procurement services it provides to agencies because downsizing has strained what they can do in-house, said Deborah Ward, manager of the procurement branch of GSA's Federal Acquisition Services for Technology program.

"Our job is not to replace procurement organizations, but to be a support to them," she said.

"What I like about [IT Solutions Shop] is that we can get a request for a quote, look at it and then turn it around quickly," said Carroll Frederick, vice president of Artel Inc., a Reston, Va., 8(a) company that has sold both IT products and services through the Web site.

Artel has won task orders within five days of receiving an e-mail solicitation. The same task order could take weeks or months to be awarded using a paper-based system, Frederick said.

"In this business, if you can save time, you are saving money," Frederick said.

Larger companies, such as Electronic Data Systems Corp., also are using the Web page, said Stephanie Ambrose, EDS' account manager for governmentwide contracts.

"GSA is definitely leading the charge" toward electronic or paperless procurement, she said.

The Plano, Texas-based systems integrator has not made heavy use of IT Solutions Shop because most of the solicitations the company has received have been for products, she said.

"We would definitely welcome more services solicitations," she said.

GSA continues to adjust its service, Speaks said. The newest features allow online processing of invoices and electronic payment between an agency and a contractor, he said.

"This is definitely a work in progress," he said. "We want to grow the program, so we will be tracking the business to know where we need to do marketing and business development."

But Ambrose said GSA must sell the idea of electronic payments to contractors and the agencies. "A lot of agencies need to get comfortable with that, and so do the contractors," she said.

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