Study suggests GSA combine functions

Accenture report is only a 'first step,' some say

Inside the report


Accenture recommended streamlining operations at the Federal Supply Service and Federal Technology Service by combining common functions.

1. Combine and realign specific functional areas as they relate to information technology and telecommunications:
*Market research
*Marketing
*Customer account planning and management
*Sales
*Service delivery
*Contract development and maintenance.

2. Rationalize overlapping IT contracts currently offered by GSA and create strict contract development criteria.

3. Ensure that incentives, such as training, management focus, individual performance incentives or interservice cost and revenue sharing, are aligned with customer and organizational needs.

4. Expand expert assistance services (technical and procurement) into other GSA product lines.

Source: "GSA Delivery of Best Value Information Technology Services to Federal Agencies: Analysis of FSS and FTS Structure and Services: Findings and Recommendations"

Former FTS commissioner Dennis Fischer said he was pleased the study recognized there are distinct differences between the two services.

Rep. Tom Davis is chairman of the House Government Reform subcommittee on technology and procurement policy. His subcommittee has held several hearings to examine GSA operations.

The General Services Administration has been advised in a new study to streamline some operations run separately within the Federal Supply Service and Federal Technology Service. However, questions remain whether making the changes will happen, or if the study missed an opportunity to recommend more fundamental restructuring.

The study was conducted by Accenture Ltd., Hamilton, Bermuda, at the request of GSA Administrator Stephen Perry, and released April 30. It found significant overlap between FSS and FTS operations in research, marketing, sales and delivery functions.

The two organizations are responsible for procuring information technology and telecommunications products and services for federal agencies. The study recommended that common areas of responsibility be combined into single functions to serve both services.

Donna Bennett, FSS commissioner, said the next step is assembling in-house implementation teams to look at the benefits, costs and feasibility of implementing the recommendations. The changes would affect between 100 and 200 employees in the two services, she said.

While Bennett said GSA has not yet decided which of the changes to execute, frequent GSA critic Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., will be asking the General Accounting Office to monitor the agency's implementation of the recommendations, said David Marin, Davis' spokesman.

"As we have demonstrated with our telecom work, we are very interested in internal organization [at GSA]," he said, "and the Accenture study does lay the groundwork for both services to undergo internal overhauls."

Davis is chairman of the House Government Reform subcommittee on technology and procurement policy. His subcommittee has held several hearings to examine GSA operations, in particular questioning FTS on its handling of significant telecommunications contracts, such as FTS2001, the service's long distance contract, and the Metropolitan Area Acquisition program, a collection of about two dozen local telecommunications services contracts.

Others question whether the study, which took three months to complete at a cost of $276,000, even asked the right questions.

"To some degree, I think they missed the boat. The federal government needs help to get the most out of technology," said Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting, a research and consulting firm based in Jenkintown, Pa. "Are they living up to their potential, and can they do a better job of living up to their potential?"

GSA didn't frame the question to Accenture that way, he said. "They took much more of an organizational approach rather than a strategic approach, though they touched on some of these themes, such as serving the customers better," he said.

One industry executive, who knows GSA well but would only speak on background, said the study didn't address the issue of organizational stovepipes within the two services.

"The administrator didn't ask them to do that. I think he kind of latched onto the issues being raised by the press [and] Davis," the executive said.

Dennis Fischer, who served as FTS commissioner from October 1997 to April 2000, said he was pleased the study recognized there are distinct differences between the two services, with FSS more of a "self-service" operation and FTS providing "assisted service" to its customers.

But if GSA is hoping for overhead savings, those savings will be difficult to realize, Fischer said.

"I think the two organizations are relatively lean in terms of their overhead," he said.

The GSA services are "victims of their own success," Suss said. "They've done such a great job of driving down prices, they have a hard time sustaining their operations on low overheads."

Another industry executive said Accenture dodged the question of whether maintaining two separate services is reasonable. The consulting company "was very careful in how they tried to structure this. ... Instead of saying 'combine FSS and FTS,' [the report] said 'you need to make these functions more efficient,' " the executive said.

GSA's big challenge, Suss said, is how to develop the in-house expertise and credibility to help federal agencies plan, acquire and execute major technology projects.

The Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, the $6.9 billion project to overhaul the two services' use of information technology and communications services, is an example of GSA's challenge, Suss said. The Navy did not use GSA to pull the program together, but held its own competition to select Electronic Data Systems Corp. of Plano, Texas, as its overall prime contractor and solution designer.

GSA is trapped within its legacy as a procurement organization, Suss said. It has not yet succeeded in being viewed as a trusted partner in identifying and providing solutions for government agencies struggling to remake their operations.

And the agency faces competition from other federal organizations that can issue governmentwide contracts, such as the Department of Transportation, the Interior Department's Minerals Material Service and the National Institutes of Health.

"The problem with serving as a pure procurement organization is that others are able to do the same. It's an important function, and they've gotten good deals, but it's not unique," Suss said. "There are agencies that want to do their own thing, like the Navy."

Davis has other changes in mind besides combining some FTS and FSS operations.

A May 4 GAO report criticized FTS' implementation of the MAA program. "We intend to use that report with FTS to discuss how they should re-examine their own internal management structure," Marin said.

Staff Writer Patience Wait can be reached at pwait@postnewsweektech.com.

Reader Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

What is your e-mail address?

My e-mail address is:

Do you have a password?

Forgot your password? Click here
close

Trending

  • Dive into our Contract Award database

    In an exclusive for WT Insider members, we are collecting all of the contract awards we cover into a database that you can sort by contractor, agency, value and other parameters. You can also download it into a spreadsheet. Our databases track awards back to 2013. Read More

  • Navigating the trends and issues of 2016 Nick Wakeman

    In our latest WT Insider Report, we pull together our best advice, insights and reporting on the trends and issues that will shape the market in 2016 and beyond. Read More

contracts DB

Washington Technology Daily

Sign up for our newsletter.

Terms and Privacy Policy consent

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.