GSA retools SmartBuy to make it more flexible

After much discussion with agencies and vendors, the General Services Administration is refocusing its enterprise software licensing program to be more flexible and better coordinated within the government.

Emory Miller, GSA's project director, today said the program, known as SmartBuy, will look at a variety of business models, including a tiered methodology, quantity discounts and a model that asks vendors to lower their prices if agencies buy a suite of software products.

"We learned a lot from industry because SmartBuy depends on vendors' willingness to partake in the program," Miller said at a luncheon sponsored by the Association for Federal Information Resource Managers. "We are no longer focusing on total cost, but more on total cost of ownership."

GSA also is creating a SmartBuy Program Management Office in its Federal Technology Service that will manage the program by dealing with the legal, acquisition, policy and finance issues. Jim Ghiloni, a project manager with the Federal Systems Integration and Management Center, will head the office after Miller retires in January.

"Things will be different and changing," Miller said. "We are bringing together a greater number of skilled [workers] to run the program."

Miller said the new business models would help agencies focus on software asset management, something the Office of Management and Budget is looking at closely in the fiscal 2005 budget, according to an OMB official.

FTS will charge a fee to agencies buying off the enterprise licensing agreement, said Bob Suda, assistant commissioner for FTS' Office of IT Solutions. The fee structure and other issues surrounding it have yet to be worked out, however.

"We are not trying to change the marketplace, but aggregate purchases for the government and the vendor," Miller said.

Miller also tried to alleviate industry concerns. "This is a great way to solidify their government's base in a very visible way," he said.

GSA is working with the top 16 software vendors by total dollar sales to the government on enterprise agreements. GSA is close to completing agreements with several of them, Miller said.

He would not confirm who the vendors are, but many industry executives believe the companies include Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp., PeopleSoft Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif., SAS Institute Inc. of Cary, N.C. and ESRI of Redlands, Calif.

While GSA is negotiating enterprise software contracts with vendors, it also is working with agencies to set up agreements describing how to use the program, Miller said.

"The vendor agreements we are close to finishing will go a long way to meeting our $100 million cost avoidance goal," Miller said. "This whole thing is like a 7th grade dance, where you go and you are not sure if you going to dance, but you'd like to. We are trying to find the right dance partner now."

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