GSA ventures into the world of SaaS

The General Services Administration wants to jump on the software-as-a-service bandwagon through its Office of Citizen Services and Communications.

The office issued two requests for proposals last week for Web analytics and online collaboration tools that call out software as a service (SaaS) as the intended way it will meet their needs.

Under the SaaS model, users buy access to a specific platform used by many different companies or agencies at the same time. Users also buy software through a subscription fee or each time they use it as opposed to buying a license and maintenance.

SaaS is gaining a foothold in agencies, but federal officials are still unsure about its specifics, said Richard Colven, vice president at Input. In a recent study, Colven said 78 percent of the 66 federal executives surveyed recently said they were either using SaaS or considering it. But Input estimated that agencies will spend only about $34 million on SaaS in fiscal 2008.

"Federal agencies are not sure how to buy software as a service," Colven said last week at a conference on SaaS. The Software and Information Industry Association, the Information Technology Association of America and Input sponsored the conference. "There are serious architecture and security challenges."

But GSA's foray into SaaS is an example of the growing need for new ways to procure applications.

In the Web analytics RFP, GSA said it wants to better analyze and report Web traffic and user behaviors on USA.gov and related sites. The firm fixed-price contract is for one year with four one-year options.

"The government will use the advanced Web analytics service to help drive content on the Web site and therefore better serve the general public," the RFP states.

GSA wants to use technology, known as persistent cookies, which would more accurately define public activity on its Web sites and enable the agency to perform more comprehensive and thorough analysis.

The Office of Management and Budget developed a policy in 2000 around the use of persistent cookies, requiring agencies to meet four conditions:
  • The site gives clear and conspicuous notice.
  • There is a compelling need to gather the data on the site.
  • Appropriate and publicly disclosed privacy safeguards exist for handling any information derived from the cookies.
  • The agency head gives personal approval for the use.
    Proposals are due Feb. 19.

For the online collaboration RFP, GSA's Office of Citizens Services and Communications wants to purchase a contact directory, public event calendar, e-mail marketing, discussion forum and event or training registration for presentation on Webcontent.gov through SaaS.

Webcontent.gov is for Web content managers from more than 1,300 federal, state and local government employees to learn about federal Web requirements and best practices, share ideas and resources, and work together to resolve common challenges facing the government Web community.

This firm fixed-price contract is for one year with four one-year options. Proposals are due Feb. 4.

Jason Miller writes for Government Computer News and Federal Computer Week, 1105 Government Information Group publications.

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