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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Sam.gov launch hits initial snag after dropping 'Beta'

Beta.Sam.gov no longer has the "Beta," but serious problems remain.

Monday was the day the General Services Administration unveiled Sam.gov, creating a single portal to house vast troves of contracting data. GSA folded in the System for Award Management and dropped Beta from the portal's name.

But Monday was a rough day and GSA disabled the sign-in feature, making it impossible for users to access saved searches and followed contracts. The API feature was not working as well. A spokesman for GSA said developers are working to resolve the issues.

The now-retired Beta.Sam has had some well chronicled hiccups since its launch in November 2019 and the transition to Sam.gov doesn't appear to be an improvement so far. It is important to note that I work almost exclusively with the contract opportunities section of the portal.

Issues with Sam.gov were apparent from the start of business on Monday. When I tried to get to my workspace after logging in this morning, I was met with a completely blank white page except for a header at the top. I backed up and tried the general search function and was again met with a blank page.

I returned to the site about 15 minutes later and refreshed. The workspace still drew a white page, but this time the search function worked and I was able to reach my workspace through the search function.

Maybe it was a momentary glitch, but then things got worse. When I returned to Sam.gov several hours later. I could not log in at all. And now I either get a pop-up message that says the system is down for maintenance and I should try later, or I just get a spinning wheel indicating that the log-in request is being process.

But it never stops. It just grinds away. Eventually I get dumped over to another page where essentially I have to start all over again.

I can use the generic search function on the portal and get results, but I can’t access any of my saved searches or followed procurements. So it isn’t really helpful.

I’m grateful I heard back from GSA because that hasn't been the case over the past year and a half. GSA has been a reluctant source. In fact, they’ve pretty much ignored my requests.

For example, GSA gave some reporters demo tours to show off the new site a couple weeks ago. When I heard the demos were happening from another journalist, I reached out to GSA and requested one. I got no response.

I know I’ve been critical since the November 2019 launch, but mostly I’ve been responding and reporting to complaints I’ve heard from readers and sharing my own frustrating experiences as a user.

Some of the early problems have been corrected but other issues continue to frustrate users, myself included. I hear complaints from others in industry -- people whose paycheck is tied to finding and tracking the next opportunity. They are the practitioners.

Most of the issues are nuisances that can be overcome with workarounds, but that takes time and time is money -- all precious commodities in this market.

Someone wrote this to me over the weekend: “Searches are terrible. … It is a big impeder of market research and a new hurdle the whole of industry has to overcome.”

I’m sure the white pages and login issues will be resolved quickly. They likely will be history by the time many of you are reading this, but it just feels like GSA is not well-prepared whenever there is some change.

Giving the timing, the addition System for Award Management functions to the portal has caused the glitch. But that is something they should have tested for.

I would have hoped that by this time, GSA would realize the problems with Beta.Sam and now Sam.gov affect people's livelihood. For many, they can't do their jobs without access to this critical information.

Let me know how Sam.gov is treating you.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on May 24, 2021 at 1:29 PM

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