Leveraging IT Schedule 70
The IT acquisition process is one of the most important and complex areas of coordination and collaboration between federal, state, and local governments, and industry partners. IT Schedule 70 uses enhanced communications to drive transparence and leverage partnerships towards simplifying the sometimes challenging acquisition process. Economies of scale and broad partnerships drive the biggest cost savings and greatest efficiencies on the IT Schedule 70 program.
Patricia Waddell, Deputy Director for the Center for IT Schedule Business Programs said, “IT Schedule 70 gives customers flexibility, vast selection, saves customers time, and provides built-in value. We provide the contracting expertise necessary to streamline the acquisition process, which can ultimately reduce the number of resources and level of commitment needed by the purchasing agencies’ staff.”
“We provide online and on-site training sessions for customers to help them better understand how to use IT Schedule 70 and how to place task orders for different types of acquisitions,” Waddell said. “This training has been well received by the Department of Justice, the National Institutes of Health, and the Social Security Administration. Training is also provided to industry partners on how to prepare their proposals to offer products and services under the Schedule.”
Post-award, there is additional industry partner training available on topics such as how to better market your business, how to complete contract modifications, and how to ensure contract compliance, she added. Waddell added that GSA is moving towards using webinars and online training to improve understanding of the Program’s many benefits and to make the Schedule more accessible to customers across the country.
Additionally, to help agencies maximize the effectiveness of using the IT Schedule 70 program, GSA’s FAS leverages an array of training and educational tools.
• FAS has worked with the Federal Acquisition Institute to develop basic and advanced pilot training courses on how to place MAS orders.
• FAS is also taking advantage of Web 2.0 and social media technology to better reach agencies and train customers on how to maximize effective use of the IT Schedule 70 and other MAS programs. Tools such as the new MAS Desk Reference online portal provide web-based updates to educate customers about the program. IT Schedule 70 managers also plan to create an open community on the FAS social collaboration platform, interact.gsa.gov in the near future.
• Webinars and online training are available through GSA's Center for Acquisition Excellence.
• FAS also conducts teleconferences and on-site meetings at customer locations to assist customers.
• GSA and non-GSA conferences provide another opportunity for FAS to help customers learn about key acquisition vehicles. For example, GSA’s training conference in May includes over 200 classes in acquisition, project management, sustainability and technology.
• And yet another GSA eTool called eBuy provides assistance with conducting head-to-head competitions through the use of an on-line Request for Quote (RFQ) tool. GSA’s eBuy allows agencies to request information, find sources and prepare RFQs for required products and services offered on GSA Government wide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs) and MAS contracts.
FAS has also improved customer facing electronic tools such as GSAAdvantage! which is an online shopping and ordering system that gives agencies access to over 18,000 MAS contracts, as well as over 28 million products, services, and solutions at the best value. The GSAAdvantage! website now has nearly 800,000 registered users and receives 500,000 visits per day. In addition to federal government users, state and local government agencies can use GSAAdvantage! to purchase IT and disaster recovery products and services.
With so many useful educational tools and services, GSA is striving to meet its customers’ diverse requirements. In addition to the many resources available, GSA is also planning to launch an end-to-end electronic contracting environment that will further drive process improvements, officials said. The goal of the GSA’s upcoming online contracting environment will be to make it easier, faster, and cheaper for agencies to purchase goods and services. This online environment will:
• Standardize and eliminate duplicative processes;
• Automatically incorporate acquisition policy changes; and
• Increase transparency in GSA’s daily operational activities.
Customers should look for this online environment to be rolled out in 2012.
In addition, to provide quality service to its customers and industry partners, IT Schedule 70 utilizes the support of GSA’s Customer Service Director (CSD) network. The CSD network is a field sales force that provides regional support to customers and industry partners throughout the country and select international locations, Waddell explained. Additionally, in January, the Schedule launched a customer service help line. The support staff is trained in assisting customers with general questions about the Schedule and can provide assistance in locating products, services, or solutions within the suite of Special Item Numbers (SINs) or finding the appropriate contracting officer. The number for customers to call is 877-446-4870.
Wide Selection, Volume Discounts on IT Schedule 70
Steven Kempf, Commissioner for GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS), testified in March 2011 before the House Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government that interagency acquisitions offer important benefits. “Since its inception in 2003, GSA’s SmartBUY (Software Managed and Acquired on the Right Terms) program has generated savings for software purchasers approaching $1 billion,” he said.
The SmartBUY program works in close collaboration with the Defense Department’s Enterprise Software Initiative to establish Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) against IT Schedule 70 contracts for frequently licensed, commercial off-the-shelf software, and related services. “We continue to actively look for opportunities to apply this strategic acquisition model for additional products and services to bring these savings to the taxpayer,” Kempf said.
The SmartBUY team recently partnered with the DoD Enterprise Software initiative to negotiate government-wide agreements for Oracle database software. The results of their partnership increased the discounts agencies were previously able to achieve from GSA Schedule database license purchases from approximately 40 percent to 80 percent.
Additionally, the SmartBUY program has raised the bar on security and compliance standards by incorporating National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards, including the Federal Desktop Core Configuration (FDCC), Secure Content Automation Protocol (SCAP), Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) and Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM).
Damon McClure, Deputy Director for the Center for IT Schedule Operations, said the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) allows for streamlined rules to meet competitive requirements and shorten the time it takes to fulfill a contract award, “from 45 days in a traditional full and open competition, to typically less than two weeks on IT Schedule 70.”
Another key advantage GSA brings is pre-vetting contractors. “We handle the due diligence so that agencies know the products they select come from contractors who offer fair and reasonable pricing. While they can and should do further negotiating to achieve bigger discounts from contractors, our customers gain from the legwork we do for them up front,” McClure explained.
Dennis Harrison, GSA’s Director of the Contract Cost and Price Analysis Division, said government customers gain from the vast selection of products and services offered through IT Schedule 70, because of so many pre-qualified suppliers. Also, because IT Schedule 70 offerings are previously competed, there’s no need for customers to address the rules and requirements of non-Schedule purchases. “Prices on IT Schedule 70 are determined using most-favored customer rates, based on sales of a single unit. Most suppliers offer prompt payment and/or volume discounts to government customers who purchase through the Schedule as well,” Harrison said.
GSA IT Schedule 70 provides a diverse selection of local and global contractors, the majority of which fall under one of the federal government’s socioeconomic categories such as service-disabled veteran-owned companies and small and disadvantaged companies. “The Schedule program strongly supports small business, women-owned small business and small disadvantaged business participation,” Harrison said.
State and Local Government Initiatives
The wealth of benefits and great services offered through GSA’s IT Schedule 70 was extended beyond the federal sector in 2002.
“Under Section 211 of the e-Government Act, state and local governments, tribal organizations and educational institutions have been able purchase from GSA’s IT Schedule 70 through the Cooperative Purchasing program,” said Tricia Scaglione, Program Analyst in the Special Programs Branch Office of Acquisition Management.
Section 833 of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act of 2007 also established the use of Federal Supply Schedules by state and local governments for disaster recovery.
It is important to note that all state and local government programs are voluntary, said Thomas Corcoran, Business Management Specialist and Cooperative Purchasing Lead for GSA’s Center for IT Schedule Business Programs. “State and/or local governments have no obligation to use the Schedule, though many are willing to try the Schedule to help reduce acquisition time and expense,” Corcoran said.
IT Schedule 70 FY2010 state/local sales totaled $482 million. “The growing number of suppliers gives state and local government customers better selection and enhances competition, allowing buyers more leverage in pricing negotiations,” said Sharon Terango, a SmartBUY Project Manager for GSA.
States and local authorities may purchase items via GSA’s SmartBUY BPA program for data at rest (DAR), geospatial, situational awareness and incident response (SAIR), and even the new Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud computing solutions. They may also purchase from the satellite services available under the IT Schedule 70 Commercial Satellite Communications (COMSATCOM) SINs 132-54 and 132-55.