CHESS Perspectives

For CHESS to succeed requires a team effort. Leading the team is program manager Micki LaForgia. She spoke for the team about CHESS in this interview with 1105 Custom Media.

Q. 1105 Government Information Group Custom Media
The Army Small Computing Program was well-known. Why change your name to CHESS?
A. Micki LaForgia
We wanted to get better.  I think we were well known as the Army’s Small Computing Program, but the people who knew us, knew us.


(For example) there were people in the CIO andG6 world who knew who we were and we had some good computer deals.


But the rest of the Army community didn’t know us as well. Even some of the folks who were buying computers didn’t know that we were the provider of the software licenses.


If you took the cost avoidance and the security enhancements that we were providing on the hardware side and replicate those throughout the entire Army, well there was just no where to go but up with this program. So, it is important to get that word out.


Q. 1105 Government Information Group Custom Media
Explain about the Consolidated Buy, currently running through September 30?
A. Micki LaForgia
It’s definitely taking off. Yesterday, my website manager told me that our normal volume on the website is about 200 concurrent users; yesterday we were having 700 to 800 concurrent hits and we think it’s because the CB opened.


That’s great. The word is getting out there. People were waiting for the buy to open to buy their IT. When we did the first CB at the end of FY05, people were coming in reluctantly due to the direction of the Army CIO and G6 to leverage the Army’s buying power. There was a lot hesitation, but here we are at the third endthe year CB. Last year at the end of year we sold 130,000 units and this year people were just waiting. One of our vendors told me they had a thousand phone calls yesterday about the CB.


Q. 1105 Government Information Group Custom Media
How can you streamline the procurement process?
A. Micki LaForgia
CHESS provides pre-competed IDIQ contracts for hardware and services against which contracting officers may award delivery and/or task orders using the FAR Part 16 Fair Opportunity process.


In the case of the Consolidated Buy of Desktops and Notebooks, even the Fair Opportunity competition has already been conducted by CHESS’ designated
contracting activity, the Information Technology Electronic Commerce and Commercial Contracting Center (ITEC4), so most contracting professionals need only access the CHESS website.


Q. 1105 Government Information Group Custom Media
You’ve described the CHESS website as a “force multiplier”. Can you talk about some of its customer friendly features?
A. Micki LaForgia
Customers can use the “it e-mart”, to view side-by-side comparisons of the product specifications and prices, evaluate the offers and issue an order. The “it e-mart” is THE Army e-commerce site for commercial IT!


We are only a short period of time away from fielding “it e-mart”, version 2 that will provide even more information to the procurement personnel at posts,
camps and stations so they can optimize their IT dollars while increasing local user performance capabilities.


The “it e-mart” allows customers to easily fulfill their commercial IT acquisition requirement for products and services. “it e-mart” allows a customer to send a Request for Quote (RFQ) for IT products easily. Since 2004 “it e-mart” has sent over 123,168 RFQs. In 2006, Request for Proposal (RFP) for services was added to streamline the process of getting a quote for IT services.  Since that time there have been over 7,730 RFPs submitted through “it e-mart”.


These two features alone save our customers time by effectively and efficiently communicating to our vendors the exact requirement without having to call or submit paperwork numerous times through manual processes.
Our online catalog has over 37,000 products representing just a portion of what is offered on our contract vehicles. It’s no wonder “it e-mart” has nearly 500,000 registered customers.


In the updated version, the same features such as Requesting a Waiver, Requesting a Microsoft license, comparing IT products, submitting RFQs and RFPs will be available.


Features such as a new search engine and a site map will allow customers to find products and documents much more easily while navigating the site more effectively. All the information on our contracts, new policies, directives, and helpful information will also be available.  The “it e-mart” is a total solution to streamline and assist with the acquisition of commercial IT products and services.


Q. 1105 Government Information Group Custom Media
Can you talk about CHESS training?
A. Micki LaForgia
Training has become a core competency for us and we are constantly travelling. This is a good thing. I’ve been here 4 years and when I came on board people would call and they would say “we heard we have to use your program”, could you come down and brief us.


Now we get calls, “we heard you guys got the best deals, can you send someone out to someone out here to brief us on your program?”


Because of demand we are about to make a video so we can send modules out because some customers just want to know about ESI; some about the CB.


Q. 1105 Government Information Group Custom Media
There is so much emphasis on Green and the FDCC these days. What is CHESS doing in these areas?
A. Micki LaForgia
This is an area where we were ahead of the curve. When a statute is passed, it takes time to get the statute implemented through a regulation. We have a tech support team that is constantly aware and following what’s going on. So when the statutes were passed, the vendors know what’s coming, so they build to those standards.


We had all those standards in our products before it became a standard of the Army. When someone would say, “oh look there is a FDCC” we already had it; the same thing with EPEAT.


We were way out in the forefront letting our vendors knowing what is coming down the pike. Since we do sell state-of-the-art equipment, they were geared up for it, so we didn’t have to do any backfill to be prepared for the new technologies.


Q. 1105 Government Information Group Custom Media
How do you deal with products being not up to date or “in scope”?
A. Micki LaForgia
That’s one of the concerns that some customers used to have and I hope they are over that. When I first came here and the CB started, there was talk that we were offering good prices because we are selling obsolete stuff or what their vendors are putting on sale to move out of their warehouses.


First of all most vendors don’t warehouse; they build to order. And because we have constant competition on the contracts, everybody wants to provide what people want to buy.


The vendors are competing to give us the best and the latest. In fact a couple of times, they were racing the clock to be ready for the CB.  They had a new product coming out and they were just praying they got it out on time.


In fact, because we are loading everything with Microsoft VISTA this time, we had a small delay that allowed one of vendors to add a brand new model.


So, no one should ever be concerned they are not getting the state-of-the-art stuff that meets all the current requirements and are what are going to become current requirements. And there is no problem with being in scope because the contracts are catalogued based. If it is approved for sale in the catalogue and the specs are validated to meet Army and Netcom standards, then it’s OK. It’s a continuous refresh of products.