Mobility category management: $1B opportunity with plenty of risks

As the government moves forward with category management of mobile devices and services, it represents a huge opportunity, but there are inherent risks as more contracts are consolidated.

The General Services Administration issued a request for information on May 2 requesting industry feedback on government-wide acquisitions and usage of mobility. This RFI, pursuant to the draft Office of Management and Budget Category Management Policy 16-2: Improving the Acquisition and Management of Common Information Technology: Mobile Devices and Service, is the most recent example of both the opportunities and risks category management presents.

The Mobile Services Category Team (MSCT) represents the departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security, Treasury, and the GSA—a true cross-agency collaboration. At an industry day on May 9, GSA commented that mobility category management will save both the government and industry time and money in keeping with overall Office of Federal Procurement Policy category management initiatives, the recent draft memo on mobility, and OMB’s strategic sourcing drive. Mobility consolidation is also complementary to OFPP’s Laptops/Desktops Category Management decision last year.

OFPP predicts that the mobility category management initiative will save $230 million per year in a roughly $1 billion market for mobile devices and services. Currently, agencies procure mobility under more than 1,200 separate agreements.

Thousands of single-award contracts as well as agency-specific multiple award contracts are currently being consolidated under category management. Clearly, cross-agency vehicles will create efficiencies, but they also create grave risks for many contractors as the number of procurement vehicles begins to decrease dramatically.

Existing BPAs under GSA Schedules or through individual agencies will disappear as they are subsumed by prominent GWACs such as NASA SEWP IV, GSA Alliant 2 (to be released next month), GSA VETS 2 currently on the street, and NIH CIO-SP3. Smaller contractors—whether in the small business category or mid-tiers that must compete in the unrestricted group—are finding it quite challenging to compete in this new market landscape.

Contractors must pursue and win critical IT vehicles released in 2016 if they want to have any hope of participating in the future consolidated market of category management. However, GSA has been setting the bar high with its objective self-scoring evaluation approach that favors larger contractors with more and bigger corporate experience and past performance examples.

Of course, it will take some time for the government to make awards on the 2016 crop of MACs. Vendors need to plan now to maximize their existing—but soon to disappear—contracts. For example, the government typically uses single award BPAs and MACs extensively for end-of-year spending. Smart contractors are preparing today to work with their clients as to which vehicles are best for the fiscal 2016 fourth quarter, while simultaneously planning ahead for the future consolidation.

All vendors selling mobility products and/or services should examine and, as appropriate, respond to the GSA RFI, which includes a detailed questionnaire regarding capabilities and potential procurement scenarios. For the smaller SBs and mid-tiers, this RFI is an opportunity to have your voice heard on what the future mobility vehicle(s) should look like. And, all vendors must become familiar with the recent government category management policy memos and related procurements to build an actionable plan for future survival.

Category management looks like it may be here to stay. Rather than ignore the government’s consolidation initiatives, embrace all opportunities to participate in the process.

NEXT STORY: Too soon to say good-bye to LPTA?

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