It's "incredibly concerning" that the General Services Administration contract vehicles are losing ground to federal agencies in terms of how IT purchasing is handled in the federal government, the head of the GSA's IT procurement arm said in an interview last week.
Today, federal agencies spend about $22 billion annually on IT purchases made through GSA via government-wide contract vehicles such as Networx for networking, Alliant for professional IT services, and the IT Schedule 70. However, that number has remained static over the last several years as the overall federal IT budget has gone up.
"There are plenty of [agencies] who look past us there," said Ed O'Hare, assistant commissioner for the Federal Acquisition Service's Office of Integrated Technology Services (ITS). "Absolutely, we're losing market share. I'm incredibly concerned."
That's not to say O'Hare isn't doing something about it. He wants to significantly increase the approximately 30% of federal IT purchases being made through GSA, and much of that strategy has to do with revamping the agency's sales and communications strategies.
"The biggest reason we're losing market share, I believe, is that we don't talk to our customers well," O'Hare said. In the past, when ITS talked to its customers, it would frame its services in the form of the contract, rather than the needs of the federal agency. O'Hare is planning a new sales methodology that he hopes will transform the perception of ITS from being "the products agency" to being a trusted partner on IT.
"We used to say, here, you have to use my Networx contract, you have to use my schedule," he said. "We have to go to our customers and let them know that we are cybersecurity experts, we are sustainability experts, and we are virtualization experts. We need to start talking about solution sets."
There's also plenty of work to do to improve ITS performance. O'Hare wants to trim a few days off the 112 or 113 it takes to get a new vendor on the GSA schedule, and wants to push the number of days it takes to modify contracts under the IT Schedule down from 12 eventually to 5, while maintaining consistency on how well those metrics are being met.
ITS plans to expand its offerings in a few markets such as cybersecurity and sustainability, making them smarter along the way. That includes adding new desktop discovery tools that can automatically determine Federal Desktop Core Configuration compliance, supply chain risk analysis work, and recently added search filtering options in the GSAAdvantage online IT marketplace where agencies can narrow down to computers that are Energy Star-compliant or use recycled materials.
It's also continuing to ramp up the $50 billion Alliant contract vehicle, which O'Hare remains confident will be successful.
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