GSA takes the easy way out to solve contracting challenge

The General Services Administration’s choice to create a blanket purchase agreement for Salesforce cloud integration and support services on the surface seems logical.

GSA Salesforce DecisionIt’s a widely used platform — according to a simple search on website there have been 227 contracts worth more than $61 million since fiscal 2011— and one that needs more structure and control across government.

“The marketplace for Salesforce implementation and integration services was fragmented and had some disparity in there,” said David Shive, GSA’s chief information officer during a press call on Jan. 20. “When we looked, we saw there were no established quality standards for Salesforce development. We saw there were inexperienced vendors that were winning with new Salesforce customers, but sometimes had some dubious results coming out from those inexperienced vendors. We saw there was inconsistent delivery of code and configuration from agency to agency. There was failed implementations that was negatively impacting adoption of the tools and the processes surrounding those tools. And we saw that some vendors were rebuilding the same apps for the same agency and were developing closed systems in an otherwise open environment.”

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Federal government proposing to dump use of DUNS numbers

In 2015, the federal government spent nearly half of a trillion dollars on contracts with private companies—$436,668,103,830, to be exact.

DUNS numberMembers of the public are free to drill down into this data and track funding going to specific businesses, thanks to a series of policies designed to increase government transparency and accountability by treating information about government spending as open data—machine readable, timely and freely available online.

However, federal contracting policy requires the use of a specific proprietary data standard to keep track of entities receiving federal funds.

Known as the Data Universal Numbering System, or DUNS, the current standard was developed by business information reporting company Dun & Bradstreet. And therein lies a problem: Not only is the use of a proprietary standard antithetical to the principle of an open and transparent government, as it limits the usability and accessibility of the data, but the government has already recognized that requiring the use of DUNS grants Dun & Bradstreet a monopoly on data that uses DUNS numbers, reducing competition and increasing costs.

Fortunately, the General Services Administration, the Defense Department and NASA have recently proposed to amend federal contracting policy to eliminate the requirement to use DUNS, which would make data on government spending more transparent and usable by the government and the public alike.

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Shared services save money, with one caveat

Interagency pooling of routine purchases under the rubric of shared services saves money and improves quality, according to a survey of 300 public and private-sector organizations, newly published in a trio of reports from Deloitte and the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service.

Acquisition Shared ServicesMore than 90 percent of those interviewed about shared services saw cost reductions from the practice and 70 percent witnessed sharper service, according to the researchers, who surveyed acquisition officials in government concentrated in six agencies.

The reports reinforce the Obama administration’s move this October to create a new centralized body to coordinate shared services at the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration. That is projected to save $1 billion over the next decade.

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New protest delays GSA’s Agile BPA once again

One of the main goals for the General Services Administration’s 18F is to bring agile development practices to the government acquisition process.

18F at GSAOne of the more innovative ways the 18F team is trying to accomplish that is through its Agile BPA, a contract vehicle for companies that can support agile development that itself was built using agile concepts.

Unfortunately, the process for getting the vehicle going has been less than agile.

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Protests against 18F’s agile development deal cleared, but next steps unclear

A list of tech vendors authorized to sell digital services directly to the government is now live, though the companies on that list are still in the dark about when they’ll start getting customers. 

What Is 18F.Since September, the General Services Administration (GSA) had halted operations on the Agile Blanket Purchase Agreement — a pre-approved batch of 16 tech companies specializing in so-called “agile” development — because at least two companies had filed protests with GSA. Last week, GSA’s tech team 18F announced that the last of the protests had been resolved, and that it had awarded a 17th company, InQbation Labs Inc., a spot on the list.

According to an 18F blog post in January, the team’s ultimate goal was to reduce contract timelines to “less than four weeks from solicitation to contract kickoff, and . . . no more than three months to deliver a minimum viable product.”

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