SmartBuy advances planned

The General Services Administration is close to signing the first contracts under a new governmentwide enterprise licensing program, officials said last week. Meanwhile, officials from GSA and the Office of Management and Budget are considering ways to make the program, called SmartBuy, more flexible and appealing to vendors.

"SmartBuy is a difficult thing to do," said Emory Miller, director of information technology professional development at GSA and the agency's SmartBuy leader. "It's sort of like an [e-government] initiative all in itself, because you're trying to coordinate all agencies."

Officials modeled SmartBuy on the Defense Department's Enterprise Software Initiative. The intent is to sign governmentwide licenses for commonly used software products, such as office automation and virus protection. The licenses would use the volume buying power of the government to win lower per-unit prices.

OMB officials announced the program this summer with a prediction that the first licenses would be signed by the end of September. None have yet been signed, Miller said.

The two agencies are exploring ways to make the program more appealing to vendors, including tiered pricing and volume discounts, he said last week at a luncheon sponsored by the Association for Federal Information Resources Management.

The agencies are also focusing more on total cost of ownership than per-unit price in determining what makes a good value for the government, he said.

The government needs to recognize industry's profit motive, said Tad Anderson, government-to-business portfolio manager at OMB. "It's OK for business to make a profit," he said. "This isn't about putting business out of business. That's something that hasn't been that clear."

Vendors are interested in the program, but need incentives, such as guaranteed sales volumes, said Curt Kolcun, general manager of Microsoft Corp.'s Federal Systems division, in a separate interview.

"One size doesn't necessarily fit all," he said. "There are nuances to agencies that have to be built into the requirements."

"We're having productive dialogue," he added.

Vendors should consider more factors than their revenue levels, however, Miller told the luncheon audience. "If I were a vendor, I'd say it's a great way to solidify my [government market] base," he said.

When Miller retires in January, James Ghiloni, currently project manager of IT solutions for GSA's Federal Systems Integration and Management program, will take over the post. Ghiloni joined the agency in 2000, from the private sector.

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