Research Report: The Virtual Public Sector

SEWP takes aim at strategic sourcing

Because the SEWP program has always been such an important acquisition vehicle, it is in a perfect position to support broader government acquisition goals. SEWP V will deliver on that, becoming a prime information source for the federal push on strategic sourcing of IT.

In fact, that intent was made a formal part of the SEWP V. The request for proposals stated that one of the main objectives of the contract is “to assist the government in minimizing incompatibilities and maximizing strategic decision making across the IT infrastructure.”

By providing information the contract collects on such things as supply chain management, energy savings, and program and past performance, “it is anticipated that NASA and other federal agencies will have the ability to use these contracts for strategic IT purchases,” according to the RFP.

Strategic sourcing has been practiced in industry and government for some years. The Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI), for example, was launched in 2005, and at least some agencies have claimed success using it. The Government Services Administration (GSA), for example, said it expects to save around $255 million by September, 2015.

But most agencies have not fully leveraged strategic sourcing. In 2012, the Government Accountability Office found that just four agencies were responsible for 80 percent of government procurement, but used strategic sourcing for just five percent of it. By contrast, industry used strategic sourcing for as much as 90 percent of its purchases.

That year, the Office of Management and Budget made expansion of strategic sourcing across the government a stated goal of the administration, saying that it would help to cut down on inefficiencies in government IT contracts, particularly in terms of the number of IT contracts being used. OMB believes that combining the purchases through just a few contracts could save the government a lot of money.

Joanne Woytek, SEWP program manager, has been heavily involved in the federal strategic sourcing effort over the past few years, working with other GWAC managers from the National Institutes of Health and GSA to iron out the details of just what the government means by strategic sourcing, and how it can be incorporated into contracts.

In May, SEWP’s leadership on the issue was recognized by OMB, which established an FSSI Workstations Commodity Team at SEWP to develop a framework and strategy for cutting costs and delivering better value for laptop and desktop purchases across a number of interagency contracts. OMB wants the SEWP team to identify and refine a set of computer configurations that would best fit federal buyers and to identify a set of spending best practices, according to a story in FCW.

Without a doubt, one reason OMB reached out to the SEWP team is that SEWP V will produce the most advanced IT product ordering and spending data of all the current GWACs, making it a good proving ground for a strategic sourcing push in IT.

Everything the SEWP program management office is doing with SEWP V positions it to help define users strategic sourcing needs in detail, Woytek said, and to leverage the things that OMB is trying to do.

“We’ll begin by noting on the SEWP Web site which items in SEWP V are strategically sourced,” she said. “We’ll be able to give the customer even more information on how to save money, and how to meet the things OMB is looking for.”