GSA splits PC seat work

General Services Administration has decided to divide responsibilities for managing desktop computers by hiring one vendor for hardware and software and another for desktop services

In hopes of learning from past mistakes, the General Services Administration has decided to divide responsibilities for managing desktop computers by hiring one vendor for hardware and software and another for desktop services.

The decision comes as GSA continues to review its options for handling desktop computers following the agency's decision in May to scrap its Seat Management task order with PRC Inc.

The decision to split the task represents a major shift because it means the agency has abandoned the concept of outsourcing desktop PCs and services under one vendor and rolling the contract out enterprisewide.

The agency is still in the midst of the procurement process, said Michael Carleton, GSA's chief information officer. The plan is for GSA to establish a blanket purchase agreement using the Federal Supply Service's schedule contracts for hardware and software.

"That marketplace is quite transparent and competitive now," Carleton said.

GSA will either own or lease those devices, but they will not be bundled into an overall enterprisewide contract for managing desktop PCs.

Teams from each of the agency's divisions are working on hardware and software standards. One goal of the new effort is to improve standardization across the organization, something GSA could not do under its PRC Seat Management task order, Carleton acknowledged.

The services portion is less clear-cut.

The Federal Supply Service, which had not signed on to the PRC Seat Management task order, has a desktop services contract that expires Sept. 30. FSS officials are currently trying to create a contract for information technology services that would also be available to the other divisions within GSA if they are interested. Officials at FSS were unavailable for comment.

The PRC Seat Management task order is set to expire Dec. 31.

Carleton said GSA officials expect the same results from the latest effort that the agency wanted from its Seat Management task order with PRC: get a clearer picture of the agency's PC costs while using service-level agreements and gain a better understanding of user needs.

The PRC task order, awarded in December 1998, had a three-year base period with seven one-year options and was initially valued at $114 million for 2,500 seats within the Federal Technology Service and GSA headquarters. The original plan was to expand desktop outsourcing under the Seat Management contract across the agency to include nearly 14,000 seats for about $600 million.

PC outsourcing has been successful at other agencies, including the Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and NASA, under its Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA contract.

However, the GSA project has been highly visible. GSA officials were pressured to quickly award a task order to show other agencies that the seat management concept could work. In their haste, they sidestepped some of the lessons that others at GSA were preaching to other agencies.

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