After a year-long soft launch of its acquisition gateway portal to federal users, the agency is preparing to open its doors to public users.
The General Services Administration is set to open its government-facing Acquisition Gateway to public users in the coming days, allowing contractors and industry acquisition professionals similar access to the aggregated acquisition data that federal acquisition workers now have through the portal.
The gateway is a key to the category management practices that the White House hopes will help the federal government act like large corporations do to get a better handle on the ocean of goods and services it buys every year.
Ten "hallways" offering pricing data on goods and services ranging from IT to office supplies are open on the gateway, said Anne Rung, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, in a conference call with reporters following a Jan. 27 online demonstration of the portal.
The gateway provides information on pricing, best practices covering acquisition, and models on how to implement those practices, all with an eye to helping federal program officers draft better requirements and federal contracting officers negotiate better contracts.
The portal incorporates user-centric features like "thumbs-up" (or -down) feedback on information; a "solution finder" that lets users enter what they're looking for and get a refined set of solutions defined by their specific needs; a function that allows federal contracting personnel to "follow" more experienced workers through acquisitions; and the ability to create communities of users with similar challenges.
"A lot of these resources have been created by government," said Laura Stanton, acting director of strategy management in GSA's Federal Acquisition Service. Finding them all in one, easily accessible place, however, had been "challenging" before the gateway.
GSA has been working on the gateway with federal users since October 2014, and Stanton said federal use has been growing. There are now 5,000 federal acquisition employees enrolled to use the resource. Rung said the goal is to get 10,000 by the end of the year.
In the last few months, Stanton said, GSA has accelerated its efforts to get federal employees to use the portal.
GSA personnel also have been working behind the scenes to manage the information on each hallway. Rung said the Office of Management and Budget will soon name 10 managers responsible for procuring and curating information for all the categories.
GSA has not specified and exact date, but John Felleman, the senior innovation specialist overseeing development of the gateway, said the public roll-out will come in a few days. That public access, he said, will allow public contractors to see most of what federal workers do, but shield potentially sensitive information unobtrusively.
Public access, Stanton and Felleman said, is an important stage. Commercial contractors eventually will be able to offer insights for the benefit of federal contracting officers, Felleman said -- for instance, information on how to write the most effective and efficient statement of work in a procurement.
Correction: This story was updated Jan. 29 to reflect that OMB will be selecting category managers.
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