70 B/C renewals move quickly for most firms

The General Services Administration has wrapped up negotiations for its 70 B/C microcomputer schedules earlier than usual, with most vendors having already signed new contracts by late last week.

"Normally it can be difficult negotiating, but it wasn't like that at all," said Kim Bradbury, Compaq Computer Corp.'s federal contract manager. "It actually went very smoothly."

Of the top 10 GSA schedule vendors last year, seven have received their awards. They are Dell Computer Corp., AmeriData Federal Systems, BTG Inc., Zenith Data Systems, Compaq, I-NET Inc. and Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. Government Technology Services Inc. and Gateway 2000 are reportedly still in negotiations. Information Handling Services, a CD-ROM provider, has been moved to Schedule A, according to Roy Chisholm, director of GSA's ADP Acquisition Center.

GTSI and Gateway 2000 have yet to be awarded contracts, reportedly due to pressure by GSA for deeper discounts from the two companies.

Industry sources said both firms thought they were near completion of their negotiations until a GSA contracting official demanded greater concessions. Observers were unsure whether the disagreements would lead to a lapse in the two vendors' contracts, which are scheduled to expire March 31.

Gateway 2000 spokesman Jeff Hansen said the company had no comment, while GTSI said only that it had "encountered nothing unusual" in its negotiations.

William Gormley, assistant commissioner at the GSA Federal Supply Service's (FSS) Office of Acquisition, said the ease with which agreements were reached this year reflected a willingness by GSA and industry to put in place changes designed to make the schedules more attractive to users.

Gormley cited new rules allowing multiple-year contracts and the elimination of maximum-order limitations as examples of changes that will benefit the government and industry.

"We have tried to communicate changes to industry as early as possible, and there has been a willingness by both parties to be as understanding as we can," Gormley said.

This cooperative environment apparently helped ease the concerns of some vendors about the transfer of the schedule program from GSA's Information Technology Service (ITS) to FSS last year.

Paul Collins, vice president of BTG, said vendors feared the switch could set back recent progress. But he noted that many of the people who had previously handled negotiations for ITS were transferred to FSS along with the program.

Instead of losing ground, "we have seen some improvement in the award process," Collins said. "It appears that their resources and tools are improved, [and] their requests are more focused. In general, the turnaround time on requests for information is very fast."

GSA's new practice of posting vendors' prices on its bulletin board was also a factor, Bradbury said. That visibility forces schedule holders to keep prices attractive so GSA negotiators do not have to work as hard to obtain the lowest price.

"The experience at GSA continues to improve, as it has over the last several years," said Gilbert Gautereaux, vice president of marketing for AmeriData. "GSA is becoming a partner to the vendor community rather than an adversary."

Another positive factor cited by vendors was the move to negotiate three-year pacts. Previously, vendors have renewed their contracts each year. BTG, Compaq, I-NET and Dell negotiated three-year deals. AmeriData, Toshiba, Zenith and IDP renewed existing contracts.

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