GSA, vendors work to form Seat Management bid teams

Vendors were still scrambling last week to strike teaming arrangements to respond to the General Services Administration's $9 billion Seat Management solicitation a program to outsource the management of agencies' desktop systems.

Representatives from more than 100 companies met last week with GSA officials for a briefing on the Seat Management request for proposals which the agency released this month. Vendors said they expect intense competition for the multiple-award contracts at least until GSA eliminates some competitors when the first phase of the acquisition ends Nov. 19.

Under the program agencies could hire a contractor to manage maintain and provide all desktop computing needs including hardware software help-desk services networking maintenance and training.

Mary Doherty the Seat Management contracting officer at GSA's Office of Information Technology Integration said the first phase of the competition will evaluate and validate vendors' proposals to meet the government's minimum requirements as well as their ability to exceed those requirements. "The vendors offering the best solutions will go on to Phase Two " Doherty said.

During Phase One GSA will also evaluate vendors' responses on how seat management contracts have been used in the private sector she added. "We have a very good idea that our numbers and information are correct but we are trying to substantiate that" with what the private sector is doing she said.

While some hailed GSA's solicitation as a groundbreaking project others questioned whether federal users will really want such a service and whether vendors can establish a business case to support their bids.

Consultant Eben Townes a senior vice president at Acquisitions Solutions Inc. said he does not believe most federal employees necessarily care about whether they have the latest technology on their desktops - one of the often-stated benefits of the seat management program.

"There's a notion that everybody wants the latest and greatest hot box on their desks " Townes said. "I don't buy that across the board. The constant upheaval and training would degrade their productivity."Agencies like to control their own assets " he added. "I think this will be like [GSA's] virtual data center contract. It will be awarded and then just sit there."

The Virtual Data Center Services contract which GSA awarded to three companies in February offers agencies private data-processing services including mainframe processing services and data center services such as printing and mailing. GSA officials estimated the contract to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars but ordering has been spotty [FCW July 28].Doherty said she had no formal data on the degree of interest in Seat Management within the federal IT community but she said "numerous agencies have shown an interest."

Sterling Phillips vice president of corporate marketing at FDC Technologies said the value of the contracts may lie in their ability to ease administrative burdens as opposed to being able to ensure users have cutting-edge equipment. "Supporting the software and communications environments of thousands of users puts a big strain on the manpower of the agencies " he said.

Dave McGill director of business development at Electronic Data Systems Corp. agreed that manpower requirements will drive the contract. "Agencies are losing the skilled people and budget dollars they need to maintain this complex environment " he said. "So I do think this is going to be a very viable market for some time. I will say however that I don't think seat management will be the only way to achieve this objective. It could be done under the GSA schedule."

So far only FDC has revealed its bidding team which includes Comdisco Inc. Entex Information Services Inc. Unisys Corp. Compaq Computer Corp. Northrop Grumman Data Systems Corp. Advanced Technology Systems Inc. Data Systems and Technology Inc. Soza & Co. Integrated Communication Solutions Inc. and Trantech Inc.

A spokeswoman from OAO Corp. said her company will team with IBM Corp. But she said it had not been decided which company will act as the prime. Bob Steele general manager of business development planning at Boeing Information Services confirmed that his company will bid but he declined to reveal his partners.

Computer Sciences Corp. Government Technology Services Inc. and DynCorp also confirmed they plan to bid.

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