Contract success sparks thoughts for MAIQ follow-on

A General Services Administration contract for governmentwide systems integration services has nearly reached its $840 million ceiling years ahead of schedule, and agency officials plan to meet later this month to discuss a follow-on contract.

GSA awarded the multiple-award, indefinite-quantity 9600 (MAIQ 9600) contract for six categories of information technology services in December 1995. The contract was expected to run for five years but has been so popular with federal agencies that the maximum value was nearly reached after only three years. According to Federal Sources Inc., McLean, Va., agencies had bought about $680 million worth of IT services through this contract as of two weeks ago.

The contract was awarded by GSA's Federal Systems Integration and Management Center (Fedsim), which is part of the agency's Office of Information Technology Integration (ITI).

Charles Self, assistant commissioner for ITI at GSA's Federal Technology Service, said the success of the program took him by surprise. "Our numbers are going through the roof," Self said. "When we made the $840 million estimate, we thought we would never get to that. But we were able to award a couple of $80 million task orders within 25 days of awarding the contracts. Now Fedsim's numbers double every year."

Self said he will meet with members of his staff within three weeks "to start talking about the follow-on." But he expressed doubts that the next generation of Fedsim MAIQ contracts would be as successful as the current one.

"When we first put these in place, the schedules weren't as easy to use," he said. "Now they are easier to use and more well-known, and a lot of agencies' low-end requirements are going to the schedule. But the MAIQ still has a place."

"Selling Car Parts"

Bob Woods, chief operating officer at Federal Sources and former FTS commissioner, said he believes the ITI programs will continue to be successful despite the growing use of the schedules program. "If what Charlie [Self] does is like selling cars, then the schedules program is selling car parts" he said. "They are both succeeding. It's not a case of either/or."

Woods said he believes the MAIQ 9600 contract and others administered by ITI have been popular because of the added value of customer service brought to agencies by the ITI staff. He said the majority of federal users need some assistance buying and installing IT but do not want to go through the time and expense of hiring an integrator. He said ITI employees fill that niche by working on behalf of agencies to find the best IT solutions.

Self said ITI will have to work out unresolved marketing issues before it awards the next generation of MAIQ contracts. He said program officials are grappling with questions raised by MAIQ vendors about whether they should be able to keep for themselves business they bring to the program through their own marketing efforts or if all of the contract holders should compete for that business.

"The vendors are very concerned that when they go out and market something to an agency, they should be able to eat what they kill, so to speak," Self said. "We've got to solve this marketing issue to be successful."

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