GSA picks 8 for seat management

The General Services Administration last week tapped eight vendors for a desktop outsourcing contract estimated to be worth $9 billion.

Wang Government Services, Multimax, Litton/PRC Inc., EER Systems, IBM Global, Federal Data Corp., Tech Services (previously DynCorp) and Science Applications International Corp. were chosen by GSA to compete against each other for task orders on the contract.

The contracts will run five years, followed by an optional five-year period.

GSA officials contend that the agency's Seat Management pacts will revolutionize the way federal agencies manage their office systems by allowing them to hand over full responsibility for desktop systems to a single vendor. The vendors will be responsible for maintaining agencies' desktop computers and local-area networks, upgrading hardware and software and providing help desk and other support services.

Wanda Smith, Seat Management program director at GSA's Information Technology Integration Center, said she will meet with the staff of GSA's chief information officer to discuss the agency's future use of the Seat Management contracts.

She added that representatives from the Air Force and the Navy have also expressed interest in using the contract. "I think DOD is very serious about this program," she said.

Many agencies, however, have indicated that they plan to take time to weigh whether outsourcing desktop PCs is cost-effective and useful [FCW, June 29].

Nevertheless, Chris Stergiou, federal programs marketing manager at IBM Global, said he expects agencies seeking to augment support staff and improve their IT budget management processes to be the first to use the contract.

"A lot of agencies have contracts with lots of vendors today," Stergiou said. "With Seat Management, there is a single point of contact for control and accountability." Sterling Phillips, vice president for science and engineering at FDC, said he believes the continued shortage of IT workers at agencies could drive the success of the program. "To the extent that the shortage continues to be a problem, it will create an increasing incentive for agencies to contract out for that talent," Phillips said.

Smith said her staff is in the process of developing a requirements analysis package and a task-order template that will make the ordering process easier for agencies and vendors.

The requirements analysis package, which will be available electronically or on one or more floppy disks, will consist of a large spreadsheet onto which agencies can submit inventory lists, future requirements and user descriptions, Smith said. Although she said agencies' requirements may vary widely, the requirements analysis package will allow them to submit information in a more standardized fashion.

Likewise, the task-order template eventually will be issued to agency contracting officers to allow them to place orders to the Seat Management vendors without intervention from GSA, Smith said. She said the template will ensure that task orders submitted by different agencies will adhere to a basic format, making it easier for vendors to respond to them.

"In the near term, my program office will be involved in placing task orders and working with agencies to structure them correctly," Smith said. "We'll do that until we finalize the ordering process. In the long term, we'll start delegating procurement authority to other agencies. I would like to see that happen within a year."

GSA will charge a service fee of up to 1 percent for task orders placed on the Seat Management contracts, but Smith added that the fee will be negotiable. GSA also will serve as a consultant, working at hourly rates, to users of the contract who request help.

Unlike most federal IT contracts, Seat Management does not specify line items from which customers can order. Instead, GSA has listed pricing points for different types of services that agencies can use as a baseline for negotiating with vendors, Smith said. Agencies would then negotiate "performance levels" that vendors must deliver for each service.

Vendors said they recognize that it may take some time before agencies fully embrace the Seat Management concept. Mac Oxford, the Seat Management program manager at Litton/PRC, said he believes agencies understand the concept but have questions about how to transition from their current environment to one based on seat management.

"It's the how-do-you-get-there-from-here aspect that is difficult for people to grasp," Oxford said. He said he expects it will take most agencies a year to 18 months to fully transition from their present environments.

Stergiou said he believes agencies will enter into the contract slowly, "taking it one step at a time." He said agencies switching to Seat Management may experience some difficulty, and vendors will need to spend more time at the onset to make sure the services are properly implemented.

Five vendors bid unsuccessfully for the Seat Management contract. They include Computer Sciences Corp., Electronic Data Systems Corp., Boeing Computer Services, Lockheed Martin Corp. and Artel Inc.

Smith said the evaluation was based on best value, taking into consideration each vendors' technical proposal and then pricing. She said vendors' proposals were based on six "scenarios" of different seat management environments.

Unsuccessful bidders contacted last week refused to comment on GSA's decision until after the agency debriefs them later this month.

GSA plans to hold a Seat Management kickoff conference for vendors next week.

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