DOD to create software agreements departmentwide

A Defense Department group plans to develop in the next year a broad array of volume-discount software agreements for all services and DOD agencies.

Under its Enterprise Software Initiative (ESI), DOD hopes to develop a new business process for acquiring software by focusing on DOD-wide enterprise software agreements rather than individual licensing agreements throughout the department, the initiative's chairman, Rex Bolton, said at the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils' 1998 Acquisition Management Conference last month.

"A very important goal for us is to reduce the proliferation of buys," he said.

The initiative has four main goals for the enterprise software agreements, the term DOD has decided to use instead of licenses because it encompasses more options. The first goal is to obtain DOD buy-in for the initiative.

"We have to make sure we communicate what we're about and get full participation," Bolton said. The Pentagon already supports ESI.

The other goals include finding a way to leverage the combined buying power of all the Defense services and organizations, providing the most flexible agreements for a wide range of choices and creating mechanisms that will give incentives to use the enterprise software agreements.

"They're on the right track trying to consolidate their buying power to get the best deal for DOD," said Chip Mather, senior vice president at Chantilly, Va.-based Acquisition Solutions Inc.

Making Contracts Appealing

But the key to making the initiative work will be making the new contracts appealing enough that DOD personnel do not have to be required to use them, Mather said. "There [are] ways to make a contract so attractive that you don't need to make it mandatory; just make consideration mandatory, and everyone will want to use it," he said.

Several DOD agencies and organizations already have enterprise agreements in place, and others have agreements under way. The initiative plans to use and perhaps expand those agreements, not supplant them, to include all of DOD, Bolton said. "We're not going to try to stop those [agreements]; we'll let them come to fruition and learn from them," he said.

Some of those agreements already have been worked into a program for the next year called Quick Hits '99, a series of agreements that are set to be completed in the next six months.

Among Quick Hits' agreements are the Army's current negotiations for database software and the Navy's negotiations for office suites.

The Air Force will be working on records management and information sharing applications, while the Defense Information Systems Agency will be negotiating operating systems, enterprise management software and Year 2000 tools.

"They're doing the right thing.... They're delegating down, so now they've got a large amount of talent working on the problem," Mather said.

Another goal within the next six months is to complete the full version of the Electronic Mall, or E-Mall, which will be the World Wide Web point of contact for users to purchase all the hardware and software available on DOD contracts.

The mall will include corridors for each set of products, and in the IT corridor, each service and organization will have its own IT catalog tailored to its needs.

In addition, the group is looking into putting together a pilot effort to contract with commercial catalogs and stores to expand the DOD offerings. The group will be issuing a request for information to get opinions from industry on whether it is possible to do what the group wants to do.

Among the functions the group wants comments on are the best way to capture all the sales data from the Web site, how to make the site easy to use, the possibility of having online interaction for real-time negotiations and how to keep the pricing and offerings current.

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