GSA urges feds to plan IT buys

Federal agencies should develop policies that push them to plan more carefully how they will buy information technology before they make the transaction, according to a white paper released last week by the General Services Administration's Office of Governmentwide Policy (OGP).

Before the spate of procurement reform measures in the past few years, agencies would plan for IT purchases while they developed the contracts, which could take months or even years to award. But the recent proliferation of contracting vehicles brought about from procurement reform gives federal employees quick and easy ways to buy IT products, thereby diminishing the time available to plan purchases. To continue to meet investment and performance goals, agencies now need to rethink their policies, GSA said.

"Up-front planning is still an important activity for successful IT systems, but the characteristics of the up-front planning process have changed to place more emphasis on buying principles that take advantage of new market developments," said Joan Steyaert, deputy associate administrator of the OGP's Office of Information Technology, in a memo accompanying the white paper.

Recommendations on how to improve planning include forming a team with representatives from several offices to create the policy, which should be more like an ongoing business plan than a one-time contracting plan, and providing training to all employees who participate in the procurement process.

The white paper can be found at www.itpolicy.gsa.gov/mke/planning.htm.

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