Treasury HQ eyes Seat Management

The Treasury Department is considering using the General Services Administration's Seat Management program for its Washington, D.C., headquarters to test the concept and measure its use for future office automation buys. Even in the test phase, the project represents a big boost for the government's seat management program.

Treasury plans this week to issue a task order request to Seat Management contract vendors to provide services for 1,600 seats in Treasury headquarters. Treasury chief information officer Jim Flyzik said he wants to know if the department can lower the total cost of ownership for desktops by employing seat management, an outsourcing strategy that requires the vendor to buy and manage an organization's desktop systems.

"We've learned through the Y2K process that [acquiring] services rather than [buying] hardware is desirable,'' he said. "There are tremendous advantages to seat management. The question is, 'What does one pay to get these advantages?' ''

If Treasury goes through with the procurement, the results could guide how the rest of the department buys desktop equipment and services. The final decision, Flyzik said, will be up to the department's information technology board of directors, whose members include Flyzik and CIOs from Treasury's 14 bureaus.

"If seat management proves to be a best practice and makes sense, it could be a strategic direction for the department,'' Flyzik said.

Treasury's move into seat management would give the new concept a major step up in the federal marketplace. Agencies have been reluctant to turn over ownership of their desktops to an outside vendor. A survey last year found that 85 percent of federal agencies were undecided about using seat management or did not plan to outsource their desktops. Faced with that uncertainty, GSA has begun a marketing plan to educate agencies about the advantages of seat management.

"What we really need for this contract and for the whole seat management program is a few successes,'' said Charles Self, assistant commissioner of the Federal Technology Service's Office of Information Technology Integration. The Treasury buy is important because "this is the highest level of Treasury, and they are embracing the concept."

More than a year ago, Treasury's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms awarded a seat management contract to Unisys Corp., and ATF reported that it is happy with the results. But consultant Robert Guerra said ATF had a unique problem to solve: Antiquated equipment and software needed to be updated quickly. The seat management approach offered ATF a way to do a massive upgrade with minimal up-front costs.

Guerra said he expects the pending Treasury procurement to focus more on desktop management services, at least initially. "You would not see a wholesale product and technology upgrade and thousands of computers replaced at this point," he said.

Although seat management is a hot discussion topic, Treasury is one of the few departments taking concrete steps to try it. Mac Oxford, vice president for seat management at Litton/PRC Inc., a GSA Seat Management contractor, said that lack of action makes Treasury's procurement significant.

Besides ATF, only GSA and NASA, which has its own seat management contract called the Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA, have committed to outsourcing the management of their desktops.

"Once NASA and GSA are able to start reporting some positive results, that's when you'll see a lot of activity in this area,'' said Payton Smith, manager for strategic studies with Federal Sources Inc.


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