GTSI beefs up Web presence

Government Technology Services Inc. this week bolsters its presence online with a new electronic commerce function and a World Wide Web portal for federal information technology professionals.

GTSI designed its new Web presence to be a separate segment within the company - - encompassing all aspects of electronic interaction with government employees.

Besides providing a channel for company/customer transactions, the site is designed to serve as a portal to the federal IT world on the Internet the way many search engines serve as Web portals for the consumer market. The idea of a portal is to give Web users a single place to find links to a broad array of information.

"The Internet doesn't distinguish between shopping and information," said Dennis Defensor, vice president of Web commerce at GTSI. This premise results in a site that is a combination of the two, but with a major difference from commercial e-commerce sites. "The most important part is that we built this specifically for the government," Defensor said.

The new site reflects the current federal procurement reality whereby agencies can buy off one or many contracts and even the open market. In the past, a federal employee buying products from several contracts had to place a different order for each contract. On the new site, products can be bought at once, and they are sorted automatically to reflect each contract's rules and fees at checkout.

Recognizing that federal agencies and organizations have varying needs, the group also is working on generating subsites, starting with one tailored for the Army, then moving on to others. A new one will be added about every two weeks, Defensor said.

Several features requested by federal customers are included, and most of them are within the "My Account" section, which saves user preferences. These features include the ability to differentiate between "bill to" and "ship to" for procurement officials ordering products for several offices and setting up a list of people to be e-mailed quotations for authorization. also provides a new multilevel search engine that lets users search for products by general description, contract, manufacturer or part number.

The Web site also is tied into the company's intranet and database as well as to the extranet that connects GTSI's business partners. Having all the information in one system from the beginning ensures consistency of information, but keeping each area separate allows for future expansion and needs, according to the company. "It is built in a modular fashion so that as technology changes, the site can change," Defensor said.

The second part of the site is the IT portal, providing useful links for federal IT professionals. Much like commercial Web portals, the GTSI portal includes a news section with links to sites for federal IT, and national and economic information.

The rest of the site is relevant only to those in the federal arena. One section focuses on federal IT resources, such as the CIO Council and white papers from the General Services Administration's Office of Government-wide Policy. A featured subject also is highlighted with links to resources, starting with the Year 2000 problem.

"As far as convenience for the federal audience goes, this has to put GTSI in the forefront," said Mark Amtower, president of consulting firm Amtower & Co. "This is a light-years leap not only for GTSI but in convenience for the federal customer."

The most important part of this offering may be the most mundane information, such as job offerings and benefits through the Office of Personnel Management, Amtower said.

"It's that type of value-add that will make your site more visited and show the federal employee that you care about them for more than just money," he said.


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