Vendors team on 'Seat' alternative

San Diego—Litton/PRC Inc. and Micron Electronics Inc. have teamed up to offer government agencies the opportunity to test drive desktop outsourcing without turning over all their systems to an outside contractor right away.

Many agencies have been looking at the General Services Administration's Seat Management contract as a possible outsourcing solution. But that contract is all-encompassing, involving most of an agency's network, and many agencies are not comfortable with taking such a large step.

Litton/PRC and Micron describe their EasyDesk Service Program as a steppingstone.

"There's a significant number of folks who like parts and pieces of seat management, but they're not ready to bite off the whole seat management approach," said Lou Kirby, vice president and general manager for the Super-Minicomputer Program at Litton/PRC. "This is a way to whet the appetite."

Litton/PRC and Micron kicked off EasyDesk at the Navy's Connecting Technology Fall '99 symposium here Nov. 16-18. EasyDesk enables a customer to choose portions of outsourcing services for a monthly fee, Kirby said. Agencies can choose the help-desk feature, Micron computers, the Micron University feature, onsite maintenance or any combination of those and other capabilities, he said.

The company could add the EasyDesk offer to its GSA schedule or market it as part of its Navy Supermini contract, through which it sells high-end workstations and servers, Kirby said. Litton/PRC also is targeting other contracting vehicles, he said.

EasyDesk does not have a minimum requirement for the number of seats an agency must purchase, which gives hesitant agencies the opportunity to ramp up from a small number of seats until they are confident enough in the program to turn over most or all of its seats, Kirby said.

"We don't want to turn someone away who wants to do it on a pilot basis," Kirby said. Because EasyDesk is a monthly fee-for-service program, agencies may be able to use operations and maintenance funding rather than capital funds, he said.

The Transportation Department, for instance, is interested in seat management but does not have a near-term plan to make the transition, said George Molaski, the agency's chief information officer. The department should take a good look at the contract for the Federal Aviation Administration, particularly its offices in outlying areas, he said.

Molaski said he hopes to solidify the agency's direction in 2001. Some of the agency's units, such as the Coast Guard and the Federal Highway Administration, are researching the savings they could achieve through seat management, he said.Litton/PRC won a 10-year contract in late 1998 to provide GSA with desktops and services for more than 14,000 employees, marking the start of the Federal Technology Service's $9 billion Seat Management contract.Although programs such as EasyDesk may be good for selling the idea of seat management to agencies, the abundance of offers outside FTS' Seat Management contract is muddying the contract's definition, said Charles Self, assistant commissioner in the Office of Information Technology Integration for FTS.

"Nobody knew what we were selling because everyone was selling it and calling it something different," Self said. "I didn't expect the noise and confusion generated by other parties" selling other types of seat management, he said.

Programs such as EasyDesk are not really necessary, because agencies can choose to implement the Seat Management contract as a pilot program and then expand the contract to include all of their systems, Self said.

Firms such as Litton/PRC are trying to position themselves in the market if seat management takes off in a year or two, said Christopher Wren, program director for the Seat Management contract at GSA."What I think they're trying to do is try to transform their time and materials contracts to service contracts as a segue into seat management," Wren said. "Fundamentally, one of the hardest things to do is take a labor-hour contract and transition it to a service-performance [contract]."

EasyDesk should not be interpreted as a retreat from the Seat Management contract, said Tim Long, vice president of strategic communications at Litton/PRC Inc.

"This enables folks that are even more skeptical of the outsourcing concept to get a comfort level," Long said.

***EasyDeskFor $116 per month for 24 months, customers will receive the following items and services:* Standardized software image download* Assets tagged with the information transferred to the customer * One-number help-desk support for all ordered software * Micron University training at the desktop* Micron Client Pro CS PC with Intel Corp. 600 MHz Coppermine architecture with a 17-inch Micron monitor, 128M SDRAM, a 20G hard drive, a CD-ROM drive, a network card, a sound card and Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 98 * Two-year onsite warranty

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