GSA Advantage gets personal

Users of the General Services Administration's GSA Advantage online shopping site will be able to have their own customized version of the site beginning Aug. 1.

Through a deal with Computer Technology Associates Inc. (CTA), GSA's Federal Supply Service plans to enhance GSA Advantage to deliver personalized product and service information to users. Users will view a personalized screen displaying information they provide to the system.

For example, an Air Force user may see an Air Force screen when logging on, and immediately have access to Air Force content such as aircraft-related products or agency-specific purchasing policies, said Bob Ardrey, program manager for the project at CTA.

"Rather than having the user click on all the buttons to see what's new, the system will know as soon as they log on they are an Air Force user," Ardrey said.

In addition, the site will suggest related products buyers may be interested in purchasing, based on either past buying habits or the current buying session. A user who plans to buy a printer, for example, may be directed to printer ribbons that are also available on the site.

The new features are similar to what is offered on commercial sites such as Yahoo.com and Amazon.com.

"The government is giving us the opportunity to build a world-class system that's more user-friendly and attractive," said Tom Velez, chief executive officer and chairman of CTA. The more the government buys online, the more money it can save, Velez said. "The Federal Supply Service sells electronically only a small percentage of what" is available for sale to agencies. "We hope that percentage will go up substantially."

CTA, which designed the original GSA Advantage site, teamed up on this project with four other firms: BroadVision Inc., to provide front-end customization features; Sybase Inc., to provide integration with back-end systems; Verity Inc., to provide the search engine; and KPMG LLC, to provide services.

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