GSA to put portals to work

With access to more than 1 million products ranging from paper clips to

tractors, GSA Advantage is truly a shopper's delight. The downside is that

this virtual shop can easily overwhelm its many users.

The General Services Administration hopes to change that by adding enterprise

information portal (EIP) technology to the system. The EIP software will

add two major benefits for GSA's end users: First, they'll be able to buy

products from all GSA departments, including the Public Buildings Service

and the Federal Technology Service. Second, the virtual retail site will

now be able to build customized stores for different agencies.

In early March, the Federal Supply Service awarded a contract to a team

of vendors to build the new system. Broad- Vision Inc. will provide front-end

personalization and customization capabilities to the system. Sybase Inc.

will handle the back-end integration, and Verity Inc. will provide the search

engine technology.

"Right now, if a user from the Air Force goes to the catalog, they've

got to wade through all 1 million products," said Al Iagnemmo, production

manager for GSA Advantage. "If you do a search on security, you get back

2,500 items. It's overwhelming."

With the new customized sites, an agency will be able to limit and specify

the items available to its end users. The Department of Veterans Affairs,

for example, could populate its portal with medical supplies and computer

equipment only. Meanwhile, an Army end user would log on and find the Army

logo as well as links to Army information, such as Army procurement news.

"The more you personalize it, the more useful it is to users," Iagnemmo

said.

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