Fed Technology Service pushes 3GS

The General Services Administration is trying to get industry ready for the advent of 3GS, its new Web-based task-order management system.

GSA's Federal Technology Service will begin rolling out the system to individual GSA regions in January and expects to complete the process June 1. The 3GS system is designed to help manage orders for commodity items and services.

As 3GS goes live, the system it is replacing will switch to read-only mode, FTS Chief Technology Officer Chris Wren said this morning at a meeting of the Industry Advisory Council. Although historical information will remain available, no new orders will be allowed on the old system.

FTS Commissioner Sandra Bates had also warned an audience Wednesday of the coming changes. "We're going live at the end of May, and we're not running parallel," she said, referring to the practice of keeping an older system active for a period of time after switching to a new one.

The chief differences that industry will see include:

* A soft reregistration to get current information on 33,000 vendors into the system. Although FTS will import as much information as possible, 3GS will require companies to designate personnel authorized to issue invoices, information they previously have not had to submit.

* An ongoing registration process for changes in information. FTS intends to eliminate the requirement that companies submit changes on official letterhead, a process that typically takes days to complete.

* Itemized order submission. Currently FTS only tracks the funded portion of a contract, which may not be its total value to the company, Wren said. The itemized format will allow companies to list line items that have been funded and those that may be in the future.

* Document management and collaboration. The system will offer collaboration tools so that company officials can each get access to documents associated with a particular bid. FTS officials will not be able to see the documents until the company formally submits its bid, Wren said.

* An electronic bid process. FTS will contact designated bid officials at the companies being invited to bid on a particular opportunity by e-mail. The whole process, including submitting both structured data in a form and unstructured data in attachments, is carried out online.

* Online order confirmation and invoicing.

Wren acknowledged that companies are going to have to make some changes to old habits to use 3GS. "We're going to force a lot of change on ourselves," he said. "We realize that we're going to force a lot of change on our industry partners."

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