GSA trying out cloud collaboration platform in early 2012

Federal acquisition service first to adopt new tools for communication, program management

In its next move to the cloud in early 2012, the General Services Administration is planning to deploy a cloud-based collaboration platform for information-sharing and program management within the agency, according to Laura Stanton, GSA’s director of process improvement and communications.

 The Federal Acquisition Service will be the first GSA agency to start using the platform – GSA chose Chatter from Salesforce.com -- and the goal is to eventually deploy the platform to all of GSA’s 12,000 workers, Stanton said at an AFCEA-Bethesda breakfast seminar on federal leadership in innovation. The agency recently signed a $28 million contract with Salesforce.com.

Social media collaboration platforms are still new and relatively untested in government and it is not known if the anticipated benefits will be realized. An earlier collaboration platform at GSA, known as FedSpace, remained in beta form for many months and is considered likely to be canceled.


Related story:

GSA picks Salesforce for enterprise cloud license


Stanton expressed optimism for the new program’s success, though. In addition to offering an in-house social network allowing user profiles, newsfeeds and shared information, it also could lead to significant cost savings by eliminating the need for some legacy software, she said.

One area in which Stanton anticipates savings is in using the cloud collaboration platform for program management, possibly allowing the agency to stop relying on other software licenses used for that purpose.

“The idea is not just that Chatter is a cool new technology, but how can we use it to save some money?” Stanton said.

The agency also plans to draw upon its interns to help develop new applications for Chatter, offering non-cash rewards in brief contests, Stanton said.

GSA previously had moved its email into the cloud through a contract with Unisys, which tapped Google as the cloud provider.

Stanton, who is a leader in strategic innovation initiatives at GSA, was one of several speakers highlighting “next-generation” approaches and ideas in federal government.

Other speakers were Jonathan Benett, program manager for the supplemental nutrition assistance program at the Agriculture Department; Brent Bushy, a project manager at the Homeland Security Department; Jimmy Jones, chief program officer for the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board; and Charles Sanders, integration manager at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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