GSA to provide help choosing between contracts

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A forthcoming Web-based tool will help agencies navigate the increasingly tangled knot of IT contracts.

Technology specialists at the General Services Administration plan to roll out a Web-based tool to help government users navigate the increasingly dense forest of federal IT contracts.

This summer, GSA will formally unveil its IT Solutions Navigator Tool, said Kevin Richman, a communications specialist at GSA's Federal Acquisition Service. The tool will help federal data center and technology managers winnow down their product and service choices in the growing forest of large federal IT contracts.

The Solutions Navigator Tool sorts the offerings into seven broad categories: cloud computing, communications, networking, data center, hardware, security, and software.

Richman, who was speaking May 14 at the FOSE conference in Washington, D.C., declined to providea specific date for the tool's official rollout but said it has been in beta testing since last fall and is nearing completion.

The tool searches among governmentwide acquisition contracts, Schedule 70 and network service contracts. It tailors its results based on the user's level of government (federal, state or local), IT needs and acquisition requirements. It comes up with a specific GWAC or other large contract that would best fit the need, as well as a few other options.

The decision-support tool walks customers through what has become a complex acquisition process with sometimes bewildering contracting options, said Lillian Miller, an IT specialist at GSA's FAS.

"The large group of government contracting options is making it harder to find information on acquisitions," Miller said. Buying on the open market only adds to the confusion because agencies might not fully grasp how to use the contracts, she said.

The tool can help bring some order and logic to the process because it focuses agencies’ efforts, she added. GSA has been putting some finishing touches on the tool based on users’ comments during the beta testing, Miller said. One addition is a live-chat feature that allows users to talk with a GSA specialist about specific needs or questions, she said.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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