Acquisition

More SEWP for you!

FCW Photo Illustration; Images from NASA SEWP and Shutterstock/Blackboard

Four years after its last iteration, NASA's Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement, or SEWP, contract is coming into its own -- as not only a buying vehicle for federal IT, but as a growing source of purchasing data and assistance for agencies, according to its top manager.

"The last couple of years, we've taken our time" to become a premier source for federal IT, SEWP Program Manager Joanne Woytek said. "We now have the resources" to reach beyond simply selling IT commodities.

Last year, SEWP had $4.5 billion in sales, Woytek said. This year, SEWP revenue is running about 10-20 percent ahead of that.

SEWP has historically provided spending data to its customers, but the bump in revenue, she said, as well as the organization's long-range planning, have allowed it to mature to do more. "We've taken care of the urgent issues" of meeting customer care and convenience requirements and expectations, Woytek said. "Now we're improving other aspects" of the business.

The SEWP governmentwide acquisition contract was established in 1993 by the Office of Management and Budget, managed by NASA and housed in an office building near the Goddard Space Flight Center. In April 2015, the GWAC entered its fifth iteration, transitioning its website, applications and internal processes from SEWP IV to SEWP V.

A reorganization at NASA Goddard that took effect at the beginning of the current fiscal year gave SEWP a little more operational latitude, changing Woytek job title to Code 703 division chief / SEWP program manager. The “Code 703” refers to Goddard's Information Technology Directorate CIO's Resources and Business Management Office.

The change reflects some of the recent adjustments that are helping transform SEWP's work.

The SEWP program is now the sole occupant of NASA's Strategic Information Technology Office, Woytek said. Additionally, SEWP recently expanded its operational footprint to a second floor of its headquarters building in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. It's also been steadily adding full-time employees over the last year, she said, and now has a staff of 75.

"About 20 new positions were added in the past year, which includes the 10 openings we are still filling," she said. "I anticipate up to 20 more positions added in the next year, if the current SEWP usage continues to increase at the current rate of 10% or more."

"They left us to our own division," she said. The change "doesn't mean a whole lot" for SEWP customers, but it does give the program office some additional territory to explore beyond its IT product and service operations.

For instance, Woytek said SEWP has dedicated an employee to help agencies ensure compliance with Section 508 -- the federal law that mandates all IT developed, procured, maintained or used by the government is accessible to people with disabilities.

SEWP also is exploring "custom engagement" services for large customers who spend "hundreds of millions a year" with the contract, Wyotek said. Those services could range from an on-call SEWP team that checks in with the customer, to a single staff member dedicated to the agency's needs. A dedicated employee, said Woytek, could attend meetings at the customer agency where IT needs are discussed and help explain what SEWP could bring to the table. SEWP is currently training its first such employee, although Woytek wouldn’t name the agency where the staff member would be assigned.

Besides adding new personnel and capabilities, SEWP is making itself into a prime source of purchasing data for federal agencies, she said.

SEWP is compiling data from other publicly available sources in novel ways, according to Woytek. "A big piece" of SEWP's focus in the next few years, she said, is being a source of "where customers get data" on what they're buying to hone purchasing practices.

For instance, SEWP last fall began compiling data from the General Services Administration on products approved under that agency's Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program. SEWP, said Woytek, keeps a list of all those FedRAMP-approved products available in a single table on its website, while the same information on GSA's site can be distributed across different pages. The program follows the model set by SEWP when it began listing laptop and desktop computers approved under the Environmental Protection Agency's Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, or E-PEAT, on its own web page.

SEWP has also developed an online dashboard that agency CIOs can use to track what their IT departments are buying and using.

The team is also looking to expand custom catalogs of commodity laptop and desktop computers. Currently, Woytek said, SEWP has about 100 catalogues that break out the computers needed for specific applications. More than 20 agencies use the catalogues to support their custom applications.

In the coming year, SEWP will move beyond including laptops and desktops in the catalogs and feature other commodity IT solutions, she said. "We can show specific Cisco routers, instead of leaving it up to the customer" to sort through the dozens of router models, she said.

The expansion in personnel and new ideas, she said, has required a strategic view. The first item on that plan is to keep things running smoothly, Woytek said, but SEWP also aims to carefully manage the contract's growing footprint conduct more-detailed customer assessments and run pilot programs arising from those assessments.

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, tele.com 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 mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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