GSA to roll out mobile purchasing agreement as part of shared services efforts

Will a wide-scale strategy for buying smart phones help the government become more collaborative and efficient?

“That includes real estate, it includes employee productivity and it includes any investment you’re going to make in information technology,” Lewis said.

The federal government is in overdrive seeking ways to be more efficient and more collaborative, and in those efforts, mobile has become the latest buzzword. Now the axiom is set to gain traction when the General Services Administration issues a new blanket purchasing agreement for wireless goods.

The agreement for buying mobile technology in bulk is expected this summer, according to William Lewis, program manager for workplace modernization at GSA’s office of integrated technology services.

Lewis said the common blanket purchasing approach is driven by the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative and will help government organizations buy smart phones more easily – and more affordably.

“The way we do it now in the government, we have lots of different contracts. That means a high transaction cost for industry; it also means a higher cost for us,” Lewis said May 22 at the GITEC Summit in Baltimore. “We’ve standardized the requirements, we’ve got the buy-in of a lot of different agencies through the strategic sourcing process, and it will be a common acquisition at a lower price. That also means a lower price per unit on the service you’re buying, and also a lower cost in terms of transaction, which can be very expensive if you start from scratch.”

By having an existing acquisition device for buying things like smart phones for agencies, it’s dramatically faster and cheaper, Lewis added.

The blanket buying strategy will be helpful for federal organizations looking to mobile to save money, but before that happens, there has to be the right business-case analysis behind the decision – which also can require investment, according to William Adams, unit chief in the knowledge resources unit at the FBI’s office of the chief knowledge officer.

“You might be reaching a point where the status quo is no longer acceptable, so you’ve got to make a change. But the idea is knowing what’s the best change,” Adams said. “There’s not a ton of money floating around, so everything has to actually help you accomplish your mission more effectively. You have to make the business case to decide, ‘Is this the best investment? Is it going to return value?’”

Lewis said to get a better and faster return on investment, leadership has to look at the agency as a whole.

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