GSA offers Webcast in lieu of industry day for hot procurement
The General Services Administration received mixed reviews for its use of an online video to brief industry about its plans for Alliant, the agency’s forthcoming acquisition contracts for information technology.
Webcasts might be a good way to disseminate information to a large audience, but it should not replace the traditional industry day in which contractors can interact with agency officials in person, industry observers said.
In this case, the Webcast was a matter of necessity, because so many vendors were interested in a briefing, said Jim Ghiloni, GSA’s Alliant program manager.
So rather than gather everyone in a room to watch a presentation and ask questions, Ghiloni recorded a presentation earlier, with his face shown in one frame and presentation slides in another. Viewers can submit questions through the Web site for GSA officials to answer, and the video will remain available for some time.
Mark Amtower, a consultant specializing in government contractor marketing and advertising, said the video presentation is a good start for getting the Alliant message out, but it shouldn’t serve as a substitute for live interaction.
“They should still host a live event for real Q and A,” he said. “Live, face-to-face Q and A allows for better follow-up questions and reduces the likelihood that questions are ducked or not fully answered.”
Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, agreed with Amtower’s assessment.
An industry day is “a valuable day for a variety of reasons, and not just the dissemination of information,” he said. “I understand GSA’s reason for the video, but the video presentation doesn’t allow for two things that are part of the process.”
The lack of an interactive question-and-answer session is the more obvious of those two omissions, Allen said.
“But more than that, it doesn’t allow for networking,” he added. “Not only is networking a good business opportunity, it allows people in government to pick up on things that might be said in the crowd.”
At least one company interested in Alliant benefited from GSA’s decision.
“For the information GSA is releasing at this time, the Webcast was a very effective method for getting the information out,” said Sue Dowling, business development director at AlphaInsight. “I could view it when and where I wanted.”
The ability to pause the presentation to deal with interruptions is another plus, she said. However, GSA should offer more interaction after it releases draft requests for proposals, she added. “Any live industry day is a great way to network and find potential teammates,” she said. “I did not miss it in this case [because] GSA still needs to define their total approach to this procurement.”
Slow going on Alliant
Alliant has generated interest because it will replace widely used IT governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWACs), consolidating requirements and accounting for advances in technology. However, after more than two years, the agency still has not finalized the requirements.
Ghiloni said the current plan is to issue new draft RFPs for the two contracts in June, with the final RFPs to follow in October. GSA expects to award the contracts in the summer of 2007.
GSA first issued draft RFPs in March 2005. The agency’s plan as outlined in the original drafts allows Alliant to have a five-year base period and one five-year option, a $50 billion ceiling and a guarantee that all winning companies will collect a minimum revenue of $2,500. Alliant SB, set aside for small businesses, carries the same terms and a $15 billion ceiling.
Changes to the original strategy outlined in the Webcast include aligning Alliant’s business cases with the federal enterprise architecture and including “ramps” so that companies can be added to or removed from the contracts if necessary.
The strategy itself is generally approved, but some observers suggest that GSA is moving far too slowly.
“I’m glad to see that GSA sees the need to get Alliant out the door soon to support the customer, since other agencies are putting together GWACs,” said Neal Fox, a former GSA official now working as an independent consultant. “Every minute GSA delays getting Alliant out the door is another month in which agencies can create their own contracts.”