GSA pushes agencies to adopt EIS

Some agency telecom buyers may be going slowly because of the dizzying array of services offered under GSA's $50 billion telecom contract vehicle.

Stock photo ID: 658810513 By asharkyu
 

Some agency telecom buyers may be slow to transition to the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract because of the dizzying array of services offered.

The 10 prime suppliers for the General Services Administration's $50 billion, 15-year EIS contract gathered at GSA headquarters to meet face-to-face with almost 100 federal contracting and IT officials during an industry partners day on May 24.

The meetings were scheduled as federal agencies prepare plans to transition to EIS by 2020. An initial flood of task orders from agencies expected in the months after the contract was signed last summer, hasn't materialized.

GSA created the vehicle to be ambitious, reaching beyond traditional wireline telecommunications providers to include service resellers, systems integrators and data solutions. Providers such as Granite Telecommunications, BT Federal, Core, Harris, Level 3, MetTel and MicroTech, join more traditional and well-known telecommunications carriers such as AT&T, CenturyLink and Verizon on the new contract.

That complexity, said Michael Hettinger, a former Hill staffer and currently a lobbyist specializing in government procurement issues, may have slowed agencies a bit in analyzing how EIS will apply to their operations. Previous telecommunications contracts, he said, have been as relatively straightforward.

"Now, services come from a variety of things," he said, adding that GSA's outreach can help agencies understand that complexity.

Contracting company officials at the event told FCW that so far, smaller agencies tend to need more help with working out their requirements than larger ones, even though their operations are smaller. One official also said GSA should help agencies understand that their EIS solutions don't necessarily have to be a winner-take-all approach. It's possible to pick and choose different options with separate task orders.

"Agencies are looking to EIS for transformation," said Andrea Cohen, Verizon regional vice president in charge of federal civilian agencies in an emailed statement to FCW following the GSA meeting. She noted that in addition to communications tools, some agencies are looking to EIS to advance cloud and collaboration.

"Right now, it's about finding the right balance between transition and transformation. [The] good news is that many agencies have already begun their transformation journey via the Networx and WITS 3 contracts," she said referring the two telecom contracts GSA has extended to cover the transition to the new vehicle.

The diversity and complexity of the contemporary telecommunications market can be daunting, said Alan Thomas, commissioner of GSA's Federal Acquisition Service.  He told federal buyers in attendance that the complexity also offers opportunity to overhaul aging federal telecommunications infrastructure. He urged the crowd at the event not to be timid in their plans to transition to EIS.

"Have a bias towards action. Leave here today with a commitment" for change, he told the crowd.

A sample of the technological diversity could be seen in the presentations from providers that specialize in aggregating and reselling services, billing providers, telecommunications brokers that include cloud and data plans and traditional IT integrators.

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