Tracking the Evolution of SEWP

Special Report: GWAC Buyer's Guide

By Brian Robinson

NASA’s Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP) originally was to be a procurement vehicle for the space agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center. It’s come a long way.

Now in its fourth iteration since the first SEWP contract was authorized by the Clinger-Cohen Act 14 years ago, sales have surged since SEWP IV opened for business in 2007. Fiscal 2008 sales were $1.358 billion, double those of the previous year. Another rush saw fiscal 2009 sales reach $1.875 billion, a 40 percent growth.

That blistering pace has slowed, but even so, sales were up 10 percent year-over-year by the end of May, and SEWP officials believe they will hit $2 billion for fiscal 2010.

Impressive as all of this is, SEWP’s program manager, Joanne Woytek, said it’s incidental.

“The goal is not to grow [SEWP], it’s to provide the best business solutions for NASA,” she said. “The key thing is that we are not a contract, but a program that supports a contract.”

That may be what sets SEWP apart from other GWACs, she said. Along with the information technology hardware, software and services offered through SEWP comes a focus on customer service, user tools and outreach. “Most agencies who try to set up these contracts forget” that part of it, she said.

There’s also the power of price. The SEWP user fee, which at one time was 0.65 percent, is now 0.5 percent with a $10,000 cap on the amount an agency has to pay on orders totaling more than $2 million.

That’s the lowest fee of any GWAC. Because SEWP is self-funded and gets no money from NASA – and delivers no money to the agency – whatever increase in business SEWP generates means even further reduction in fees.

It also gives the SEWP office the leeway to increase and improve the program’s staff, which was recently split into a user help team and a team for processing requests, both of which work closely to boost contract performance.

The SEWP office handles about 25,000 orders a year, officials said, but the average response time for a request for quotes (RFQ) is three or four days, and most orders can be turned around in a day.

The office automatically runs a full set of checks on each order and issues full reports to users along with verification that the products involved are carried on the contract and are adequately priced. Likewise, if a request is not within the contract’s scope, the SEWP office will also let the user know that.

To further improve customer service, SEWP has developed online tools. It added a chat tool a couple of months ago, and by the end of May users were already spending an average of five to seven minutes online with program help staff. The online RFQ tool was updated in April to allow users to create credit card orders directly from a quote in hopes of further speeding the process.

And in November 2009, the SEWP management system was integrated with Compusearch Software Systems’ PRISM acquisition management solution, a Web-based system widely used in government. Now agency procurement workers can click on a button in their PRISM interface to send an order directly to the SEWP office.

Woytek feels there’s yet another advantage to being with a contract that serves an agency such as NASA, which is well known for its forward-thinking approach to emerging technologies and future needs.

“I can’t think of many things that may happen [in government] in the future that would not be in the current scope of this contract,” she said.