Industry-Government Partnership Leads to GWAC Success
Contract holders on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) government-wide acquisition contracts (GWACs) play a crucial role in the success of the CIO-SP3 and ECS III vehicles that goes beyond their performance on task and delivery orders. In addition to addressing agencies’ IT requirements, they assist NITAAC officials in assessing customer needs, staying current with technology trends, and improving the acquisition process for agency customers.
“Contract holders have their ears to the ground and understand what their customers want,” said Diane Frasier, Director of the NIH Office of Acquisition and Logistics Management and Head of the Contracting Activity.
To enhance their support to NITAAC, contract holders have created three Community Action Groups (CAGs) to address important aspects of the program:
• Enhanced Competition CAG. Ensures that customers receive sufficient competition on each of their task orders and delivery orders.
• Business Development CAG. Identifies upcoming opportunities and trends to increase the number agencies using the vehicles.
• Communications CAG. Works with the NITAAC office to improve education, communications, and outreach with federal agencies, and to ensure open communications among NITAAC officials, customers, and contract holders.
Although contract holders compete with each other for task orders and delivery orders, they recognize that all contractors benefit if agencies expand their use of the CIO-SP3 and ECS III contracts, industry officials said. “A rising tide raises all ships,” said David Brannon, who is Director of Strategic Development and Innovation within Lockheed Martin’s civil government IT business. “The more business we can aggregately drive to the vehicles is good for all contract holders,” said Brannon, who chairs the Business Development CAG.
The CAGs meet on a monthly basis, and each of the CAGs have subgroups working on specific tasks or topics. The NITAAC office has used their suggestions to improve the customer-service tools and templates, streamline processes, fine-tune marketing materials, and coordinate activities with contract holders at conferences and events. “The Community Action Groups have been a great avenue for our contract holders to provide advice, best practices, and business development,” said Robert Coen, NITAAC Deputy Program Director.
Strength Through Collaboration
The CAGs are run solely by the contract holders, but NITAAC officials usually attend the meetings and receive feedback on suggestions and ideas. The NITAAC office also holds monthly conference calls with contract holders, quarterly face-to-face meetings, and several events each year with both customers and contract holders. “NITAAC has been tremendous about listening to the contract holders, taking our feedback on suggestions for improving the program, and leveraging our advice if they think it will make the program better,” said Joe Corcoran, Strategic Program Development lead for Govplace and chair of the Communications CAG. “NITAAC has embraced partnering with industry to make these vehicles successful.”
Frasier agrees. The NITAAC office, she said, “is constantly engaging industry in open communication, getting their feedback and analyzing it, and applying it where it best fits.”
Coen points to the communication among contract holders and the NITAAC office as a key reason why the program has not experienced any protests. “If there is an issue, we work with customers and contract holders to resolve it,” he said.
An Important Contract for Contractors
Contractors fought aggressively to win spots on the CIO-SP3 and ECS contracts, which offer many advantages to the awardees. “CIO-SP3 is a great vehicle for our customers,” Brannon said. “It really is everything IT. We have seen everything from case management systems to IT infrastructure managed services to enterprise architecture, software development to classic health IT, such as health records and other things for NIH.”
The ECS III contract has given Govplace access to new customers and helped it expand its footprint in the federal market, Corcoran said. He pointed to NITAAC’s many tools and services, such as its free Statement-of-Work reviews and electronic-Government Ordering System (E-GOS), which make the NITAAC GWAC program attractive to customers. Govplace, which intends to compete for the follow-on to ECS III, also won a spot on the CIO-SP3 contract as part of a joint venture, Hygeia Solutions Partners, with IntelliDyne, ERT, and Ariadne Genomics. “The NITAAC GWACs represent something special in the marketplace,” Corcoran said. “They enable us to provide our customers with what they need quickly and at low prices, but without sacrificing innovation.”
With budgets tightening, particularly among federal acquisition shops, many government observers believe agencies will turn to GWACs such as CIO-SP3 and ECS III to save money and speed the purchase of IT products and services. “We know that GWACS are being increasingly used in government, and we believe that trend will continue over time,” Brannon said.
NITAAC officials praised their contract holders’ enthusiasm and activities in support of the CIO-SP3 and ECS III vehicles. “Their volunteer work on the CAGs speaks loudly about their commitment to the success of the program,” said Mary Armstead, NITAAC Program Director. “The collaboration between NITAAC and its contract holders is one of the reasons this program and its contracts deliver such strong performance.”