Research Report: The Virtual Public Sector

SEWP V to arm agencies with data

As the volume and complexity of IT procurements has increased, agencies have come under increasing pressure to understand exactly how they are spending their money. SEWP V will be ready to help.

The SEWP program office already tracks orders so that agencies can know broadly how much business they’ve done on the contract. Beginning with SEWP V, they’ll be able to know just what they bought, how much they bought, and when they did all of that.

All the items on the SEWP product catalog will be categorized so that, for example, the program office will be able to tell its customers if a product is Energy Star compliant or meets other government requirements. It will also be able to tell them more about such things as the authorized reseller information.

“When customers get a quote form from us [in SEWP V] we’ll then provide them a summary of the quote from the contract holder that includes all of the important things that the government needs to know,” said Joanne Woytek, SEWP program manager. “From the one report they’ll have everything that otherwise might be hidden or hard to find on the quote itself, because the information will be taken from our own database and standardized, rather than from a number of different company databases.”

In that way, she said, agencies will be able to provide their chief information officers and other people who need to know detailed information on what IT has been bought, how it meets the various standards they have to report on, and how they are meeting various mandates from places such as the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Congress.

This tracking service, which will be optional for SEWP customers, is important, Woytek said, because otherwise they’d be left to figure it out for themselves, or to rely on the contract holders, “and industry is not always good in providing that kind of information as there are no standard formats” for doing so.

For those who do opt to use the new tracking service, it will require them to use SEWP’s own quote tools and to order exactly what is quoted to them if they want the information in a timely manner. Otherwise, the SEWP office will have to wait to get an automated file from the contract holder before it can process the order and provide the information.

It has taken a while for Woytek and her staff to pull together the details of exactly how all of this will happen, particularly the mechanism for how the categorization will be done. With over two million items to categorize, it would have been too big a task for the SEWP office to take on itself if it was to do it from scratch.

In the end, it found a commercial outfit that can take the entire SEWP product catalog and send the category information back in a readily usable form. That will greatly simplify things, Woytek said.

“We’re getting all of the category information from one place, rather than us having to pull it from different places or make it up as we go along,” she said. “Now we’ll capture the information using industry best practices and customize it for government use.”

The tracking service was something that both government customers and contract holders have been pushing for, she said, and it will also provide the basis for strategic sourcing of IT, which is a major effort of the Obama Administration. Solving the categorization problem puts the final piece in place for its implementation in SEWP V.

“It will be in place from day one,” Woytek said.