Innovative Features Make EIS Lead for Government’s IT Modernization
The Trump Administration further boosted the visibility of the EIS contract — already set to be one of the most important government procurement vehicles — when it named it as a pillar of modernization in an IT modernization report to the president in August 2017.
The current model of IT acquisition, the report noted, often involves multiple components in an agency buying goods and services to suit their own needs. In total, this independent approach has contributed to “a fractured IT landscape” that impacts cybersecurity and fails to maximize on the federal government’s buying power, the report said.
To counter this trend, the administration is implementing category management principles to consolidate and standardize network and security acquisitions, and the EIS contract “is the vehicle the government will use to implement the strategy to achieve these goals.” The trick with EIS has been to enable these overarching principles, while still providing the flexibility for agency-specific needs.
“One of best capabilities I always found with Networx, and is available in spades with EIS, is having all of the building blocks or Legos you need to design a solution for a customer,” said Diana Gowen, general manager and senior vice president at MetTel, one of the ten EIS awardees. “But I think EIS has a more unique set of the Legos and more flexibility to use them uniquely for the customer.”
One of the most attractive EIS innovations, she said, is a concept called TUCs (Task Order Unique CLINs). With them, agencies can solicit, or vendors can propose, custom solutions that are not otherwise defined and priced on the contract. They can also be used to combine a number of CLINs (Contract Line Item Numbers) under a single CLIN umbrella, so that a bundle of different services can be ordered as though they are a single service, for one price.
In the past, Gowen said, with Networx there was no such animal as TUCs, though if buyers wanted to bundle a solution and price that for their particular situation they could do that. “But when it came to negotiating contract modifications with the GSA there was a lot of back and forth about why your MPLS type, for example, was different in this bundled situation than it was on the contract,” she said. “And that was just such a time consuming effort.” TUCs eliminate all of that, she said, and give everyone a much better opportunity to craft unique solutions to unique agency challenges.
That and other innovations in EIS, such as the fast access on-ramp for new technologies and services, should particularly help small agencies in modernizing and securing their IT infrastructures, the administration believes, since they often lack the internal resources to define and manage solutions on their own.
Through EIS they can get managed services, cybersecurity and telecom services from a single source, rather than having to assemble them piecemeal themselves.
However, despite all of this, Gowen still feels it will be a challenge to get agencies to recognize the traction of EIS and begin using it. Given that there’s only just over two years to go until the March 2020 deadline for Networx ending, she said, you would think that agencies would already have reached out to EIS vendors, gotten their inventories in order, and the appropriate market research and other things necessary for the switchover. Some agencies have and are actively working to acquire new solutions from EIS vendors, but many are only now conducting their market research.
But the old saw of organizational inertia still rules. “Human nature being what it is, agencies don’t want to change that much, and if they can delay things they will,” she said. “I think it’s going to take a lot of effort on the part of GSA and EIS vendors to get all of these agencies to move from Networx.” Luckily, providers like MetTel are ready to get started on the process to help agencies settle into the upcoming EIS contract vehicle and build out the right solutions to meet their modernization and security needs.