Contract Pillar

Q: SEWP is 26 years old and in its fifth iteration. To what do you attribute its success and longevity?
Innovation and customer service. We always put the customers – and we define it as not just our government customers, but industry – first. We have a really strong understanding of both. We just stood up a new team, the Industry Relations Team. We always had a contract holder team that worked with the companies that directly work with us, but now we’re pushing out beyond that even more than we have in the past to industry in general because my feeling is if you want to be a good resource to the government, you have to understand what industry is doing and not just assume that you know.

I’ve always said that I think one of our key successes is we don’t look at ourselves as a contract. We look at ourselves as a program, and too many times people take these types of programs and say, “No, it’s a contract. I’m going to manage the contract.” We manage a program that happens to have a contract as its focus. The other two concepts that are both opposite yet really make SEWP a success is we’re both flexible and very controlled. Because we know what’s going on, we can be flexible within what’s right, and control things to not be what’s wrong.

Q: You’ve put a lot of effort into SEWP’s ease of use. How do you ensure that?
We look at products that we provide from the program point of view to both industry and government. We want to make sure that we have tools available that make it really easy for agencies to ask for items and for companies to add items and provide quotes and manage everything that’s happening. One of the key items added a couple of years ago was a question-and-answer feature to our request-for-quote functionality. By adding the question-and-answer, it now provides a full capability to our government customers to receive questions, respond to them, edit them, track them and, in the end, have a full documentation.

If I had to point to two parts of SEWP that make us as strong as we are, one is we view ourselves as an information provider and we want to provide that information to both customers and industry, and then also a documentation provider, understanding that one of the big problems with acquisition is you have to document everything, so we want to make sure that what we do is documentable.

Q: I read that SEWP had $4.5 billion in sales last year and that revenue is running about 10 percent to 20 percent ahead of that. Are those numbers still accurate? A: We’re about 40 percent ahead. I can officially state that we are at $6 billion a year of new orders and additions to old orders. We just met that [in April], based on the past 12 months.

Q: SEWP has developed an online dashboard that agency CIOs can use to track purchases by their IT departments. Is that the kind of innovation that is driving increases?
It’s primarily that agency-focus, the fact that we are spending a lot of time working with the higher-level agency requirements and not just going to an individual and saying, “Hey, want to use this to buy your computer?” We’re saying, “Hey, do you want to use this to make strategic decisions?” We have what we call internal agency catalogs, where an agency can say, “Can you have a place that shows me all the printers that meet my needs on your contract,” and you can go to that list and see the printers. That’s a very broad sense of what it is, but that gives another tool to the decision- makers even before the order is made. We really try to focus on the strategic role that we can play and that has caught the attention of agencies that used to do their own contracts because that’s how they thought they could control what’s being bought and see what’s being bought. Now we’re saying, “No, you don’t have to spend all time doing your own contracts. Use us and we will give you all that information, all that control.”

Q: How does SEWP’s evolution of SEWP mesh with what’s trending in government acquisition in general?
Acquisition is always better if there’s more information that you can provide. As an example, we now provide a page that summarizes FedRAMP. There’s a massive page – or pages – out there of information that GSA monitors. We take that information and condense it down to a table on a single page that is easily reviewed by customers and shows what’s compliant and where it’s at, and we do that solely because information is key. Even if they don’t use SEWP, it’s open information about a very important acquisition process.

Q: Cloud is among the things you now offer. What about other emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things? Are you seeing increasing demand for those?
The sensor part is interesting. We do have to balance where that fits in the IT acquisition world. If you’re buying a refrigerator with a sensor in it, is it IoT? And we are currently in SEWP V saying no. In terms of buying the sensors that go on the refrigerators, that is IT, just not the refrigerator itself. We provide the toolsets that could be used to do a full IoT solution, but at this point we’re kind of held back by the scope to include the actual product that the sensor might be used for. But as IoT becomes more prevalent in everything we do, I think the government in general has to look at that and say, “How do we classify purchases and when does it become an IT item even though its primary purpose is not IT itself?” That may be a SEWP VI issue in six years, when SEWP V expires.

Q: What changes do you hope to see in SEWP VI?
It’s hard to say yet. Certainly, we always at each iteration look at the scope. We make sure of what fits in. We always want to find the best way to ensure that the companies that hold contracts provide the best service to the government.

Q: In the IT world, six years is a really long time. Things change so quickly that by the time you figure out if something is within scope, it’s not wanted anymore.
The basics are still there. You talk about AI and cloud and all that, but people still buy laptops and desktops. They may be more compact, they may be more powerful, but we still need the basic toolsets. We still need the services that go with them. By the time we get to six years, which is actually only about four years down the road because we have to start that process several years before the end of this contract, hopefully we’ll have a good set of knowledge of where we want to go.