Bigger, Faster, Smarter, More Secure and … Cloudier?

FCW: How has SEWP changed to accommodate the shifting federal IT landscape?

Joanne: Our main goal initially was to have one scientist get a computer. That’s a humble start that led to a NASA-wide contract. We now have 7,300 companies with products and services on SEWP.

FCW: When we talked about a year ago, you had just set up the industry relations team for the purpose of better understanding what’s happening in private sector IT. How’s it going?

Joanne: It’s still evolving. We’ve facilitated our customers talking to industry and vice versa to understand better the problems that each has. They have gone well, nothing earth shattering, but to have people communicate can be earth shattering.

FCW: What’s happening with SEWP regarding ease of use and speed of delivery?

Joanne: Speed of delivery is whatever the supply chain allows. The question is does the government get in the way of that normal speed? We don’t. We help when there is a problem. If a vendor doesn’t deliver on time, we take that seriously. Then you have situations like the coronavirus or the tornado in Tennessee that hit a factory, causing possible delays. We keep them informed.

FCW: You mentioned the coronavirus. What are you thinking in terms of contingency plans?

Joanne: All that we can do is provide information. We know there’s going to be delays, so it’s incumbent on our contract holders to not quote two weeks when they know there’s no way they can do it with the current situation. It’s their job to understand what’s happening and where the supplies are going to be delayed and let the customer know.

FCW: You’ve said that SEWP is a program that provides information and facilitates smart IT acquisitions. What’s new that will help SEWP to advance that mission?

Joanne: We’re trying out new ways to communicate. In the past year we’ve added more videos to our website, two- to four-minute videos that describe certain capabilities. We now have a strong process for dealing with RFQs that don’t get responded to. We’re trying to add more resources in areas that we think the customer might be getting stuck to nudge them along and through the process.

FCW: How is federal demand for products and services changing?

Joanne: Well, obviously, there’s cloud, whether it’s Microsoft 360 or ServiceNow and Salesforce and those types of companies with a lot of strong cloud products, such as AWS. They used to not be very high on our list of companies with sales through SEWP, and now all of those are in the top range of what people are looking for. I think we are finally getting people to understand that we do offer services now on SEWP, so we are seeing more interest from agencies on bigger projects that combine products and services. That was our goal with SEWP V.

FCW: Managing hybrid, multicloud environments can be complex. How can SEWP help?

Joanne: It’s the fact that we know the AWS people, the Microsoft people, that we can call them when a customer comes to us because we have an industry outreach. We can’t solve all the world’s problems, but we’ll give it a try.

FCW: What role does SEWP play in helping agencies meet their obligations with regard to FedRAMP and other federal regulations to be cyber secure?

Joanne: GSA has a massive amount of information on their FedRAMP page, and it’s sometimes hard to find basic stuff. At SEWP we have our FedRAMP page that takes all the information in the GSA pages and brings it down to a simple table that lists the current status of all the software and solutions that are FedRAMP compliant.

FCW: SEWP developed an online dashboard to help CIOs to make strategic decisions. How’s that going?

Joanne: It’s still in beta. We have some CIOs utilizing it now, and we’re making updates based on the feedback.

FCW: The administration’s mandate with cloud computing and, by extension, other new technologies is to pursue solutions that will advance agencies’ missions. What is SEWP doing to drive that mandate?

Joanne: Cloud is a tool. It’s not the ultimate answer to anything. Start with the mission and the best tools for your mission, not ‘how do we go to cloud?’ Don’t start with an answer; start with a question.

FCW: A lot of infrastructure is now purchased as a service— SaaS, PaaS, EITaaS. Does SEWP offer services as well as products? If so, what kinds?

Joanne: The answer is yes to all lines of services, as long as it is truly as a Service. But if “as a Service” means, for example, you want to lease space, you can’t do that. Just calling something “as a Service” doesn’t make it technology.

FCW: What’s ahead? What changes or additions are you working on in the coming months or even years perhaps?

Joanne: Let me start with supply chains. We continue to work on clarifying and understanding the differences between industry manufacturers, industry providers, resellers and government and how to clarify when there is a known legitimate route that has little risk versus a less known route that may have more risk. We’re letting our customers know where the supply chain risk might be. We’ve been doing that for five years.
Then we have issues like the 889 Rule and what’s happening with the China rules. We are trying to facilitate discussion with industry about the effect of these rules. We used to just react when we were told about something, now we’re trying to be more proactive about what’s happening in these policies. We don’t advocate one way or the other. We just try to get the information presented to the proper authorities and share the information.
There’s an ISO standard that we and DOD worked on with the open group International Standards Committee and ISO standard for supply chain that has to do with mitigating risk. We’ve been pushing our contract holders to get certified. I want to give the customer the ability to say, well, if I have two quotes and one of them is from a company that’s certified and one who’s not, this is the best value and I’m going to pick the one who has the certified supply chain.
 And the other one that has me really excited is finding new ways to present information to our customers. There are all these little things that bug people about websites. My end goal is to change websites entirely to use of things like artificial intelligence, makes use of animation and makes use of the best methodologies. I think we can do some really neat things.

FCW: Final thoughts?

Joanne: We’re not just a procurement tool. SEWP is a tool that a CIO or the person who cares about technology can use us for tracking, for reporting, for setting up what parts of the contract they care about, at the whole agency level, and we’re seeing more of that. A lot of our growth is based on that.