The long-awaited consolidation of General Services Administration schedules is underway, a process that will take most of the current fiscal year. While GSA officials say agencies and contractors will see little impact during the transition, it’s still a change they should be prepared for.
GSA schedules are long-term contracts with the government that give agencies access to more than 11 million products and services at a discount, thanks to volume buying. Most of the contracts are organized by product categories; for example, Schedule 70 focuses on IT, while Schedule 36 is for office, imaging and document solutions.
But dividing procurement efforts by product category can result in some complicated shopping. For example, say an agency is building a training facility or classroom and needs video teleconferencing ability, Wi-Fi, desktop and notebook computers, furniture and office supplies.
In this scenario, the agency would need to access multiple GSA Schedules and contractors — for the same project. Procurement officials must have deep knowledge of the nuances among the contracts to know where to begin to find all of the products they need.
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Consolidated GSA Schedules Make Procurement More Efficient
Now that GSA is morphing 24 of its multiple-award vehicles into one consolidated contracting vehicle, that inefficiency disappears. That’s a huge change, and very good news for both contractors and agencies. Contractors can offer similar IT products, video teleconferencing solutions, office supplies and furniture on one contract, and for the most part will be able to do one-stop shopping.
Because the consolidation process is taking place over the course of the next year, however, this won’t happen instantly, and it could be frustrating for an agency to wait for a product to be added to the new consolidated schedule.
During this period, communication will be key; agencies must know what they’re signing up for when they move off a contract vehicle they’re accustomed to, and contractors must keep agencies informed about what’s available and where. Government contract consulting specialist Federal Schedules Inc. has produced a beginner’s guide to the new method that should be helpful.
Moving onto the new GSA schedules should make procurement simpler. Take software: Under the new consolidated schedule, GSA will negotiate end-user software license agreements with the contractor before the product is actually added to the schedule.
This takes one massive job off the agency’s plate: All of the terms and conditions will have already been negotiated before the agency makes the purchase. That means all of the rules necessary to run software in a federal environment will have been taken care of — just buy the software!
Expect Challenges as Consolidated Schedules Find Their Footing
But there will be small hurdles to watch for as the consolidation takes place. Agencies that have been administering their own contracts and are switching to the GSA consolidated schedule may relinquish control of processes, such as technical refreshes or pricing changes, to GSA and the contractor. The mechanisms of the contract may become less visible to the agency, which may be uncomfortable for them.
In addition, some agencies may be working with contracts that do not require all products to be compliant with the Trade Agreements Act, which is a departure from GSA requirements — all products on a GSA schedule must be, as the agency states, “manufactured or ‘substantially transformed’ in the United States or a TAA ‘designated country.’” Those agencies may need time to get accustomed to the nuances of GSA schedule requirements.
When it comes to category management, GSA has 70 years of expertise to help an agency work through change. Wondering if a price is reasonable or if a deal could be better? Reach out to the category managers, and they’ll assist. Contractors are also on call for advice; CDW•G has a program management team that communicates regularly with the sales team about changes in the GSA schedule so they can help our government customers navigate the nuances of the contract.
The new GSA consolidated schedule does have the breadth and scope of what an agency needs to fulfill a solution. Be patient through the changes; they’ll be worth it.
This article is part of FedTech’s CapITal blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #FedIT hashtag.