By John K. Higgins
Jun 28, 2018 9:51 AM PT
Vendors seeking to crack the largest single global customer for information technology — the U.S. government — should keep a sharp eye on the ever-changing contract landscape. Federal spending for IT now amounts to more than US$90 billion annually.
One of the recent changes initiated by the Trump administration for managing federal IT contracting focuses on the use of technology business management to improve the IT acquisition process.
The White House Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration have invited IT vendors to provide feedback to the government on productive steps federal agencies can take to adopt TBM. The OMB-GSA partnership is seeking information from industry regarding the following:
- software solutions that efficiently aggregate and analyze data across the federal enterprise; and
- services that support the preparation and adoption of standard taxonomies in large organizations to facilitate TBM implementation.
IT providers have until July 9 to submit initial TBM capability statements to GSA. Then GSA will sponsor two “Reverse Industry Days” during which vendors will be able to outline their capabilities and present their responses to a specific government Request for Information, or RFI, on the appropriate use of TBM.
GSA will reserve the right to select the mix of participants for the Reverse Industry Days set for July 27 and July 30. Vendors that do not participate in the industry days can still bid on TBM-related contracts.
Gains From Prior Administration
“GSA was one of the first federal agencies to implement TBM and is pleased to co-lead this effort to increase data accountability and transparency government-wide through the President’s Management Agenda,” said GSA Administrator Emily Murphy.
“Increasing transparency on IT spending will empower federal leaders to make better informed, data-driven decisions, and provide greater accountability when investing taxpayer dollars on needed IT solutions,” she added.
The recent GSA-OMB Request for Information builds on federal TBM efforts initiated in the Obama administration. The federal Chief Information Officer Council currently includes a TBM component. The Trump administration emphasized use of the approach in the 2019 federal budget with a proposed allocation of $1.5 million to create a TBM section within OMB.
TBM aims to improve IT cost transparency by adapting successful private sector initiatives for government purposes, according to the CIO Council. TBM provides a standard for categorizing IT costs, technologies, resources, applications and services, with the goal of informing data-driven decision making around smart IT investment.
More than a third of federal spending for IT was lumped together as “other,” rather than assigned to a specific IT category, in a recent government analysis of investment data. The need for greater clarity about IT investments has driven interest in TBM, which promises more efficient use of technology, better accountability, and improved IT acquisition processes.
The lack of specificity “makes it difficult to baseline federal investments and show the public whether the government is spending taxpayer dollars effectively in order to drive the large-scale change needed to improve business transformation and citizen services,” states the President’s Management Agenda. The PMA calls for the adoption of TBM government-wide by 2022.
Potential for IT Vendors
Vendors could gain in several ways from the TBM initiative. If the use of TBM improves the way federal agencies acquire and manage IT, all providers will benefit in marketing their equipment, software or services to the government.
Also, providers with specific TBM capabilities could obtain contracts geared to the implementation of TBM. Federal agencies may provide contracting opportunities for adopting TBM resources, according to the GSA’s RFI.
“Currently, we are in the market research phase to refine government requirements and determine how industry may be able to meet the government’s need,” said Jonathan Kraden, acting deputy associate administrator of GSA’s Office of Government-wide Policy.
“Once we conclude our research, we will provide more information,” he told the E-Commerce Times.
“While we can’t assume that this will turn into a contract opportunity, I’m inclined to believe that it will,” said Deniece Peterson, director of federal market analysis at Deltek.
“GSA plays a significant role in supporting key aspects of the President’s Management Agenda, particularly when it comes to providing avenues for subject matter expertise regarding IT modernization and rooting out wasteful spending,” she told the E-Commerce Times.
“On the former, we saw GSA issue five contracts to set up its IT Modernization Centers of Excellence. This RFI seems to be a precursor to addressing the latter — better IT budget analytics to standardize reporting and make identifying unnecessary spending easier,” Peterson said.
Software and Services Featured
The general scope of vendor capabilities GSA and OMB are exploring includes software solutions that efficiently can aggregate and analyze data across the federal enterprise, and services that support the preparation and adoption of standard taxonomies in large organizations to facilitate TBM implementation.
An example of a specific capability the RFI is seeking for software solutions is an explanation of how an IT provider used its software solution for publicly available government-wide data sources to analyze the various levels of the TBM taxonomy.
Another software capability being sought is a description of the challenges, gaps and benefits of using government-wide data sources for full capture of the federal government’s IT spend at the various levels of the TBM methodology.
In terms of IT services, GSA and OMB asked providers to describe how a company’s services could assist federal agencies in preparing for and implementing a standard data taxonomy. They also sought recommendations for actions the federal government should consider regarding the best way to acquire services related to TBM objectives.
“The TBM provides two things that I think are key to improving IT spend management — more granularity in the types of spending, and standardization in reporting,” noted Peterson. “They set the stage for a better understanding of current spending as well as allow for apples-to-apples comparisons, within and across agencies.”
OMB has embarked on a program to guide federal agencies through the transition to TBM in a phased approach, and the agencies’ ability to meet the requirements will rely heavily on collecting, standardizing, and analyzing the various and disparate data sources related to IT management, she said.
“Once they are on this framework, it will be easier to identify gaps in IT needs to help inform acquisition decisions,” Peterson pointed out. “It will also make it easier to identify areas of duplicative spending that can be eliminated, so TBM, like previous policies requiring review of IT asset inventories, could be a double-edged sword.”
The original RFI notice with complete technical IT requirements was published on the Federal Business Opportunities Internet portal earlier this month. GSA conducted a one-hour virtual orientation to the Request for Information on Tuesday.