It is hard for govies to do their job well if they do not have access to the tools they need to thrive. In order to make sure government agencies are able to provide their employees with a wide spectrum of technologies and commodities, GSA has been working to bring innovation to the procurement process.
DorobekINSIDER’s Christopher Dorobek recently moderated the Association for Federal Information Resource Management’s “An Executive Session with GSA’s Tom Sharpe and the Federal Acquisition Service Team” panel. During the discussion, Thomas Sharpe, Commissioner of Federal Acquisition Service at GSA; Mary Davie, Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Integrated Technology Services at GSA; Tiffany Hixson, Regional Commissioner for the Northwest/Artic Region at GSA; and Judith Zawatsky, MAS Transformation Program Manager, Office of the Commissioner at GSA gave insight into GSA’s role in the government procurement process.
Category management is GSA’s relatively new approach to federal procurement. The process enables the government to increase efficiency in acquisition programs by buying more like a single enterprise. It identifies core spending areas, develops heightened levels of expertise, leverages best practices, and provides supply and demand management solutions.
Particularly important to this plan succeeding is communication between GSA and federal agencies. In order to foster communication, GSA has created a two-way community to make information more available. Zawatsky explained, “GSA Interact is our bilateral communication platform. It is sort of the Facebook that we use with our customers, vendors, and stakeholders.” The platform gives everyone involved in procurement the ability to comment on processes and be a part of making processes more efficient.
Another way GSA is working to improve communication and efficiency surrounding procurement is through the Acquisition Gateway. This portal unifies agency buyers into one acquisition community with the goal of making government acquisition seamless. Sharpe emphasized, “Acquisition Gateway is the virtual platform to support category management in virtual hallways where acquisition professionals can go to learn, collaborate, and share ideas.”
While these innovative platforms are helping to revolutionize federal procurement practices, they have not been met without challenges. “Our biggest challenge is change. Managing change, no matter what it might be is always difficult,” Sharpe explained. He continued, “with procurement, change is particularly challenging because agencies typically look inward. They want to be vertically integrated and control all of the pieces that determine their outcomes and these changes really rub against that.”
Another concern that surrounds almost all government innovation is cybersecurity. Davie emphasized that the GSA administrator takes a personal interest in cyber. She explained, “our administrator really wants GSA’s role in cybersecurity to be elevated as a place where agencies can go to get the common support that they need.” GSA is collaborating with agencies and industry to understand what cybersecurity capabilities are available. This allows them to provide agencies with templates and evaluation criteria so organizations do not have to build their capabilities from scratch.
The conversation surrounding innovation must continue moving forward. Sharpe highlighted this when he explained GSA aims to go out and have an intellectual debate with all of the stakeholders involved in procurement. He concluded, “We want to talk to anybody that wants to discuss how to better grow this program. We have ideas on the table but we need your help to move this forward to the next level.”