Back to the future: Making the jump to a single schedule market place

This column was originally published on Roger Waldron’s blog at The Coalition for Government Procurement and was republished here with permission from the author.

With the cold, rainy weather last weekend, it gave me the opportunity to turn on the fireplace — this is not Maine — and watch some good movies.  I picked one of my favorite trilogies, the “Back to the Future” movies.  As those of you of a certain age may recall, in “Back to the Future II,” Dr. Emmett Brown implores Marty McFly to travel back to the future to correct a disruption in time:

Brown: “Marty! I need you to go back with me!”
McFly: “Where?”
Brown: “Back to the Future!”

Much like the movie trilogy, the General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) has its own opportunity to go back to the future via the single schedule concept.

Twenty years ago, the Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) program included a single schedule option for FSS contractors.  Referred to as the “corporate” schedule, it allowed contractors to consolidate all their services, products, and solutions under one schedule contract.  At the time, the FSS program also included at least 39 other schedules, such as IT Schedule 70, with scopes focusing on specific markets or industry sectors.  In this way, the FSS program gave contractors the option, depending on their business model and business lines, to have either a single corporate contract or multiple contracts across different schedules.

The corporate schedule also was intended to be a driver to reduce the number of schedules.  At the time, reducing the number of schedules through consolidation was viewed as a catalyst to achieving administrative efficiencies, reducing costly duplication and confusing overlap, and driving economies of scale for both GSA and FSS contractors.  After a successful kickoff, the corporate schedule languished and ultimately faded away.

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Now, GSA seems to have set a course back to the future! FAS senior leadership is identifying the single schedule concept as a strategic customer goal for the FSS program. The current schedule structure  of 24 separate schedules and corresponding contract scopes limits flexibility and hampers the ability of the program to deliver best value solutions consistent with the commercial market. These separate contract scopes create artificial barriers and stove-pipes that prohibit FSS customers and contractors from obtaining and providing comprehensive solutions to support mission requirements. The result of a single schedule will be reduced costs and increased competition for GSA, customer agencies and industry.

FAS should be commended for tackling the single schedule and the unity of effort across the program that will make this strategic customer goal successful. The FSS program will be viewed as a single, flexible channel to the commercial market, rather than 24 separate channels. Strong, central contract management, however, will be critical.  At the same time, FAS’ customer- and contractor-facing systems will need to deliver transaction information more efficiently than they do now. That’s because the single schedule concept and modernization of systems are the proverbial two sides of the same coin. They are so interrelated that each depends on the other for their success.

Now is the time to go back to the future of the schedules. The Coalition stands ready to work with FAS and all stakeholders on this timely, strategic endeavor. The future is now.  A single schedule creates a single customer experience! Now, where did I put that flux capacitor?


Roger Waldron is the president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, and host of Off the Shelf on Federal News Radio.