The General Services Administration proved change can happen quickly in the federal government. Since April, when GSA launched the Making It Easier campaign to address several challenges around its multiple award schedules program, the agency solved one major complaint of vendors — how long it takes to modify existing Federal Supply Schedule contracts.
Kevin Youel Page, deputy commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, said through the Making It Easier initiative, the agency made more than 2,260 modifications and on average it took two days to complete them.
That’s a huge change from what normally takes, on average, 10 to 15 days.
Additionally, GSA says it awarded contracts to 108 new vendors, a majority of them small businesses, in 31 days on average through the Fast Lane program, instead of the 120 day average for non-Fast Lane offerors.
Judith Zawatsky, the MAS Transformation Program Manager, said the modification improvements came from having a dedicated team focused on modifying contracts under the Fast Lane program.
She said GSA hasn’t taken away any of the requirements but asked industry to be more proactive with FAS by letting them know and responding back in a timely manner.
Youel Page said GSA is building on these and other successes to move the Making It Easier campaign into phase two.
“Our work to improve the stakeholder experience with GSA and provide less cumbersome access to our programs is never done,” he said. “In phase 2 of the Making It Easier initiative, we will be releasing quick start guides as an expansion of the IT Schedule 70 roadmap. These guides will serve as placeholders for more roadmaps to come on some of our other schedules, serving as introductory guidance to prepare prospective contractors as they seek to do business on GSA acquisition vehicles. Second, we are launching the MAS modification improvement to streamline and declutter the current process. These improvements to the MAS modification process are based on the feedback collected based on a recent survey of nearly 200 GSA’s industry partners.”
The survey highlighted areas where industry was having challenges or where they thought GSA could improve the modification process.
She said the feedback will inform improvements into 2017.
“Over 60 percent of respondents to our survey felt that checklists and templates would be helpful to the modification process,” GSA said in its new Making It Easier report scheduled to come out on Oct. 24. “Based on these results, we’ve already made changes to how MAS modification information is shared online.”
An updated vendor support center modification page. This includes a list all of the schedules, and information about guides and templates.
Each of the Schedules GSA.gov pages has been updated with the most current guides and templates.
The MAS welcome package that is sent to all new contractors. This leads them to the vendor support center modification page.
The eOffer/eMod help center information is clearly listed on every page dealing with MAS modifications. The help center provides easy step-by-step guidance for the system.
Youel Page said the modification and contract aware improvements are not limited to the Fast Lane program, but the other parts of GSA have increased cycle times.
In addition to the modification and contract award improvements, Youel Page said GSA also is revamping its help desks to provide a single point of entry for its customers.
Zawatsky said GSA wasn’t sure which schedules would get quick start guides first and then roadmaps later.
She said there is a national team looking across all schedules to expand it across all of them.
“We wanted to be able to expand some of the tools and knowledge as soon as possible. It takes a couple of months to get the roadmaps done,” Zawatsky said. “I think what we are looking for are places where our customers are seeking innovation and where young companies are bringing something to the federal market that the federal market has not been able to access previously. That could be in professional services. But it also could be in building maintenance services. We are really scanning across the needs of our customers to understand where to first launch.”
One area that saw a lot of interest but limited success based solely on numbers is the IT Springboard program. GSA said it was pleased that 195 companies trained on the process to get on the schedules.
Of those 195, only five submitted offers and only one received a contract so far.
Zawatsky said sometimes the low number of offers and contract winners comes down to business decisions made by the vendors once they went through the training versus GSA’s decision that these companies weren’t qualified.
“It’s really important to bring these types of companies on board. We see in the private industry the start of companies who have value to add to both private industry and to the public and we are looking for an avenue to make it feasible for this value to be able to come to the government, which previously it has not existed,” she said.
Youel Page added this is an example of GSA changing its requirements to lower barriers for innovative firms and now are “moving at the speed of business.”
That single comment by Youel Page — moving at the speed of business — really sums up GSA’s goals with the entire Making It Easier campaign. And it seems GSA is seeing results that show the government can change to keep up with the private sector when it puts its leadership and resources behind the ideas and plans.