GSA promises to fix the government’s worst website

What O’Hare on Friday afternoon is to airports, FedBizOpps is to federal web sites.  A tangled maze, FedBizOpps, as those buying for or selling to the government know, is where agencies post solicitations and vendors track business opportunities.

Hard to navigate, slow and complicated, the site has annoyed buyers and sellers alike for years. For the unwashed public, which might have an interest in the $400 billion annual federal contracting business, FedBizOpps (at FBO.gov) is like a virtual border wall. Good luck getting over or around it.

Now, whether because of complaints or its own realization of the horrors of FedBizOpps, the General Services Administration launched a plan to redo it. It announced its intention to move FedBizOpps functions into a new version of System for Award Management (SAM), which is GSA’s portal for several contracting activity channels and for listings of federal assistance programs. That’s a little worrisome because the new SAM is itself in beta version. It looks like a lot to navigate, and manage.

As for FBO.gov, GSA doesn’t acknowledge its shortcomings. But it does promise “one powerful search tool, one robust reporting tool, and one workspace for managing your work.”

GSA gives more detail in a fact sheet. But you can’t see yet what the new site will look like. To be fair, FBO.gov’s problems are driven in part by the complications of federal contracting itself. GSA’s challenge will be re-incorporating the functions and statutory rules of the old site into something of contemporary design. They’ve got to bring in people of all knowledge levels to see if they can find the information they want with reasonable effort.

By the way, GSA has company in redoing an important digital service. The Office of Special Counsel is telling would-be complaint filers to get ’em in by next Wednesday. For five days thereafter, the e-filing system will be down while OSC techs replace it with what OSC calls “a new, streamlined way of submitting a complaint.” It’ll involve a “fillable” version of Form 14.

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