GSA confident in the health of schedules program

Wednesday - 5/14/2014, 1:40pm EDT

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By Jason Fornicola
Federal News Radio

For the General Services Administration's schedules program, modernization and keeping up with customer demand are important factors in ensuring the schedules remain healthy and relevant in the future.

"I'd say that overall the schedules are very healthy," GSA Acquisition Operations Director Jim Ghiloni told Federal News Radio's Agency of the Month radio show. "The schedules is an evolving program, and as the federal marketplace is changing and evolving as customers' requirements are evolving over time, the schedules program is evolving with them. Kay [Ely] and I are working on a number of initiatives to ensure that the MAS program - the Multiple Award Schedules program - remains relevant and supportive of customers' requirements in the future as it has in the past."

Schedule 70 Director Kay Ely agreed with Ghiloni.

"There's a lot to that question as far as ‘healthy,'" she said. "There's certainly the numbers, but then also: Are we growing our market share? Are we being responsive to our customer needs? In Schedule 70, we've seen a huge growth in the state and local market, with about a 7 percent increase last fiscal year, which was good, but this fiscal year we've already got a 38 percent increase in our market share in the state and local governments. So, I think, we've got a lot of indicators of that health."

Ely went on to describe her efforts to educate state and local governments on the power of Schedule 70.

"We started with a campaign a couple of years ago to reach out to the state and local municipalities and state governments that can use the schedule to make sure they were aware," Ely said. "I sent out letters to multiple procurement officials and contracting officials out in the state and local market and helped them understand how they can leverage the government's buying power by getting the prices that we have on the schedule. It's a combination of things, but it's been a real targeted effort."

In order to make improvements to the program, Ghiloni and Ely agree listening to the customer is key. "It's all about customer service," Ely said.

"That's absolutely right," Ghiloni added. "Our customers' missions are evolving. We're moving from a war-time environment where we had two wars going on simultaneously - that's obviously drawing down - there's sequestration and other budget pressures. There's a lot that's changing in the federal landscape, particularly related to acquisition, and we can't just rely on the same solutions that we've had in place for 20 years and expect that without modernizing those and refining those that they're going to meet the challenges that are going on now. The only way we can really do that is by talking to our customers and seeing where are we falling short, what can we do better, what's working well that we can extend - that's been very successful dialog so far and I'm sure it'll continue."

In listening to the customer and soliciting feedback, Ghiloni noted the importance of collecting information and presenting it in a way that's easily accessible.

"They're really starved for data," he said. "They want to know what it is that's being bought, what prices are being paid - not just within their own agency, but across government - so that they can make better estimates, and they can better understand how to extend their limited budgets to get the most bang for their buck, as it were.

"So that's why you'll see a lot of focus to GSA now on gathering transactional data, on collecting that information from our industry partners, making it available to our customers through using modern technologies, setting a prices paid portal and other ways to allow customers to share information about purchasing across government.

"When we understand what it is we're buying, how much we're paying for it across the government, it will lead us to better pricing and better estimates and better use of our resources."