GSA: Phase II Centers of Excellence Bids Will Begin in July

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Officials from the General Services Administration and Agriculture Department met with industry about the next phase of IT modernization efforts.

The second phase of the federal government’s IT Modernization Centers of Excellence program will ramp up next month with a series of solicitations to industry.

Officials from the General Services Administration and Agriculture Department, speaking at an industry day Wednesday, said the agencies aim to have all contracts for the CoEs’ second phase awarded by the end of the fiscal year in late September.

The second phase will entail purchasing technologies and necessary tools that stem from assessments that occurred in phase one in five key areas: cloud adoption, infrastructure optimization, customer experience, service delivery analytics and contact centers.

“Our expectation is to completely modernize the Agriculture Department in each one of these centers of excellence,” said Agriculture’s Chief Information Officer Gary Washington. “Whoever has the opportunity to join us, there will be high expectations.”

Officials from Agriculture and GSA spent much of the industry day—the first of three consecutive days of meetings between agency officials and industry—outlining findings and recommendations from embedded agency teams in each of the five key areas.

For example, officials studying contact centers and customer experience found a hodgepodge of disjointed websites and phone numbers for users to call for help, and inconsistent answers were common when users were able to get through. Officials also found few opportunities for users to get real-time feedback. In response, the agency teams suggested Agriculture develop an enterprisewide integrated knowledge management system, establish a customer experience entity within Agriculture and procure a cloud-based omni-channel contact center.

Al Munoz, contracting officer for GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, said GSA and Agriculture will continue compiling industry input before releasing final RFPs. Acquisition methods have not finalized either, though Munoz said most will be either issued through the open market or made through existing contract vehicles, like Schedule 70. Munoz also said vendors could compete for multiple contracts in phase two without risking conflicts of interest.

Matt Lira, special assistant to the president for innovation policy and initiatives, said the IT Modernization Centers of Excellence “is a top priority for this administration, all the way up to the president.” Improving government service and technology, he said, will improve the interactions everyday people have with government institutions, and “shape their perceptions of those institutions.”

Agriculture’s pilot efforts, Lira said, will set the tone for future modernization efforts at other agencies across government “that are clamoring at the door” to be part of the modernization push.

“This is about collaborations and partnerships, and it’s a tremendous opportunity for the [government] to show we’re worthy of the public’s faith,” Lira said.