Steve Krauss, director of the General Services Administration (GSA) Office of Category Management Strategic Execution, updated industry on the status of the Category Management program at the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) recent “Getting Back 2 Business” Small Business Outreach event, which was held at Towson University, in Baltimore County.
Hundreds of large and small businesses participated in the day-long program to educate vendors on the ongoing changes in the federal government marketplace.
The Category Management (CM) program has evolved from the original Strategic Sourcing Program (SSP), which seemed to favor large business over small business service and product providers. Krauss shared that most Fortune 500 companies have adopted category management during the past 20-to-30 years.
“We took a new look at a data-driven marketplace to organize a procurement management process by services and products,” he said.
The federal government plans to implement this CM process government-wide to eliminate redundancies, increase efficiencies and deliver more value and savings from the federal government’s acquisition programs.
However, while the previous SSP usually pertained to a specific contract and often used large businesses, the new CM program is designed be used for many contracts, and, to maximize small, innovative businesses participation and utilization by increasing market transparency and reducing contract duplication — improving matchmaking mechanisms and ensuring that participating small businesses are well-qualified.
Kraus stated, “The vision of the CM program is to have agencies expend less energy buying common things, so they can focus more on buying for their mission. The $445 billion federal government purchasing landscape is fragmented, and many agencies make similar purchases without a coordinating strategy, which result in costly redundancies in contract vehicles, buys and efforts.”
The future state of government-wide CM purchasing is based on one common management framework: to buy like a business, but where industry is also involved in developing category strategies, ultimately minimizing contract duplication and confusion with the goals of saving time and money for both government and business.
The GSA Category Management program has developed 10 categories for both services and products including facilities and construction, professional services, information technology, medical, industrial services and products, transportation and logistics, security and protection, human capital, travel and office management. Each category has a specific small business strategy and assigned personnel to manage participation.
An example of CM in progress is the consolidation under the GSA’s Professional Services Schedule of more than 4,400 GSA Schedule professional services contracts to eliminate 700 duplicative contracts, saving the government $3.95 million in contract management costs. Krauss said that this consolidation is designed to also reduce costs for vendors who should have been able to cut the number of contracts to manage themselves without losing any labor categories or contract opportunities.
One of the most innovative CM tools being developed is a vendor finder process that will mine data from the System for Award Management (SAM), the Dynamic Small Business Database (DSBS) and the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) to quickly locate small businesses that have past performance, capacity and up-to-date registrations.
This tool is intended to benefit small business with improved visibility to opportunities, transparent contract participation standards and an “always-open” market. It is now available for anyone to see at GSA’s Acquisition Gateway at hallways.cap.gsa.gov, where one can search for the initial industry of security guard services.
More industries are expected to be added. This Acquisition Gateway is expected to serve as a hub of intelligence and communication for both small business and small business advocates throughout the federal contracting community.
As the discussion on the CM program concluded, Krauss discussed the Small Business Playbook, which is a plan to use an evidence-based approach to maximizing small business opportunities; while applying a unified strategy, standard activities and best practices.
He identified four elements (or chapters), which include the following.
• Improve market analysis and research designed to highlight qualified businesses and eliminate unqualified businesses;
• Structure contracts to include small business zones where supported by market analysis;
• Explore ways to bring in new small businesses, such as through a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business on-ramp;
• Removing non-performing businesses and large businesses who do not meet small business subcontracting requirements.
While the intent of the CM program is to ultimately improve efficiency and reduce cost to the government, it will be critical for small businesses to stay informed of the development of the processes, tools, analyses and requirements incorporated into this program, especially if it is adopted government-wide as anticipated by Krauss.
Gloria Larkin is founder and CEO of TargetGov and a national expert in business development in the government markets. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, via www.targetgov.com or at 866-579-1346.