On the Horizon: The Status of Category Management

With the change in administration comes change in the Federal acquisitions horizon, and there is reasonable concern that the focus on category management could shift. However, while there is much on the new administration’s agenda, it looks like category management is here to stay—at least for now.

The concept of category management – bundling similar items to gain a better price when purchasing in large quantities – is not new to Federal acquisitions. The resources to help agencies leverage the Federal government’s buying power to procure goods and services in a smarter and more efficient manner, however, are.

The General Services Administration (GSA) launched the Acquisitions Gateway two years ago as a one-stop shop to provide contracting professionals access to tools, data, and a common workspace for key steps in the acquisition process. There is a government-only portal as a well as access for non-Federal and public users which contains a subset of what government employees can view. Recently, GSA announced that it reached 10,000 users who are using the site to learn about the 19 hallways and 10 common Federal Government spend categories.

One of the hallways is dedicated to Professional Services. Working for a company that offers a broad range of professional services and has a comprehensive offerings list under GSA’s Professional Services Schedule, I am particularly interested in this topic. I want to know our customers’ buying and spending patterns—what major professional services contracts recently have been awarded and what’s coming down the pike, and how changes in the competitive landscape will affect companies in this space.

Apparently, I am not the only one. Since last Fall, when the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) published in the Federal Register  its proposal for a new OMB Circular—Circular A-XXX, “Implementing Category Management for Common Goods and Services”—there has been much discussion about how Federal agencies would accomplish this and how it would impact the industry.

From the proposed Circular’s summary, OFPP and OMB aim to:

  • Establish a governmentwide approach to acquiring common goods and services.
  • Emphasize the potential to achieve greater economy and efficiency across the Federal government.
  • Define the strategies and policies agencies would follow to execute category management.
  • Outline the governance and roles and responsibilities for all of the key players and stakeholders.
  • Stress the importance of data analytics and information sharing through the use of the Acquisition Gateway.
  • Identify the core metrics by which category management success will be measured.

Given that agencies spent over $270 billion on common items and services, according to FY2015 statistics from the Federal Procurement Data System, harnessing that collective buying power would translate to substantial savings for taxpayers. Further, with the recent announcement of a governmentwide hiring freeze, agencies will be expected to continue to do more with less, or more with what they have. By leveraging best practices from other agencies through data contained in the Acquisition Gateway, contracting professionals can perform better market research, which leads to well-defined requirements, and ultimately getting what they want at a better price.

There is still much work to be done on how to implement this approach governmentwide and how to involve industry at key points. Leading those discussions is the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC). On March 1, ACT-IAC and GSA are co-sponsoring the 2017 Category Management Conference in Washington, D.C. One of the tracks will be focused on Professional Services. I recently volunteered to be on planning committee for this track, and there has been a flurry of activity since the new year started. I am privileged to be part of a team dedicated to creating sessions that will address the questions I posed above, as well as providing a forum for government and industry to connect on a deeper level about category management.

There’s still time to register so don’t miss out on this important event. See you there!

(And in the meantime, stay up to date with your Acquisitions & Contracting training and certification: check out our upcoming course offerings, including our all-new courses, Advanced Source Selection and Managing Contracting Organizations. Enroll today!)

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