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Connecting the Dots: Category Management and the Commercial Platforms Initiative

One of the more common questions asked about the commercial platforms initiative is if - and how - it relates back to category management.


The core principle of category management is being smarter about what government is buying. This concept is put into practice by leveraging agency buying power through the use of governmentwide solutions and having a holistic understanding of the data, which improves the way we buy common goods and services.


The commercial platforms initiative is well aligned with this principle. The initiative is challenging us to use 21st century technologies to: streamline the buying process, shift the work from the acquisition workforce to those with the need (e.g. purchase card holders) and improve decision-making by having access to the spend data. This improved level of data visibility will allow us to be strategic, rather than just tactical, in our local open-market buying -- just as we have been with our agency and governmentwide buying efforts. At the same time, data allows us to improve our compliance with sustainability and small business goals.


Buying is rarely a one-size-fits all proposition. Category management and the commercial platforms effort together will help agencies strike the best strategic balance between the use of government, agency and local solutions for given requirements, while also providing a streamlined platform for quick buys of routine, commercial items. The data from these transactions will be used to develop demand management strategies and future category strategies.


The workforce faces many different types of buying circumstances and requires a wide variety of tools to best meet the needs of the agency. Through our category management efforts, we have made significant strides in using agency and governmentwide vehicles, which continue to add to the acquisition professional’s toolbox. However, we cannot anticipate every situation that every member of the workforce will face. This is where a streamlined buying platform that provides a quick and easy way to buy commercial items -- whether that be for the program offices with the need, or contracting officers as an additional tool in the toolbox -- is a tremendous benefit.


Both category management and the commercial platforms initiative are focused on innovating the acquisition process, and infusing best-practice approaches to simplify and streamline processes. An overarching goal is to allow agencies the ability to focus on mission-oriented acquisitions by shifting activities from the acquisition workforce to the program offices.


With improved data transparency through both efforts, agencies will be better equipped to strike the best balance in their use of governmentwide, agency and local solutions to leverage the government’s buying power while simultaneously maintaining meaningful opportunities to contract with well-performing small businesses and new entrants. The administrative savings is significant as well, when performed in a simplified and streamlined manner.


All of this taken together shows how category management efforts and the commercial platforms initiative work together to achieve simplified and streamlined purchasing, allowing for a greater level of transparency and better buying decisions.




Also, I wanted to share some information about a supplier survey we’re working on. GSA is embarking on a long-term, multi-year initiative to deliver a fully-reimagined, end-to-end experience designed to facilitate better, faster mission-driven acquisitions across government.  Your responses to the following questions will help us better understand how we can make acquisition easy, efficient, and modern! Please make your voice heard by filling out this short survey.

If you already responded to this survey via another GSA Interact group or the MAS Quarterly Newsletter, you do not need to take the survey again. We appreciate your feedback! The survey will be open for feedback until September 14th.




Laura Stanton

Assistant Commissioner, FAS Office of Enterprise Strategy Management


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Commercial Platforms landing page 


Commercial Platforms 101 briefing

Overview briefing of the Commercial Platforms initiative


Implementation Plan and Policy Assessment -
Phase I Deliverable to Congress (March 2018)


Market Research and Consultation

Phase II Deliverable to Congress (April 2019)


Directing Legislation:

Section 846 legislation (directing language)

Section 838 (amendment to Section 846)


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