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RFI Themes and the Path Ahead

The Commercial Platforms program recently put out a Request for Information (RFI) for industry feedback which closed for comment in mid-April. We were happy to see a strong level of interest from a variety of online platforms and industry stakeholders. The feedback received from the RFI will play an important role in the acquisition development process, particularly as it relates to better understanding the commercial practices available across a number of key areas of interest to government buyers.  

 

The RFI was divided into two separate sections for feedback. The first section (3.1 outlined areas that GSA is strongly considering for inclusion in future Commercial Platforms contracts. The second section (3.2) highlighted user experience feedback collected over the last 18 months of program implementation with the intent of understanding the commercial practices that might support those areas.  

 

When looking across the feedback received, key themes emerged, centered around the below topics: 

- Industry commercial practices are well aligned with identified program areas. The majority of the responses received from industry support the notion that requirements and requested features as outlined are aligned with existing commercial practices, and can be met across the online e-commerce landscape. Many respondents, across a variety of different operating models, met these key capabilities indicating an industry convergence on essential features and functionality that support the core business to business buying requirements that agencies engage with most.

- Industry routinely provides platform capabilities that exceed government requirements. The desire and need from government buyers for a user experience that meets existing commercial practice can easily be met by industry partners, and in many cases is exceeded across the industry base by platform providers. Features and capabilities outlined as common practice include accurate product descriptions, images, and product availability; timely product delivery with real-time purchase tracking; and rapid response customer service. The program will need to ensure that it focuses on such core capabilities, without introducing unneeded platform features that might overcomplicate the buyer’s shopping experience. 

- Industry shared a willingness to advance Administration priorities. A strong interest and willingness exists across industry to address Administration priorities, and Executive Order requirements. The level of configuration required to meet these needs does vary based on the requirement and could be a differentiator for e-commerce providers. Industry indicated a need for further information and direction in order to effectively meet these requirements for buyers, but overall demonstrated they want to engage and innovate in alignment with their commercial practices. 

- Industry expertise is strong. It is clear that industry has the ability to deliver a streamlined, modernized, and compliant government buying experience within this “managed'' open-market channel. Industry asked that GSA not over-prescribe requirements, but instead allow industry to execute commercial practices on platforms which allows for a modern-day buying experience, while also meeting the outcomes that the government wants to achieve.

 

As the program looks across all the feedback received, the evolving nature of online commerce is evident. It is clear that many in industry, including those who responded to this RFI, currently provide significant and meaningful support to government agencies both through commercially available channels, as well as existing government-owned channels. As the program works to grow this ‘managed’ open-market channel, GSA commits to identifying meaningful ways for industry to participate and reach the government market across the available channels.

 

Looking ahead, the comments and insights received will help to inform the program’s upcoming acquisition efforts. We will also continue to engage with industry in both one on one meetings and other outreach sessions. For the latest information on next steps, the Commercial Platforms Interact group will continue to be used to share information and to provide updates to industry  of upcoming acquisition milestones. 

 

Thank you again for the ongoing engagement and collaboration regarding the Commercial Platforms program. 

 

As the newly minted program executive sponsor, I truly appreciate industry’s willingness to provide feedback and strong support for this important program.

 

Jeff 

 

Jeff Lau

Regional Commissioner, Federal Acquisition Service

Northeast and Caribbean Region

 

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