GSA eyes new collaboration tools for agencies

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The General Services Administration wants to hear about emerging email and collaboration tools industry is developing, and if there any better ways agencies across government can buy them.

GSA published a request for information Wednesday for “industry input on modernizing and securing email infrastructure while simultaneously improving collaboration capabilities within and across Federal Departments and Agencies to dramatically enhance the ability of Federal Government employees, contractors and other stakeholders to work together.”

Likewise, GSA said it issued the RFI to support recent White House efforts to improve federal cybersecurity.

Many collaborative work and messaging tools, like Google Hangout, Slack, GitHub and Trello, have come into vogue recently. Of note, GSA’s inspector general told the 18F digital services team to stop using Slack because of possible security vulnerabilities.

The agency breaks collaboration tools down into two categories: asynchronous, like email, calendaring, file sharing, and content management; and synchronous, like instant messaging, audio/video/web conferencing, group messaging or chat, and group document editing.

“Too few” federal personnel use modern, cloud-based collaboration tools, and many of the tools they do use lack interoperability, GSA says. Additionally, the lack of commonality between requirements can lead to security issues.

“The situation is a hidden tax on productivity; it wastes time, creates missed opportunities, and slows coordination and creativity and can even pose a challenge for recruiting and retaining employees,” the RFI states.

The RFI questions the viability a future collaborative federal IT enterprise in which an administration official could send an email to all federal employees or federal workers from five different agencies could collaborate and edit a single document in real-time.

“Ideally, it should be as easy to collaborate in one room face-to-face as sitting in different rooms, different agencies, and organizations,” it says.

GSA also invites industry to respond about any perceived procurement gaps that make it difficult for firms to sell these tools to agencies. Particularly, the agency would like to hear about the possibility for a new acquisition vehicle aligned with category management.

Contractors have until Jan. 20, 2017, to respond to the RFI.

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Agencies, Applications & Software, apps, Collaboration / Unified Communications, General Services Administration, Government IT News, Innovation, Procurement, Social Media, Tech