NASA’s latest governmentwide IT services contracting vehicle isn’t fully live yet, but agencies can get a taste of some of the platform’s new features ahead of its launch.
SEWP V, the fifth installment of NASA’s Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement in the last two decades, is set to go live May 1. Originally slated for debut last fall, the acquisition vehicle was delayed due to protests after the initial selection of awardees.
With predecessor SEWP IV extended by six months, the office decided to take a risk and live test some of SEWP V’s updates ahead of the May launch.
“I wanted to test things, I wanted to test it in action,” Joanne Woytek, NASA SEWP program manager, told FedScoop. “SEWP, one of its main strengths is we listen to our customers and we react to what they tell and try to get that into place as quickly as we can.”
Woytek said it was a risk potentially disrupting customers with new pilot features at the end of SEWP IV during “the busy season.” But she feels NASA and the agencies that buy using SEWP will be better prepared this way when May 1 rolls around.
“The underlying piece of it is to get more reporting out to our customers of what they’re buying and what they bought,” Woytek said. “From the customer point of view, we mostly just did a few tweaks.”
Some changes weren’t embraced by customers, which Woytek said was a learning experience.
“No matter what you think you know when you go off and do a new program or a new website or new project, you always miss something in terms of technology, what customers want and expect,” she said.
For instance, the SEWP V pilot developers eliminated a familiar manufacturer lookup tool that let agency customers search for what companies and products had been requested in the past. Because SEWP is dynamic and companies and products are added as people ask for them, that list is constantly changing.
Still customers like to see before they ask, Woytek said. “We’re working on the best ways to answer do we have what you want and if we don’t, how can we still get what you want? It’s a dichotomy I’m working on.”
Other changes include an updated profile administration, a quick search tool for requests for information and a new fee structure, decreased from .45 percent to .39 percent and now included in the overall contract price.
Still, Woytek said NASA is in “this kind of limbo” with finalizing SEWP V vendors. The office has done the re-selection and “should be giving notification of the award selection in the next few weeks, hopefully by the end of March,” she said. This time around, the pool of vendors should be much more stacked, up from 37 for SEWP IV to something like 80.
“It’s become clear that we need more — more competition, more responsiveness,” Woytek said. “So it is going to be a much larger number in SEWP V.”