New mobile acquisition roadmap emphasizes standardization, simplification and savings

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A governmentwide team of experts published a draft roadmap that sets forth the proposed category management framework for how the federal government will buy mobile devices and services in the near future, with an overarching focus on standardization, simplification and savings.

The draft Mobile Services Roadmap, developed by the Mobile Services Category Team, is meant to get feds across the government on the same page in scoping and defining “mobile” — a term that’s evolved to mean many different things in the age of digital government.

Eventually, this roadmap, it explains, will become “the playbook for the federal government to develop those [mobile] tools and solutions that will conform with Category Management as an initiative, but more importantly to guide agencies in the acquisition and management of mobile devices and services. Mobile has yet to be defined in any agreed upon way that identifies the various components that constitute this continually emerging trend in government, and this document and the efforts of the MSCT clearly define that space while allowing for its continued evolution.”

“When people use the term mobility, they mean different things most of the time,” said Jon Johnson, head of enterprise mobility at the General Services Administration and a member of the MSCT. “Sometimes it’s just carrier services and devices. Sometimes it’s going to mean the public-facing application development so that agencies are better able to communicate with the citizenry.”

Some aspects, Johnson told FedScoop, are pretty straight forward, like carrier services and devices. Others, like device-as-a-service and mobile backend-as-a-service, “haven’t even been talked about or discussed yet,” he said. And where do things like the Internet of Things and other emerging technologies fit in all of this?

“Mobile in the past has been loosely defined. What do people mean by mobile?” Johnson said. “‘We want our employees to work anytime, anywhere on any device.’ That’s been the definition of mobile to date. That’s a good conceptual framework, but that doesn’t really do much for the agencies that are looking to develop and implement the technologies that allow for those capabilities.”

The mobile category team was assembled to determine what was necessary to move toward a governmentwide mobile acquisition strategy by May 2018. In May, the team met with industry to begin exploring what the marketplace looks like and where it’s headed.

“The challenge for the MSCT is to develop an approach that continues to enable agencies to work towards creating a transactional environment between users, data, devices, and an agency’s backend, while also driving savings for federal agencies,” the roadmap says.

That may mean the creation of a new governmentwide acquisition contract, Johnson said — maybe it won’t. But the team isn’t at that point yet.

“It’s not necessarily putting together a new GWAC,” he said. “There may be a call for that. There may be a need for the creation of a vehicle because there are no vehicles that address it. OK. Well then we know where the gap is from a governmentwide acquisition standpoint, and now we can go ahead and address that.”

A lot of it depends of the spectrum of federal mobile needs from the commodity services like data and voice to the more niche requirements like mobile device management and public key infrastructure use.

But there’s still a little bit of time prior to the 2018 deadline to get a more concrete understanding of all the things that mobile means to the government.

What this roadmap does, Johnson said, is “it moves the mobile discussion down the field further in a little bit more concrete way than has been done thus far.”

“Since May 2018 is a little bit ahead, we’re going to focus on scoping these terms of mobility and trying to address as much of the mobile marketplace in 2017 as possible,” he said.

Until that point, the team’s aim is to continue standardizing, simplifying and eventually saving.

“How can we continue to make things easier on agencies who want to buy what it is that they need, and how can we translate that into savings, whether it be cost savings on the one hand associated with the prices of services and solutions, or on transaction cost savings, so that agencies don’t spend as much time researching and doing everything that they need in order to purchase and execute,” Johnson said.

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Agencies, General Services Administration (GSA), Government IT News, mobile and wireless, Mobile Services Roadmap, Procurement, Tech
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