Benefits and Disadvantages of the GSA Schedule Program

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This is a guest post by Morgan Taylor of Winvale.

At Winvale, we are constantly challenged by organizations new to the federal market with questions around why a GSA Schedule contract is so valuable. Any savvy consultant should be prepared to adequately describe the benefits of a GSA Schedule contract program and even articulate drawbacks of having one in place.

Let’s focus first on this contract vehicle’s benefits.

What are the benefits of a GSA Schedule contract?

NO. 5: COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

FAR Subpart 8.002 and 8.004 describes the order of precedence for federal agencies considering sources in procuring goods and services. Federal agencies have a statutory obligation to consider mandatory sources of supply of goods and services, and the use of Federal Supply Schedules (i.e., GSA schedule contracts) are encouraged in advance of “commercial sources in the open market.”

This means that your organization will have a competitive advantage when compared to competitors who do not have a GSA Schedule contract. This is significant, because it puts you in an elite group of organizations who may receive preference (in most cases, chances are in your favor) when an agency is considering how to meet its needs.

Having a GSA Schedule is also a great asset to advertise on your company website and marketing materials. Having a GSA Schedule provides a great deal of visibility in the federal marketplace that can be used to win GSA bids and even Open Market bids.

NO. 4: A LONG-TERM PARTNERSHIP

GSA Schedule contracts can last up to 20 years, do not have a sales limit, and everyone in the federal government can use them. Specifically, GSA Schedule contracts have four five-year option terms. It is one of the most widely used government contacts available and they are recommended to anyone serious about selling to the federal government.

Of course, vendors will need to remain productive (generating at least $25,000 annually) and ensure they are properly administering their contract from a reporting and compliance standpoint, but the contract can help facilitate a long-term relationship with agency customers.

NO. 3: ENJOY EASIER AND FASTER PROCUREMENTS

Schedule orders do not require much of the extensive documentation and competitive analysis that is required when vetting commercial sources in the open market. This is why the GSA Schedule contract is so valuable. The contract pre-qualifies you to sell to federal buyers because the GSA has already negotiated fair and reasonable pricing for those federal buyers and made the requisite responsibility determination. This means it is significantly easier to win government business, as individual agencies do not have to go through the process of determining if your pricing is competitive in the market.

As can be seen under the FAR subpart 8.4 language, depending on the specifics, agencies can order directly from a GSA Schedule holder and do not need to make that public. By placing an order against a GSA Schedule contract, the government buyer has concluded that the order represents the “best value.” Less work makes contracting officers happy.

Another way GSA Schedule contracts lead to easier and faster procurements is through pre-vetted technical capabilities.When submitting a GSA proposal, offerors must provide technical narratives that capture a company’s experience in the field and specific expertise related to the proposed Special Item Numbers (SINs). In addition, offerors of SINs such as the Highly Adaptive Cyber Security (HACS) SIN 132-45, must undergo a verbal technical evaluation to ensure the main criteria is met.

While this can sometimes make for a lengthy proposal process, it allows agencies to buy from contractors with the assurance that the work performed will be satisfactory and meet all requirements. This can prevent GSA Schedule holders from having to submit separate technical narratives in each individual bid proposal.

NO. 2: ACCESS TO EXCLUSIVE OPPORTUNITIES

Once you have a GSA Schedule contract, you gain access to GSA sites that other companies do not. For example, GSA eBuy is a website that only contract holders and agency buyers may access. This acquisition tool is where agencies look to request information and quotes from GSA Schedule holders. GSA eBuy often houses high-dollar, high-profile contract opportunities not available anywhere else. GSA eBuy makes it easy to find business opportunities, respond to government requests and establish new business relationships. An impressive number of orders are transacted through this exclusive website.

…AND NO. 1: EXPAND YOUR CUSTOMER BASE

This is the absolute key for anyone pursuing a GSA Schedule contract. The vehicle widens your customer base and has great potential to lead to increased revenue over time. A GSA Schedule contract is also accessible by state and local markets. The Cooperative Purchasing Program under the GSA Schedule program allows state and local governments to purchase from Schedule 70 for information technology and Schedule 84 for law enforcement and security products and services, at any time, for any reason, using any funds available. Having access to this additional market is a key differentiator that again exhibits the value of having a GSA Schedule contract.

The U.S. government is the biggest buyer of goods and services in the world, and a GSA Schedule contract could mean new business relationships and major opportunities with a reliable customer and source of income during tough economic times. Any business should certainly take notice.

What are the disadvantages of a GSA Schedule contract?

PRICING RESTRICTIONS

GSA Schedule pricing is determined by establishing a company’s Most Favored Customer (MFC) and discounting from there. GSA is obligated to make sure that the government receives the best pricing possible, so maintaining the established discount relationship is an essential part of having a GSA Schedule. Once your ceiling GSA rates are awarded, you are required to charge at or below this rate to government buyers. You may never charge above the GSA established ceiling rate if you are selling through the Schedule. You must also maintain the discount relationship, meaning that you may never charge a commercial customer lower than your MFC rates, or you are required to revise your awarded Commercial Sales Practices (CSP).

These rules require that you monitor the amount you bill and the discount you provide to every customer class, which can sometimes cause unwanted administrative burden.  However, structuring pricing this way can help establish firm guidelines for sales desk and business development departments within your company.

COMPLIANCE AND MAINTENANCE

The GSA Schedule should change and grow with your company. Schedule holders should be monitoring the contract pricing and Terms and Conditions throughout the life of the contract to ensure that all changes made commercially are updated on the contract through a contract modification. To remain compliant, contractors are required to report all GSA sales, accept Schedule refreshes and keep the contract terms and conditions current, accurate and complete. Having a GSA Schedule does take some extra time and effort, but if maintained correctly, can be a valuable tool for your company’s continued growth in the federal marketplace.

The GSA Schedule has clear advantages but does require companies to take on additional compliance and maintenance concerns. Looking for compliance and maintenance assistance? Give us a call!

Morgan Taylor is a consultant for Winvale’s Professional Services Department where she provides GSA Schedule acquisition and maintenance support to her clients. Morgan is currently a member of the National Contract Management Association (NCMA).


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