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GSA’s Central Procurement Hub Will Lose the ‘Beta’ in Apri

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The “Beta SAM” – System for Award Management (beta.SAM.gov) former site – dropped its ‘beta’ designation, effective: April 2021. SAM migrated its procurement systems to emphasize its progress and avoid confusion regarding the obscure terminology.

One of the federal government’s primary contracting vehicles transitioned its acquisition tools to a new and improved platform. The General Services Administration (GSA) improved its central government procurement platform to keep its users updated with their contracting data.

GSA procurement tools and governmentwide services migrate to a centralized portal for accessibility and convenience. In this way, visitors can efficiently navigate the platform when seeking assistance on GSA’s award systems.

How the System for Award Management Work

The System for Award Management is the central government procurement portal for organizations and federal agencies. It contains several sources about the steps they need to take for federal acquisition and procurement. On top of that, you can always find information to get an idea of acquiring financial grants and cooperative agreements.

As part of their efforts to improve GSA procurement, the integrated award environment program emerged in 2018. The program aims to consolidate all the procurement tools used by federal agencies on a single website. This consolidation improves their accessibility to all the sources they need to acquire goods and services. The pursuance of this initiative came when the program assisted in transferring vital procurement tools to beta.SAM. It first started with the frequently used tools in the government market, including the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) and Wage Determination Online (WDOL). Following the efforts to establish a centralized government procurement platform, the program has been looking into improving the beta aspects of SAM.

As a result, beta.SAM.gov will lose its ‘beta’ title by April 26, 2021. SAM.gov will eventually become the official registration website of the System for Award Management.

GSA’s Integrated Award Environment Program Office on Procurement Tools

As mentioned, the integrated award environment program emerged to unify GSA procurement functionalities. The ultimate goal is to turn SAM into the central government procurement platform that handles both contracting and grant opportunities. GSA plans to integrate 10 of its legacy systems within the newest SAM portal for convenience and accessibility. From the former beta.SAM portal, tools like FedBizOpps and Federal Data Procurement System (FPDS) are also coming to SAM.

Although the integrated award environment program commenced two years ago, the current pandemic slowed down its progression. GSA has migrated the FedBizOpps website but kept the old FPDS system up. They also continue to port search functions to beta.SAM over the last few years. FedBizOpps (FBO) and the Federal Procurement Data System (FDPS) let organizations locate open solicitations and contract awards.

FedBizOpps (FBO)

Federal Business Opportunities, commonly known as FedBizOpps (FBO), refers to the platform showcasing over $25,000 worth of procurement opportunities. Organizations can find federal buyers who are looking for particular products and services listed on this site. On top of that, government vendors can monitor and retrieve contracting opportunities across the federal market. Different departments of the federal government solicit all of the options listed.
The GSA procurement platform shut down in 2019, following the modernization initiatives. It is among the ten procurement tools consolidated into a single platform.

GSA integrated FedBizOpps into the System for Award Management website. Users can now locate solicitation and quotations through the Contracting Opportunities tab.

Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS)

The Federal Procurement Data Center (FPDC) refers to the GSA procurement hub maintained by IBM. It is the primary repository channel for sources regarding contracting opportunities and financial grants for GSA procurement. Users can find comprehensive information about GSA contracting worth more than $3,000.

The government can also leverage FDPS to access the transaction history of federal agencies. Simply put, the platform provides detail on how the federal government spends the tax dollars. Having this information allows them to determine the steps they need to expend all of their resources efficiently.

What Should You Expect?

According to GSA officials, users cannot expect significant changes in SAM’s essential functionalities. Instead, you can expect an entirely new look and feel for much of the platform’s core features. Executives and GSA SAM developers make sure to provide consistent updates about such changes on their Interact page.

Although their previous transitions did not go smoothly, GSA officials remain hopeful. After reflecting on the dissolution of the FedBizOpps website to the Contract Opportunities tab on beta.SAM, some users expressed disappointment during its early launch. The Professional Services Council (PSC) moved forward to express their concerns and request for immediate action. PSC voiced out the opinions of the majority through a letter sent to GSA.
GSA contractors expressed their concerns regarding the FBO transition. Small, medium-sized, and large companies sent their feedback, which PSC summarized into different categories:

  • Accessibility Issues
  • The transition forced users to sign in multiple times when performing specific actions. This security measure resulted in issues with dual-factor authentication, multiple timeouts, and navigation difficulties.

  • Limited Search Parameters
  • Users have noticed certain limitations involving its search parameters, while a few experienced difficulties performing Boolean searches and filtering search results by timeframes. There are also cases wherein users cannot transfer search queries from FBO to the new Contract Opportunities tab.

  • Missing Functions
  • A majority of GSA contractors are requesting for some functions to get reinstated. These functions include email alert options and opportunities shown by actual text instead of ID number. Notifications also got out of hand then they received updates, even though there were no changes made.

  • User Interface Difficulties
  • GSA contractors expressed dismay with the user interface of the platform. Their feedback focused on font sizes, button locations, and lack of drop-down options. Both desktop and mobile usage have demonstrated poor user experiences, according to the complaints.

    The GSA immensely appreciates all the feedback. As a result, they listened to all the complaints and improved the platform. They also took this feat as an opportunity to increase their outreach for their future endeavors. Nevertheless, the current transition aligns with the commitment of GSA to innovate and improve their platforms. They have gathered focus groups to gain an outsider’s perspective and work on the user experience. This feedback helped them discover the features that users would find valuable and how they can improve their overall experience. With the past feedback in mind, GSA ensures that users will always have a say every step of the way. More importantly, GSA guarantees that users can have the opportunity to test the new functionalities of their GSA procurement platforms before launching.

    Going Forward

    Going forward, GSA is consistently looking for ways to provide their users with new tools for the new SAM.gov in the following years. The finalized System for Award Management (SAM) should include the following:

    • FedBizOpps under Contract Opportunities
    • FDPS under Data Bank
    • Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA)
    • Wage Determinations Online (WDOL)
    • Electronic Subcontracting Reporting System (eSRS)
    • Past Performance Database
    • Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS)
    • Contractor Performance Assessment Reports System (CPARS)
    • Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS)
    • Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA)

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