GSA’s Big Changes in 2020, Part 2: Category Management and the New Consolidated Schedule

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

This is the second in a series of blogs regarding the General Services Administration’s (“GSA”) Multiple Award Schedule consolidation. Previously, we addressed GSA’s three phases of consolidation. In this post, we focus on certain fundamental, structural changes to the consolidated schedule made during Phase I.

Category Management Comes to the GSA Federal Supply Schedule Program

Generally speaking, GSA’s restructuring can be labeled Category Management. Over the last year, the GSA Category Management Leadership Council and the Office of Management and Budget developed a government-wide category structure to support category management implementation across the federal government.

For years, there has been an increase in Special Item Numbers (“SINs”) under the 24 schedules. Schedules and SINs often overlapped. GSA preferred the overlap as opposed to having gaps in product and services offerings. The overlap, however, led to agency and Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”) contract-holder confusion. And, as a result, contractors made sure to have their products and services listed under all potentially applicable schedules and SINs. This caused increased administrative work for all involved and less efficient agency purchasing as contracting officers sought to make sure contracting opportunities captured all potential vendors.

Among other benefits, GSA’s schedules consolidation seeks to resolve this administrative quagmire. Included within Phase I of GSA consolidation efforts:

(1) mapping duplicate SINs from the 24 schedule solicitations, and

(2) using North American Industry Classification System (“NAICS”) codes to dramatically reduce the number of SINs in the consolidated, single solicitation.

GSA used Category Management to reorganize offerings across the single solicitation. Prior to consolidation, GSA had 24 federal supply schedules consisting of over 900 SINs. After consolidation, there is now one federal supply schedule with 12 large categories, 83 subcategories, and approximately 300 SINs. The 12 large categories are: (A) Office Management, (B) Facilities, (C) Furniture & Furnishings, (D) Human Capital, (E) Industrial Products and Services, (F) Information Technology, (G) Miscellaneous, (H) Professional Services, (I) Scientific Management and Solutions, (J) Security and Protection, (K) Transportation and Logistics Services, and (L) Travel. With respect to subcategories, a representative example is the Information Technology category which is broken down into seven subcategories: F01. Electronic Commerce, F02. IT Hardware, F03. IT Services, F04 IT Software, F05 IT Solutions, F06. IT Training, and F07. Telecommunications.

Each SIN has a number, a “plain language title,” and is mapped to one or more NAICS codes. The NAICS system is the standard used by federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy. NAICS codes describe the principal nature of the products or services being offered and are used to determine business size at the schedule contract level. NAICS level business size standards are set by the Small Business Administration.

Using the NAICS System Will Make Purchasing Easier

GSA believes using the NAICS system will make schedule contracts easier to use. The new structure will simplify the process of locating products and services because the same products and services will fall under one category. Companies offering multiple categories will no longer need to hold multiple schedule contracts. Schedule holders can properly position themselves under the appropriate categories and areas of expertise. This, in turn, will allow GSA to more easily organize offerings of similar products and services, so buyers can maximize competition.

Positive Early Reviews on Restructuring

In early polling (August 2019), industry partners indicated approval of GSA’s category and subcategory construction, as well as SIN mapping:

      • 84 percent of current contractors agreed that the mapping from current schedules and SINs to the new large categories, subcategories, and SINs was clear;
      • 78 percent agreed with the mapping of their current SINs;
      • 91 percent of prospective offerors agreed that the large categories are clear; and
      • 83 percent of prospective contractors agreed that the subcategories and SINs are clear.

A Complement to GSA

All involved hope these favorable views continue as GSA’s consolidation efforts mature. Regardless, GSA must be given credit for its incredible outreach efforts to all FSS stakeholders. While rumors of and cries for schedule consolidation have abounded for years, maybe even decades, once GSA undertook this effort its actions have been transparent and inclusive.