Through efforts such as the Centers of Excellence, common standards, and consolidation of schedules, the General Services Administration is looking to support modernization efforts across government and modernize its own systems and processes, GSA Administrator Emily Murphy said today.

Speaking at ACT-IAC’s Acquisition Excellence event on Tuesday, Murphy explained some of GSA’s larger efforts and strategy, but also expanded on how the agency is changing internally to support new approaches, starting with senior leadership.

“If you’re going to have a culture of innovation, it means senior leadership has to provide cover. We can’t be asking our journeyman-level or entry-level acquisition professionals or program managers to take a risk, and then when things go wrong–and some things will go wrong–leave them out there on their own. We need to give them that top cover,” said Murphy.

A self-described “procurement geek,” Murphy pointed to the recently released RFQ for phase 1 acquisition at the Centers of Excellence across Federal agencies as an example of GSA’s support for modernization efforts.

“By using multiple-award contracts in each of the Centers of Excellence areas, we’re going to be able to have a much quicker acquisition vehicle in place, and be able to move forward with results far more easily,” she said.

Murphy highlighted GSA’s efforts to establish common standards for business systems, similar to efforts around payroll systems. As an example, she noted that agencies have customized their travel software to the point where systems can’t share data.

“One of the important things GSA, through the Office of Government-wide Policy, is doing is actually trying to go out and come up with core standards for each of these [business] systems, so they’ll be better able to talk to each other,” she said, noting that shared services may be a good pathway to reach these common standards.

While the agency’s focus may be on supporting its agency customers, Murphy highlighted how GSA is using the consolidation of its schedules to look at its own infrastructure.

“By consolidating from 24 schedules to one schedule, it gives us the chance to reengineer the processes behind the schedules as well, and do a better job of IT modernization there and get off of those legacy systems,” she said.

Throughout her speech, Murphy made mention of the various pilots within GSA, such as a catalog management pilot with the Department of Homeland Security, a pilot for phase 3 of SBIR, and making RFQs on GSA’s E-Buy site available to view for vendors who may not be on the necessary schedule.

“I think pilot programs and proofs of concept are a great way to first learn and make sure we get our initiatives right,” she said. “We need to be very clear about what our expectations are. We’re not innovating for the sake of innovating–we’re innovating to try and accomplish something.”

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