THE CASE FOR A GSA TRAINING EVENT
It is time for GSA to move ahead announce a new nationally-scoped training and show event. The agency is not only harming its customers, but its contractors and itself by continuing a years-long exercise of introspective naval gazing on this issue. Nothing speaks louder than the facts, so here are a few that should make the decision to hold such an even an open and shut case.
- Unprecedented Demand for Training: It’s been over 2 years since GSA held a specialized show in Huntsville, Alabama to train DOD users on how to properly use GSA Schedule and other contracts. Those sessions were totally sold out, with thousands receiving the training they needed to make sound, correct acquisition decisions. GSA has ramped up its on-line training considerably for both government and industry. The demand for training has likely never been higher. With the Air Force, DHS, and other agencies scrapping their own contracts in favor of GSA-based vehicles, demand for training will only accelerate. In-person training creates relationships and offers better opportunities for interaction than the most sophisticated on-line tools allow. Even in this age of technology, there is sometimes no substitute for actually being there, especially when it comes to greeting new customers.
- Over a Thousand New Schedule Contract Holders: A conservative estimate is that well over 1,000 companies are new to the Schedules program since the last GSA Expo was held. We’ve taught a lot of Schedule training classes recently and, when asked whether they ever attended an Expo, approximately 90% of the class did not know what that was. There are new people who need training on the industry side, in addition to the government. As one our recent students put it, “we don’t know what we don’t know” about GSA.
- New Contracts, Solutions, and Technology: Those new contractors brought new solutions with them. GSA has created dozens of new Special Item Numbers that either offer new solutions that didn’t previously exist or were difficult to find. Outside the Schedules, the last time the agency held a show there was no OASIS program, no EIS telecommunications contract, and an Alliant program that is nothing like what it is now. Without a show, GSA’s customers may well believe that there is nothing new to see. That’s a little like a car dealer still promoting its 2012 line-up.
GSA leaders were reportedly considering a show for 2019, but got cold feet. The time to launch a show for 2020 is right now. GSA Administrator Emily Murphy commands substantial respect, even though she was buffeted by Congressional oversight committees last week. She has a tremendous opportunity to lead the agency forward and not let the past define the agency’s future. Indeed, failing to act now opens the agency to future allegations that it is not doing enough to ensure that customers and contractors know how to effectively do business with GSA.