E-COMMERCE PLATFORMS MUST BALANCE PRICE, EASE OF USE, SECURITY
Even as GSA moves ahead with its e-commerce portal project, individual agencies have either initiated pilots or are thinking about it. The ease of use and real-time buying capabilities of these portals offer strong incentives for agencies to use them. In addition, each platform offers substantial spend analysis features, enabling agencies to better manage their budgets and make smarter buying decisions. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Peel back the cover, though, and there are some plot twists to this story. First, agencies must consider how they want to compare pricing available via platforms. Is it enough that prices on commercial e-commerce platforms are likely lower than the open market prices agencies obtain today when they make micro-purchases, or will pricing have to match or beat prices available through standing contracts like the GSA Schedules program? One answer may be that slightly higher prices are seen as acceptable when the near-real-time availability of spend analysis is factored in. Some agencies, though, may insist on the lower price. Second, secure supply chains must be addressed. Commercial e-commerce providers vary widely in how they vet the items sold through their platforms. Some pay more attention to the authenticity of goods than others. At a time when secure supply chains are viewed as essential, how will agency leaders manage e-commerce platform acquisitions to ensure that only the items that should be purchased are? It is already an established fact that most agencies use E-Bay to obtain replacements for items that are out of production. Whether it’s that platform, or another, the risk must be appropriately managed. E-Commerce offers many potential benefits to the federal market but, like any other acquisition option, this tool must be used responsibly and under the right circumstances.