Tom Sharpe is just five weeks into his new job as the commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service at the General Services Administration. But he’s already setting the tone by outlining specific ways he wants to improve FAS.
Sharpe will lead the work on 10 priorities and measure FAS’ success through a balanced scorecard approach.
“It represents our strategic imperatives. It represents things we need to do to properly run our business in terms of our fiscal results and our business controls,” Sharpe said in his first interview since being named FAS commissioner Jan. 22. “It ties to the GSA six priorities and other things important to the administrator.”
He said he’s meeting with associate and regional commissioners soon to detail their responsibilities under the 10-point plan. “A year from now, we can look back and know we did the right thing for the taxpayers and our customer agencies and we are happy with the way we’ve improved ourselves at FAS,” Sharpe said.
Since moving to FAS from the Treasury Department, Sharpe spent the first month listening and learning about the organization’s business lines to understand the mission, challenges and people issues.
Sharpe’s 10 priorities are to:
Increase customer savings
Increase customer loyalty
Improve employee satisfaction
Invest in the acquisition workforce
Improve supplier/vendor satisfaction
Meet all small business goals
Meet all sustainability goals
Increase their market share
Meet efficiency goals
Utilize proper business controls for all acquisitions
Sharpe, who appeared on a panel with other agency acquisition executives Thursday at the Acquisition Excellence conference in Washington, said FAS currently brings in about $55 billion in sales, which is about 13.5 percent of all acquisition spending. He said he’d like to see FAS’ share increase to about 17 percent.
“We will grow market share broadly. I want to drive up business to the federal supply schedules. I think a primary way to do that is to improve our pricing,” he said. “I think we can do that through the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative and do more of those events. We are structuring FAS around the idea of procurement category spending management, strategic sourcing if you will. We will pilot, in the first phase, 14 of those types of category teams.”
He didn’t have the 14 areas readily available, but they do include many of the 10 areas the Office of Federal Procurement Policy wants to focus on over the next two years.
Lower margins than most
GSA acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini said earlier at the conference that the way the agency increases its market share is by working together internally and externally, and by reducing costs. “It takes about half as much time to use GSA’s contracts than to use the open market,” he said.
One vendor at the conference asked Tangherlini if GSA would pass on the discounts it receives from efforts such as strategic sourcing by lowering its fees to use the contracts.
GSA’s Industrial Funding Fee ranges from 0.75 percent to 6 percent depending on the contract and how much assistance the agency provides.
“There is a lot of work we need to do to get people to understand GSA’s fee structure,” Tangherlini said. “We are committed to driving down the fees as low as possible.”
He added GSA’s fees are much lower than the margins for things such as hardware and software, and more inline with grocery markets.
Part of the way FAS will gain more of the market share is by focusing on delivering better results to its agency and vendor customers.
Vendors need more attention
Sharpe said FAS will try to improve supplier satisfaction by focusing on the issues detailed on the annual contractor survey.
“We are going to take the questions we scored the lowest in and we are going to build action plans to drive up our performance and thereby the satisfaction,” he said. “My understanding is we scored a 3 out of 5 currently. We’d like to take that to better than three and headed to four.”
The second piece of that effort is improving the contentment of FAS’ workforce.
“Employee satisfaction is very important to me. It’s people first at FAS,” Sharpe said. “We are going to go after it in a number of ways, similar to the supplier satisfaction with very aggressive improvement plans around the questions we scored the lowest in.”
In the first few weeks on the job, Sharpe has done a meet and greet with employees, a townhall, a nationwide video broadcast and will send a series of desk-side video communications.
“It’s also very important employees get support in their training needs and get certified. The base of this is employees who are properly trained,” he said. “We need to motivate them. To have a strategic vision report card, the recommendations will cast a framework to align everyone’s performance objectives and what’s success looks like.”
Along with FAS employees, Sharpe will spend time with industry representatives as well.
He already spoke before about 30 people at TechAmerica earlier this month and will speak in April at the Coalition for Government Procurement spring conference.
“I’m particularly interested in opening a two-way dialogue. Industry has already made clear to me a couple of things on their minds, how we are processing enterprise user licensing agreements and the opportunity to possibly add other direct costs to the schedules, we have them in sight and are working on them. I also have some issues I will ask for help on. Recently, the inspector general has identified we are not receiving our Industrial Funding Fees. I want to work with industry to get their help. Those fees will be paid.”