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Agency Agreements Could Unlock Info for Buyers


GSA #9697

June 16, 2000
Contact: Bill Bearden (202) 501-1231
bill.bearden@gsa.gov


Washington, DC - A recent report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers for the U.S. General Services Administration states that government buyers could have more effective electronic purchasing tools if agencies could agree on a few fundamental strategies. The report is available at http://ec.fed.gov/catinterop.htm.

According to the report, many electronic purchasing tools, based on stable, reliable technology, are now available to government buyers. In a single transaction, for example, shoppers could use powerful search engines and secure purchase cards to find and buy items from multiple agency and vendor catalogs across the Internet.

"The technology is available and it works," said Mary Mitchell, Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Office of Electronic Commerce. "Agencies must, however, agree on a few common practices to reduce the effort required to make technology make it more widely available to government buyers."

While electronic purchasing tools have great potential for improving market research and driving down the costs of low-dollar, high-volume purchases, the report notes that agencies must first agree on how to implement the tools by adopting common business rules and standard interfaces. Agency-specific security policies, for example, hamper and delay the ability to search and purchase items across agency catalogs. Agencies must also agree to implement open standards such as the UN/USPC (standard product code descriptions) and Extensible Markup Language so that items can be consistently described, identified and made available to buyers from across the Internet.

The report states that the long-term solution to catalog interoperability will rely on the adoption of open standards. The open standards must address not only the technology, but on common business processes. From product data coding to transaction processing, technology standards are evolving. Likewise, there are evolving business process standards that need to be applied to ensure the human-to-human interaction is well-designed.

The Office of Electronic Commerce partnered with CommerceNet, a non-profit consortium of Internet companies, to demonstrate the feasibility of interoperability between electronic catalogs, through a phased interagency public/private pilot.