Aquilent Works Hard For Labor Department

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The mandate from the White House to CIOs of federal agencies is clear: Overhaul your inefficient IT systems or risk jeopardizing your agency's future funding.

The Office of Information Technology and E-Government in the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has launched an ambitious project that would put in place consistent technology to reduce government inefficiencies. The OMB's Integrated Acquisition Environment (IAE) initiative is pushing federal agencies and departments to develop common procurement, payment, logistics, human resources and other systems in a bid to better serve citizens and make inter- and intra-agency data sharing easier.

Aquilent's Sean Curry says the work his company is doing for the Department of Labor is "setting the stage for federalwide procurement standards."

Under the directive, departments that cannot show measurable improvements in both internal productivity and service to federal constituents could see their budgets pared down. To meet the IAE requirements, the U.S. Department of Labor called on solution provider Aquilent, based here, to help streamline its procurement system.

"We have to make sure that we're compliant with everything,not only with federal acquisition regulations but also with OMB guidance and other governmentwide initiatives," said Aquilent Program Manager Sean Curry, who oversees the Labor Department account. "This is setting the stage for federalwide procurement standards."

The department has several stovepipe procurement systems, and each has its own database of vendors, Curry said. Ultimately, all federal departments will move to a central database maintained by the General Services Administration (GSA), as part of the GSA's own initiative to create the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation (FPDS-NG), but streamlining the number of databases in use at the Labor Department is a start, he said.

Procurement software enables federal agencies to analyze their purchasing needs, develop contracts and compare bids from would-be suppliers. Starting in June, Department of Labor staffers will be able to procure goods and services using an Aquilent-built customized solution that will include two off-the-shelf products: Commerce One's Buy/Procure and Distributed Solutions' Automated Acquisition Management System. Some 20 agencies and offices under the department will be linked to the system.

Aquilent was spun out of Commerce One when the latter sold its consulting arm in November 2001. Commerce One, which works with partners such as Computer Sciences Corp. and IBM Global Services, is doing some image overhauling of its own. The company, best known for the business-to-business marketplace solutions it developed in the late 1990s, is now striving to win recognition as a supplier relationship management ISV.

The Labor Department first issued a request for proposal (RFP) for the e-procurement system in August 2001, before Commerce One had divested itself of assets that would later be reconstituted as Aquilent and other companies. The total value of the department's bid, which was awarded to Aquilent earlier this year, is about $10 million, which includes $4 million for a pilot program now under way.

"Any partner we might have a reseller relationship with would have an equal opportunity to do business with us," said Andy Hayden, senior vice president of services at Commerce One, commenting on whether partners can expect to compete on a level playing field with Aquilent, given its heritage as a former unit of Commerce One.

In the meantime, Department of Labor officials said they would not comment on the e-procurement solution until it goes live sometime in June.

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