Apps.gov is an online store where government agencies and offices can purchase government-approved hosted vendor-provided software applications and resources — as in cloud computer products or services. The store makes it easier for agencies to select, compare, and purchase cloud computing services. Apps.gov is a fairly standard e-commerce site, not a clone of the iPhone apps store. Products aren’t delivered by Apps.gov, however; the software just takes and forwards orders via e-mail. One of the reasons that Apps.gov isn’t “delivering” products is that the federal government has a much more complicated infrastructure and cross section of needs and requirements than most normal companies do.
Remember that the federal government shells out more than $80 billion dollars per year in IT spending, including $20 billion on infrastructure alone. That means it represents a huge potential customer for any vendor of cloud computing products.
When federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra announced Apps.gov, he noted that the site is largely aimed at reducing the costs for each agency to acquire cloud computing products and services. For example, the Transportation Security Administration was planning to add blogging capabilities for its internal personnel and the cost to taxpayers was estimated at $650,000. On Apps.gov, the same functionality is provided for no additional cost to the TSA.
The Products on Apps.gov
There are four major categories of products listed on Apps.gov. “Business Apps” ranges from analytics software to CRM to inventory management systems. “Productivity Apps” includes document management and office tools and suites. “Cloud IT Services” boasts implementation services, hosting resources, and other IT services. “Social Media Apps” has apps for Facebook, MySpace, and other social media sites.
How Will the Government Really Use It?
Agencies and departments of the federal government are just starting to get their hands around the cost reduction and efficiency improvements that are possible with the appropriate use of cloud computing services. Apps.gov will let these government agencies get into cloud computing. However, the government still moves very slowly. By its own estimate, it’s expected to be a decade before the federal government will fully move into a cloud paradigm where appropriate.
Selling on Apps.gov
To be listed on Apps.gov you need to first be on the General Services Administration schedule of products approved for purchase by the federal government. Apps.gov overlays the same old, incredibly cumbersome acquisition system — only products that are already on a GSA schedule can be purchased. You still have to get on the GSA schedule and that means Federal Acquisition Regulation rules that apply to the acquisition process also apply to Apps.gov. To get services listed on Apps.gov, vendors who are already doing business (i.e. already on the GSA schedule) with agencies simply need to upload information about their current services and put them in the appropriate categories on Apps.gov.
Apps.gov is simply another way that you can sell to the federal government. But while the site strives to make procurement easier for the government, it doesn’t make doing business with the government any more affordable for you. However, if you want to benefit from government spending, getting on the GSA schedule is mandatory.
John C. Shovic is a partner at MiloCreek Consulting in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.