I have been trying out the General Services Administration’s new portal for Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts, or GWACs.

There is a lot of useful information here, but the user experience remains uneven and in my experience, there are available tools that could improve the ability to analyze the data.

The new GSA web site says:

A Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) is a pre-competed, multiple-award, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract that agencies can use to buy total IT solutions.

The GWAC program has taken their data to the next level by creating an interactive tool that allows GWAC stakeholders to view and segment GWAC information to make better decisions.

Users have the ability to:
  • Explore GWAC data by contract family, federal agency, and industry partner
  • Build customized reports and download them to your computer
The GWAC Dashboard is compatible with Internet Explorer 8 and 9 using Flash Player 14.4.X. If you are using any other version, you may experience usability issues.

The Users Guide contains the footnote:

The Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) Dashboards are intended for informational purposes. The data contained within may not be fully accurate.

The contacts page says:

Request for accessible dashboard content may be directed to herman.lyons@gsa.go.

That may be important to some users, since they, like I experienced, may not be able to download the complete data set. That’s what happened to me, so I contacted the GSA contact, but did not get a response so I downloaded each agency separately and merged them into one spreadsheet 19,168 rows and 18 rows. I also created a data dictionary spreadsheet.

I imported those spreadsheet into Spotfire and created the two dashboards shown below that provide interactive tables and graphs that can be sorted by column header, searched by filters, and displayed by rows in the Details-on-Demand.

A Spotfire dashboard is superior to Flash in the following ways:
  • Much faster performance due to in-memory analytics – I had to wait forever for the GWAC Dashboard to display different tabs and then query data.
  • More types of visualization – I was able to create a sorted bar chart and dynamic cross-table that can then be searched by the Filters and displayed in the Details-on-Demand.
When I clicked on the different tabs on the GSA site, I got messages to do things rather than seeing immediate results — messages such as:

  • To view GWAC data by Industry Partner, please select an Industry Partner from the drop down list above.
  • To view GWAC data by Federal Agency, please select a Federal Agency from the drop down list above.
I also encountered error messages such as:

  • An error has occurred. For more information, contact the file creator or your system administrator. Error: Unable to load URL: https://businessobjects.fas.gsa.gov/…rvices/session. Connection Type: Live Office Connection
  • Cannot Access External Data. Failed to get the document information. (LO 26315)
I finally hit the close button and used my Spotfire dashboard to explore the data and found the following highlights:
  • There are 51 agencies/programs listed but only 47 have data.
  • There are 5 contract types, 522 industry partners, and 10 years of data.
  • The Department of Defense has the highest total entries (2552), but the Department of State has the highest sum total estimated value of contracts (over $80 B).
  • SAIC is the leading industry partner (FAS Alliant GWAC of over $70B) out of a total of over $338 in contracts for all 522 Industry Partners.

For readers who’d like to get all of the data for your own dashboard software, where you can slice and dice it in many ways quickly, try this Spotfire dashboard application. More details are documented elsewhere.