The General Services Administration’s acquisition arm could learn a thing or two about customer service from Apple, Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner Steve Kempf said Tuesday at a training conference in San Diego.
Following a morning keynote by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak at the GSA Training Conference and Expo, Kempf noted the partnership between Wozniak and Steve Jobs that birthed the Apple revolution and a loyal customer base.
“At FAS, we want to have a partnership with industry partners and customers that’s like Apple” and its customers, Kempf said. “Think about the way people look at Apple products.”
Customers clamor for their products, and their products make life easier and better, he said. “GSA and FSA wants to become a lot like that.”
Kempf said this relationship model would apply to interactions with government customers, whether it’s leasing plug-in hybrid cars, providing cloud computing email or print managment services.
So yesterday at the GSA Expo, Administrator Martha Johnson was walking around in a black and white outfit, if I remember correctly. But by the time she arrived at the Coalition for Government Procurement dinner to announce GSA’s new goal of eliminating the government’s carbon footprint (good luck with that, by the way), she had changed into — you guessed it — a green jacket.
Johnson’s speech received what sounded like polite applause last night, from a crowd made up mostly of vendor representatives. And CGP president Larry Allen was fairly critical of Johnson today, even after he’d had a night to sleep on it. He sent me an e-mail that included the words “an arbitrary goal that makes for good press but has no basis in
reality,” although he later said he didn’t necessarily think Johnson had set such a goal, but simply that he hoped she wasn’t. It’ll be interesting to see whether setting this lofty goal spurs federal agencies and contractors to action as Johnson hopes it will, or if setting the bar so high will be counterproductive.
UPDATE: I should clarify that Allen’s group has pledged to work with Johnson on her initiative and wants to play a role in developing the specifics of her plan. I don’t mean to paint this as a GSA vs. industry fight; Johnson also stressed that the private sector should play a key role in reducing the government’s environmental impact, and the fact she delivered her message at an industry-sponsored event only underscores that.
Green is the name of the game here at the GSA Expo in Orlando. The training session schedule is rife with the words “green” and “sustainable” and it’s all that any of the GSA folks here can talk about. It seems clear that new administrator Martha Johnson is taking President Obama’s green-government agenda to heart, and that Johnson’s commitment is trickling down to all levels. We’ll see whether government agencies and vendors are willing to get on board.
The exhibition floor had its share of environmentally friendly stuff — many booths had green products prominently displayed — according to Federal Acquisition Services chief Steve Kempf, 32 percent of exhibitors were peddling green goods. (That’s still a far cry from the 95 percent of federal contracts that are supposed to be sustainable as per Obama’s October executive order, but it’s a start, I suppose.) The green stuff ranged from furniture to storage devices to hand sanitizer. The expo has a dizzying array of products — walking around one sees booths hawking pocket knives, athletic playing field surfaces, mattresses, forklifts, Christmas lights … the list goes on. It’s a big government we have indeed, folks.
After the jump, a few photos from the floor: Read the rest of this entry »
Agencies’ plans for meeting the green government mandates outlined in President Obama’s October executive order aren’t due until June 2, but the Agriculture Department’s chief sustainability officer already has identified one of her top priorities: cutting energy consumption in data centers.
Robin Heard, a lifelong conservationist who joined Agriculture in 1976, said she had no idea how much energy is consumed by data centers until she took on her new role as the department’s deputy assistant secretary for administration about a year ago.
Speaking Tuesday on the opening day of the GSA Expo in Orlando, Heard said she wants to consolidate the department’s data centers and reduce duplication. Agriculture’s computer servers are operating at between 10 percent and 20 percent of their total capacity, according to a January 2009 strategic plan from Agriculture’s chief information officer.
Heard said she’s already getting pushback to the consolidation plan from employees worried that they’ll lose their computing power. But she seemed unfazed by the resistance, recalling a recent conversation with a consultant who had covertly taken offline one of his company’s huge data centers without anyone noticing.
I may start sneaking around to data centers and start unplugging things. I might get arrested.
So if you see Robin Heard visiting your facility anytime soon, you might want to backup whatever work you’re doing on the computer … just in case.
GSA kicked off its 2010 expo today in sunny — and muggy — Orlando. Today was devoted solely to training sessions as the vendors set up to display their wares and stragglers continue to arrive. This year’s event is well attended, with an estimated 6,000 feds and 3,000 exhibitors, similar to last year’s numbers. Tomorrow the main event, the floor show, opens up and the expo really gets going in earnest.
GSA Administrator Martha Johnson officially opened the festivities a little after 4 p.m., saying that this year’s expo and those in future years will focus on sustainability. There are a ton of training sessions with the word “green” in the title and I think we can expect to see a bevy of environmentally friendly products on the exhibit floor.
Johnson welcomed everyone to the expo, the doors to the welcome reception swung open, and before long, everyone was doing the Cha-Cha Slide (which, if you’ve never tried it, is actually surprisingly fun).
You go, you crazy feds!
So anyway, my colleague Tim Kauffman and I will be down here through Thursday, faithfully documenting the expo. Check for our coverage on the blog, the Web site, and in our next print edition. More substantive material to come, I promise.