Leading Commercial Practices Can Help Federal Agencies Increase Savings When Acquiring Services

April 15, 2013

What GAO Found

Officials from leading companies GAO spoke with reported saving 4-15 percent over prior year spending through strategically sourcing the full range of services they buy--a process that moves away from numerous individual purchases to an aggregate approach. The federal government and leading companies buy many of the same services, such as facilities management, engineering, and information technology. Companies' keen analysis of spending, coupled with central management and knowledge sharing about the services they buy, is key to their savings. Their analysis of spending patterns can be described as comprising two essential variables: the complexity of the service and the number of suppliers for that service. Knowing these variables for any given service, companies tailor their tactics to fit the situation; they do not treat all services the same. Company tactics fall into four basic categories: (1) Standardize requirements, (2) Understand cost drivers, (3) Leverage scale, and (4) Prequalify suppliers.

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