Businesses of all sizes should know of a significant change in the way government grants and contracts will be handled. The General Services Administration (GSA) announced that they are changing vendors for their federal contractor numbering system – better known as the DUNS (Data Universal Numbering System.) The system update won’t change right away, but here’s what you should know moving forward.
What is the DUNS?
The Data Universal Numbering System is a long-held practice for assigning businesses or organizations a unique identifier that can be used when applying for grants or contract opportunities through the government. The GSA runs contracting programs is the agency responsible for making sure businesses follow correct procedures when looking to be awarded government business – including ensuring their application includes a valid DUNS.
Since 1962, Dun & Bradstreet has managed much of the system, including the DUNS program – an addition to the system brought about by regulation in 1998. For twenty years, D&B has held the contract for managing validation and records. That all changed last year when the GSA announced they were opening up the role to competing bids.
What is a UEI?
Ernst & Young won the contract, ending a two-decade involvement in the GSA by Dun & Bradstreet. Not only will the behind-the-scenes change significantly, but businesses could hopefully see some improvements, as well. The GSA is taking the opportunity to revamp what we know as the DUNS, replacing it with something they call the System for Award Management Managed Identifier, or SAMMI — for those of us who really like simplified acronyms.
Update: the new number is now going to be called a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) and is expected to be implemented in April 2022.
What Can Businesses Expect?
There’s going to be a lengthy transition period, so – for now – not much will look different. The Ernst & Young transition includes a one-year “base period,” before four back-to-back, one-year options are potentially exercised. If the GSA keeps Ernst & Young on for the full five years, it would be, according to Nextgov.com a $41.8 million contract for the corporation.
The new partnership aims to make it easier to merge and secure data, simplifying how businesses compete for and renew government contracts and grants. While it’s too soon to tell just how the plan will work once it’s rolled out, anything that makes it easier for small businesses to earn and grow should be considered a welcome change.
How the Changes May Affect Vendors and Marketers
Under the old system, some government officials revealed concern that D&B had too much control over the use and licensing of the DUNS number, often charging third parties to access data on grants and contracts. While the GSA stated that Ernst & Young will also have proprietary ownership right to some of the data that was stored under the DUNS system, there’s no word yet on how data rights and the cost to access information will be handled. Getting a UEI (similar to getting a DUNS) will be free to businesses and organizations registering with the new GSA system.
Reps for Dun & Bradstreet have emphasized that they seek to assist during the transition, as is indicated by the terms of their current contract.