Use the “A” Team for Integrated Acquisition Planning

Big ADoes this sound familiar? Mission and business owners define their requirements, “throw them over the fence”, and then the contracting and contractor community conduct activities to obtain and deliver the contracted solutions. But what about rapid changes in technology, short development time frames, reduced budgets, or greater complexity? These risks in execution lead to schedule delays, cost overruns, performance problems, and even mission degradation.

What’s needed to prevent these risks? A paradigm that may seem recent to some, yet retro or vintage to others. That’s because it’s both.

I describe this paradigm fully in an article in the October 2014 PSC Service Contractor magazine. Here is a quick look at the paradigm, which revolves around three main areas and provides “point of view checks and balances” for ensuring your organization is both doing the right things, AND doing things right. [Read more...]

Best Collaboration Tools for Project Teams

Collaboration Tools imageImagine you’re an analyst who has recently joined a project team. Your job duties include generating large, complex program documents on tight deadlines. Producing poor quality deliverables will put your stakeholder’s schedule and budget at risk. You know accomplishing this task will require the input of various team members, many of whom are scattered across multiple program management offices. Furthermore, you’ve been tasked with tracking team deliverables for stakeholder approval.

How can you overcome the challenges of remote workers, multi-office teams and inclement weather? Collaboration tools are the solution. Here are five ways to use collaboration tools so federal government teams and those who support them can work faster, better and smarter. [Read more...]

With A Great Contract Management Plan, The Sky is the Limit

Sky is the limit imageYour team may have spent hours and hours considering the program management, risk management and quality assurance issues involved in letting a new government contract. But have you pulled the key information about how that contract will be managed into a single plan?

A Contract Management Plan (CMP) is one of the primary tools the Government can use to make sure that a program achieves everything it wants and that it gets what it is paying for from a contractual perspective. It is a key document guiding the coordinated efforts of the contract management team throughout the term of the contract. Not all agencies use them, but here are three reasons why they’re important, and 11 questions the CMP should ask and answer. [Read more...]

Gold Plating vs Value Engineering– Recognize the Difference for Smoother Project Management

Keyboard image of "Change"You manage or are part of a project and decide to add additional features or functionality to the product or service you provide. You think it will please the customer and make the team look good. But what if it slows the project, adds costs or isn’t what’s needed?

There is a proper and an improper way to introduce new features in a project. It’s the difference between value engineering versus what’s known as gold plating. Let’s look at how the two can be confused and the impact that can have on project management. [Read more...]

How to Make Telework Succeed for Your Team

Tele-Work ImageWith Labor Day weekend over, it’s full steam ahead for government agencies and those who support them. For some, telework will be part of the mix as teams manage the fiscal year-end rush.

Recently I started supporting a federal agency where telework is encouraged and systems are in place to enable one or more days a week of teleworking, including providing mobile devices, laptops, Virtual Private Network (VPN) accounts, network drives and a SharePoint platform to facilitate collaboration. This environment was a very pleasant surprise benefit which has reduced the amount of time I spend commuting each week. I have worked with other federal agencies in the past and telecommuting was not so readily available, so I wondered why here and now? And what can managers and their teams do to be successful when working remotely? [Read more...]

How an Integrated Master Schedule Can Avert Program Management Disaster

DAU sample IMS Gantt Chart

Image Credit: Defense Acquisition University. Sample IMS Gantt Chart.

Congratulations! It’s your first day at your new job as a Program Manager (PM). The last few days have been a whirlwind. You got the call from your director that you had been selected to replace the PM for one of the smaller programs in the portfolio. The previous PM had been reassigned and you barely got a chance to exchange greetings as you moved into your office.

Because of the program’s size, you don’t have a large staff – just a handful of people to take care of day-to-day activities. Your initial impressions after meeting the team and getting briefed on the program are that things seem to be in good shape. You’re excited about the new job as you begin getting up to speed and into the daily rhythm of the program.

Two weeks later and it happens. Your Contracting Officer (CO) just sent you an email reminding you the draft statement of work for the follow-on contract is due by Friday, two days from now. You recall one of your staff members telling you on your first day that the contract needed to be re-awarded “next year”, but there was no hint that any actions needed to be taken at this time. Soon after you get that email, you get a call from the Director’s office reminding you that your quarterly Program Management Review (PMR) update has been scheduled for next Wednesday and the read-ahead is due Monday. Your immediate thought is “What quarterly PMR??” You step out of your office to ask about the PMR, and when you get back to your desk, there’s another email. This is from the Comptroller’s shop telling you that there’s a budget review meeting next Monday and you need to be prepared to discuss and defend your program’s funding. You’re wondering two things – how am I going to get through the next seven days and what’s going to happen next?

Does any of this sound familiar? Is there a tool that you could have implemented on Day 1 to prevent the seeming catastrophes that are hitting on Day 14? [Read more...]

Is Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA) Always The Best Deal?

LPTA imageIn the current fiscal environment, there is an even stronger focus on being a good steward of taxpayer dollars. That is certainly commendable and definitely what is expected by John Q. Public. The recent trend to uphold that trust placed in the Government has been toward awarding contracts on a lowest price technically acceptable (LPTA) basis. On the surface it seems reasonable. Why would or should the Government pay more than necessary for what the contract requires?

The obvious answer is that it shouldn’t. Doing so would be a waste of taxpayer money and potentially land the agency on the front page of the papers with another story about a golden hammer. If we examine the situation a little deeper though, we may find that the obvious answer is not always the correct answer. [Read more...]

Ready, Set, Go… Cross the Acquisition Package Finish Line by Fiscal Year End

finish lineThis is sprinting season for any acquisition professional working on completing acquisition packages, negotiating offers and awarding the proposals. Contracting Officers (COs) should be proactive in doing all that needs to be done to ensure the requirements are awarded in a timely fashion.

While each agency has its own internal policies and regulations, there are some common must-do steps for both modifications on existing contracts and new requirements. [Read more...]

The Double Down Strategy of Contract Management Risk

double down photoIn blackjack, there is a strategy known as doubling down, in which players double their bet to get one more card in addition to their two card hand. Doubling down increases players’ chances of winning, just like risk management increases the chances of success during a contract’s lifecycle.

Risk is an inevitable part of any contract—as Murphy’s Law says, “anything that can go wrong, will.” Tight budgets, short timelines, and technological complexity in today’s acquisition environment, make risk more prevalent than ever. Adverse situations, including protests, can cause schedule delays, cost growth, performance degradation, and other intangibles which can have a large, negative impact on the success of a program. Being aware of risks and developing a risk mitigation strategy early in the contract lifecycle, prevents risks from becoming crises.

As presented at the National Contract Management Association’s (NCMA’s) 2014 World Congress, here’s a look at how doubling down early and in all steps of the contract lifecycle can reduce source selection risk and increase chances of success. [Read more...]

Fear of the FAR – Is It Getting in the Way of Doing Business?

Fear of the FAR imageDo 1,883 pages of Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), comprised of 53 different Parts, dozens of forms, and a correction page feel like something to be feared? Does it keep you from buying what you need to support your agency?

Many government decision-makers look at the FAR as a significant obstacle to their acquisitions, but at its core it provides a consolidated framework for conducting the business of acquisition in a fair, predictable, and repeatable manner while protecting the interests of both the federal government and the people who would like to do business with it, while reinforcing good use of taxpayer funds.

Let’s look at the effect of the current environment on federal contracting, and why the FAR can be made to work for you, not against you. [Read more...]