Seven Steps to Implement Standardization in Contract Management

seven steps photoIf you want to make your contract management more efficient and see greater returns on your investment of time and effort, standardization could be the solution you’re looking for. Contract management systems and technologies, standardized contract language, templates, best practices, and lessons learned can yield positive, measurable results in effectively and efficiently crafting, administering and managing contracts.

In Part One of this series, I discussed the benefits of standardization and debunked some common misconceptions. In Part Two, I will discuss the importance of maintaining flexibility and offer some tips for implementation. [Read more…]

How Standardization Can Improve Contract Management

standarization photoCan you think of a time when you said to yourself, “there’s got to be a better way to do this?” I know I can. We’re always looking for ways to make our business practices and our lives more efficient. Standardization provides an answer. It can help increase productivity and efficiency by defining expectations, formalizing processes, and creating accountability.

In government contracting – crafting, administering and managing contracts – standardization can be implemented through contract management systems and technologies, standardized contract language, templates, best practices, conducting and applying lessons learned studies, deliverable acceptance and receipts, invoice reviews, etc… Doing so can yield positive, measurable results with effectiveness and efficiency.

At the National Contract Management Association (NCMA) 2015 World Congress, I will lead a presentation on driving efficiency through flexible standardization in contract management. In this first of a two-part series, I’ll look at how standardization and innovation can work together, as well as at the benefits and myths of standardization in contract management. In Part Two, I’ll discuss why it’s still important to be flexible and what to do before, during, and after the implementation of a standardization solution. [Read more…]

EVM – Have You Communicated Its Value to Acquisition and Project Management?

EVM Communication 1Being able to efficiently and effectively diagnose the health of an organization’s portfolio of contracts takes time and persistence. Earned Value Management (EVM), a project management technique for measuring project performance and progress, makes it possible. However, those in the federal sector, including EVM experts, need to do more to communicate its value for increased adoption.

EVM is a novel or complex concept for many stakeholders across the acquisition life cycle process to fully understand, especially technical or non-acquisition personnel, sometimes even within the acquisition and program management communities themselves. However, this lack of understanding is to the detriment of all who have a tremendous stake in the acquisition process, including how to ensure they are getting value for their investments, receiving the capabilities or functionality they’ve paid for, and in a timely way. EVM as a best practice is not only a requirement for many contracts, but a valuable business tool to assess the health of projects, contracts, and portfolios, in addition to enhancing management decisions.

How to help others understand and appreciate the value of EVM is a topic I and my colleague Bill McMahon will tackle in a presentation at the 2015 EVM Practitioners’ Forum Training and Symposium. Set against the backdrop of a particular case, we examine our journey to help a Health and Human Services (HHS) acquisition team, including those stakeholders who may not consider themselves to be part of an “acquisition” team, but are instrumental to successful delivery of project and mission outcomes. Specifically, we talk about how we’ve partnered to establish and use a framework, including policy, consulting, analysis, reporting, training, and tool implementation to communicate EVM information to key medical/technical stakeholders (those that don’t speak EVM or project management for that matter) to facilitate contract portfolio management and decision making. [Read more…]

Acquisition Workforce Training – Rethink Your Approach

Rethink Acquisition Training imageFacing an aging workforce, the question of how to train the next generation of acquisition professionals is a challenge that federal leaders and industry managers have yet to solve. The need for training is great, but budgets and time are often limited.

Senior government procurement executives and practitioners say agencies have cut training dollars even though employees with less experience now have responsibilities that exceed their abilities, according to the Professional Services Council’s (PSC) 2014 Acquisition Policy Survey. And some said those who do receive training may just be “checking the box” with courses that don’t test critical thinking or include innovative practices.

So, how do you face the conundrum that experiential or case-based training, the very type that many people need, can seem cost-prohibitive given tight budget constraints? Integrity Matters talked with Mike Ipsaro, Technical Director at Integrity Management Consulting, who has developed and delivered training for multiple agencies in a wide range of formats. We asked him about how to deliver training that is cost- effective while also being customized. Ipsaro says modular delivery, simulation, and adaptation to emerging or customer-specific needs are all key. [Read more…]

WHY CPIC Matters More than Ever to Cybersecurity

CPIC benefits to Cybersecurity imageFederal CIOs are on the hot seat over cybersecurity after the revelation that the personal information of 4.2 million current and former federal employees was hacked. US Chief Information Officer (CIO) Tony Scott said this week that agencies need to rethink how they fund cybersecurity.

Scott said funding should not be an overall percentage of the IT budget, according to a report by Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller: “I think that’s the wrong way to think about security,” he said. “The right way to think about it is on a risk based analysis. We’ve got threats. We’ve got risks. Just like insurance, that has to be the equation when we are thinking about how much money we should spend on cybersecurity.”

How do federal agencies start building the business cases for greater assets to fund these programs not only today, but in the coming years?” The best way to justify return on investment in cybersecurity programs is the development of a business case through the Capital Planning and Investment Control (CPIC) process. Here’s how CPIC can kick-start the cyber budget process, reveal gaps in coverage and agency understanding, and help with forward planning. [Read more…]

How to Practice Good Cyber Hygiene

protect yourself imageIn this digital age, we depend on our computers and devices for so much that we need to be constantly proactive to protect against cyber threats and attacks. Multiple studies show that government, corporations, and individuals are being increasingly targeted. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for example, said federal cybersecurity incidents were up 15% in 2014 from the previous year, hitting a record high of 70,000 in FY2014.

Whether at work in the public or private sector, or on personal computers and devices, there is a greater need than ever to be vigilant. In order to accomplish this, we must practice good cyber hygiene daily. How do you implement cyber hygiene practices today and what can you do to prevent the vulnerabilities of tomorrow? Below are several best practice strategies for strengthening defenses that you can do on personal computers and devices or that public and private sector IT departments are doing behind the scenes: [Read more…]

Successful Task Order Management – Start Early!

start early imageEmploying best practices in Task Order Solicitation Management processes can help Government respond to constant challenges throughout the acquisition life cycle, particularly the acquisition planning phase.  The primary reason for using a coordinated effort to apply best practices among Government Program Managers, Contracting Officers, program officials, and industry stakeholders is to increase the probability of mutual maximum results. In this blog, I’ll share with you some best practices that I’ve learned and experienced from a Government and industry perspective.

Let’s start with task order solicitation best practices for government. They include but are not limited to the following:

  • Directing market research to establish a baseline in organizing technical, functional, and business domains mapped to government requirements/gaps. Once a baseline has been established, the technical, functional, and business domains serve as a framework for driving the creation of the SOO/SOW with clarity and precision.
  • Next, specified consistent roles within each of the domains identified in your baseline are captured and defined, culminating with a packaged release of your RFP.
  • Underpinning this entire best practice is frequent and even collaborative interactivity and development with industry throughout the process.

Again, working with your market research industry partners, and a clearly identified and precisely written baseline requirements document, shortens the release time and produces a focused and accurate product, lessening the risk of costly rework, and even mission degradation.

The objective of Task Order Solicitation for contractors is to identify the best opportunity fit for their company, followed by capturing the task order award, and then successfully delivering task order accomplishment. Usually, this accomplishment is closely related to and supports Government mission accomplishment. You could think of it as a synergetic relationship. By employing best practices early in the acquisition life cycle, both Government and industry can prime the pump for successful performance through the task order life cycle. [Read more…]

5 Ways to Improve Your Federal CPIC Process

5 Ways to Improve CPIC imageRecently, the Integrity Matters blog asked the question, “Are You Making the Business Case for Federal Cybersecurity?” in an article about why and how to develop a business case through the Capital Planning Investment Control (CPIC) process in order to justify return on investment in cybersecurity programs. Now we ask the question, “Are You Making the Business Case for CPIC” itself?

Program managers who have had to do more with less the past few years, may feel they don’t have the necessary resources to dedicate to CPIC support. They may feel that the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) requirement for business cases is more of a “check the box” reporting need. But based on our own experience with numerous federal agencies and programs, the CPIC process is worth defending because it provides a framework of management principles and tools to prove that federal investments align with agency missions and support business needs with low risk.

Integrity Matters authors have written extensively on CPIC. Here are five of the team’s top take-away’s for those interested in improving CPIC in their organization. [Read more…]

Meeting by Phone? 10 Basics for Better Project Management Teleconferences

Teleconference Phone imageWe’ve all been part of a teleconference, with some people in the room and others on the phone. Dialing in, it can be difficult to hear, or follow the proceedings, or make ourselves heard. In the room, it can be frustrating when those on the phone fall behind, speak over top of one another, or don’t speak at all! As project management professionals are all aware, communications is one of the major areas in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), and has been described by many to be the most critical success factor for program execution.

Teleconferencing is a common format for team meetings with today’s geographically dispersed teams and nod to work-life balance. Program managers and team leaders who depend on teleconferences to manage projects will find that in addition to the challenges of conducting productive face-to-face meetings, in teleconferences they lack the key non-verbal aspects of communication, which presents additional challenges. Albert Mehrabian and colleagues at UCLA have shown that communication involves a complex set of non-verbal and verbal cues such as “body positions and movements, facial expressions, voice quality and intonation during speech, volume and speed of speech.” Without seeing non-verbals, it is easier to misunderstand the words, meaning and importance of what it said.

How have you been conducting your meetings? The following guidelines will assist program managers and team leaders to conduct outstanding teleconferences that capitalize on the verbals to ensure clear communication and a productive meeting. [Read more…]

Performance Management Act II – Overcoming Challenges

Theatre-stage-curtainsThere is an old saying, “the second act is the best” because it delves deeper into the meat of a story, including challenges and the rising actions in response to them. So it may be with the story of Government performance management.

Federal Managers have seen many plot twists impacting governance since the early 90’s when performance management was first introduced. Today’s setting involves rapidly emerging scenarios, threats, and technologies; tighter budgets; loftier expectations of satisfaction; and greater coordination, all unfolding on the big stage of transparency, with the public in a front row seat. It’s enough to cause stage fright, but fortunately, there are ways to overcome these challenges. It involves:

  • Understanding the context of performance management in today’s federal government.
  • Applying best practices to change the culture of performance management, in order to benefit from it.

Here are seven recommendations for transforming a mandated requirement into an accepted approach for continuous improvement. [Read more…]