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…]

Procurement: Meeting the PALT in Four Simple Steps

deadlineImagine working in a high stress environment where contract support for a mission critical program may expire at the end of the month and there is no backup plan. Your organization had plans to re-compete the contract earlier in the fiscal year, but the procurement package or requisition was not developed on time. Several documents are missing or incomplete and no one knows who to contact to obtain the correct information.

Now, imagine a workplace where deadlines are met, contracts are awarded on time, costly contract extensions are eliminated, and the Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) does not have to create multiple procurement packages for the same acquisition. This type of work environment is entirely possible by adhering to one simple requirement – Procurement Administrative Lead Time (PALT). Applying acquisition best practices to deliver Procurement Request (PR) packages makes it possible to comply with PALT requirements.

While PALT ranges differ by procurement and agency, acquisition experts recognize that prioritizing the adherence to Lead Times, and even shortening them when possible, keeps procurements on track and even streamlines them to accomplish missions faster. Here are four steps to consider to help meet or beat PALT, and how not doing so can have a wide impact. [Read more…]

Milestone Decisions: Checkpoints for Acquisition Success

Integrity just completed relocation to an expanded new headquarters this week, custom-built to meet the needs and goals of the business in 2015 and beyond. Like any major project, it involved complex planning, thousands of individual decisions, and frequent deadlines that had to be met to move on to the next phase, and ultimately project success.

How did our team know it was on track in the complicated year-long process? It used classic project management techniques, including Milestone Decisions, a concept explored by Integrity Technical Director Michael Ipsaro in the article below.  Here’s his take on why Milestone Decisions are important and how organizations and federal agencies alike can reach them.

By Michael Ipsaro

Milestones PhotoYour agency just received a legislative mandate to implement a capability by a specific date. The mission could range from expanding a capability, to improving security at a checkpoint, to meeting an estimated surge in demand for transactions in a compressed time period. It may take months or years to accomplish the mission. You may be looking down the road to the final outcome, but you’ll have a much tougher time getting there if you don’t build in a series of milestones along the way.

I recommend five ways to achieve a successful milestone decision, but first a reminder on why they’re so important. [Read more…]

Seven Ways to Smooth Contract Transition

Transition Handoff photoChange can be good when it brings innovative ideas and fresh enthusiasm, including in government contracting. But if not handled correctly, change can lead to bumps in the road or unexpected slowdowns.

There are ways to smooth the path, however, during a handover of responsibilities. They involve focusing on both the transition of the contract and the transition of people.

Here are seven best practices that we have learned and applied for years when approaching a contract transition:


Whether relatively simple or very complex, transitions involve multiple stakeholders and a certain amount of time and expense. Based on our experience with numerous successful contract transitions for GSA and DHS, we have found that successful transitions begin early with coordination and planning: [Read more…]

Preparing a Project Management Plan 101

Project Management Plan wordleYou landed on a great project team and were asked to prepare the Project Management Plan. Even though you’ve executed or implemented project management plans, you never actually prepared a project management plan. Where do you start? What elements belong in the project management plan?

Let’s start with some basics.

Is a “project management plan” the same as a “project plan” or a “project schedule?” It depends on who you ask, but generally, no. Google search the terms and you’ll find similarities and differences opined, even among some certified project manager practitioners. Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably in an organization, or they could be very different documents. That’s OK. What’s important is to understand what your organization or agency expect from the plan. For the sake of this article, we’ll use the term “project management plan” (PMP for short) and define its meaning and address its elements.

The Project Management Institute, Inc.’s (PMI), A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), identifies a project management plan as a formal, approved document that defines how the project is executed, monitored and controlled, and closed. The content of the PMP will vary depending on the project, and could be complex and detailed, or it could be a summary of the project plan details and other planning documents. Best practice is that large, complex projects will involve a detailed and complex PMP, because the project typically involves critical, high risk, or many interdependent tasks. (Think constructing a new building or bridge, developing a military aircraft, or replacing an organization’s entire Information Technology infrastructure.) As projects are implemented, plans can shift and change due to unforeseen circumstances or other situations that impact the project. PMPs should therefore, be considered a living document that requires updating throughout the life of the project.

Why is a project management plan necessary? [Read more…]

Build Better Government-Small Business Relationships

handshakeRelationships matter. It’s a simple but powerful statement that is true in most areas of life, particularly in business. Trusting and lasting business relationships fuel the creation and completion of projects that serve organizational missions. Relationships lead to new opportunities. In the federal sector, it is critical to build solid relationships between government, prime, and subcontractors through open lines of communication.

But how do you approach relationship-building? When is the right time to work on them, and with whom? We tackled these questions for the 2015 NCMA Small Business Virtual Conference, looking at relationships from both the Government perspective and the Small Business perspective. [Read more…]

2015 Trend Forecast – Acquisition and Program Management

2015 TRENDSWhat emerging or continuing trends will dominate the next 12 months or more in federal acquisition and program management? Our Integrity experts each forecast one top trend for 2015 – cybersecurity, workforce development, requirements development, contracts standardization & IT acquisition innovation.

Let’s begin with an issue once again in the news this week – how to handle the growing number of cyber threats against federal agencies.


McAfee Labs recently provided its 2015 Threats Predictions in a November 2014 Threats Report.  The report suggests an integrated cyber environment where Government and Private Sector entities will have to protect and detect; deter and defend against “new attack surfaces in mobile and Internet of Things (IoT), and increasingly sophisticated cyber espionage capabilities, including techniques capable of evading sandboxing detection technologies.”

As dire as McAfee Labs’ 2015 Threat Predictions appear, the old adage “challenges create opportunities” applies.  The challenges of cyber defense and cyber espionage cannot or should not be left to the traditional IT community alone to resolve.  Cyber threats are part of a new, dynamic reality facing the whole of the nation, and it will take an integrated team of IT Professionals, Privacy Lawyers, Contracting Officers, Program Managers, Acquisition Managers and Subject Matter Experts from across the spectrum to prepare for, mitigate and respond to the challenges. In this increasingly interconnected world, this is a challenge that will affect all levels of society – individuals, families, businesses, and governments. Companies will find 2015 to be ripe with opportunities to build, buy or sell cyber defense products and services.

Trend 2: Strategic Acquisition Workforce Development – Thomas Colangelo, Senior Program Analyst

Workforce development involves recruiting, training, development, and retention. It is an on-going function that over time has lacked consistency, waxing and waning based on the dynamics of the acquisition environment, workforce demographics, leadership attention, fiscal constraints, and personnel policies.

Despite considerable resources expended on programs to develop and professionalize personnel within acquisition, functional competence has not progressed substantially since the early efforts following enactment of the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA). Arguably, it took a step backward with the emphasis placed on obtaining multiple functional certifications and the subsequent diminishment of training and certification requirements.

In 2015 and over the next few years, I see a renewed emphasis on [Read more…]