Since 2001, software developers have used the Agile methodology, employing short sprints and cross-team collaboration, to bring products to market faster with earlier customer input. Others have begun to apply the tenets of Agile beyond IT to the general field of acquisition. Why?  To speed results, lower risk, and benefit from lessons learned throughout the acquisition lifecycle. This is a way to do more with less in a tight fiscal environment.

Agile Acquisition at GCMSAt the National Contract Management Association’s (NCMA’s) Government Contract Management Symposium (GCMS), I led a presentation on what Agile acquisition is, who is involved when practicing it, and what benefits it brings. I also described some of the real-world considerations I’ve seen when applying the Agile methodology to acquisition and contracting support.

For those who couldn’t make it to GCMS, here’s a primer on the realities of applying Agile methodology to Acquisition. [Read more...]

Better Acquisition Decisions through Financial Analysis – Part 2

financial analysis imageNo matter how products and services are being acquired, financial analysis can help in decision making to acquire the requirements in the best and most cost effective ways. Federal Government acquisition uses frameworks and processes that leverage several financial tools to maximize the value procured from the solution while decreasing the risk of wasted resources.

In part 1 of this blog post, we explored the importance of financial analysis as well as some of the major tools available for Federal acquisition professionals. Here in part 2, we will see how these tools are used in three Federal acquisition and acquisition support processes: Acquisition Review Process (ARP); Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution (PPBE); and Capital Planning Investment Control (CPIC). [Read more...]

Better Acquisition Decisions through Financial Analysis

stock investmentGovernment spending has become a political football, and with budget cuts and sequestration, there is greater pressure to spend taxpayer dollars in the most cost effective way and to be able to prove that we are doing so. It seems like a daunting challenge, as more scrutiny has been placed on Federal programs that are competing for the limited funds in decreasing Department budgets.

Is it really that difficult to justify and obtain the funding that has become harder to acquire? With rigorous financial analysis and accurate reporting, this challenge becomes less of an obstacle.

Financial analysis throughout the entire acquisition lifecycle is one of the best practices for ensuring and providing proof of cost efficiency. Federal Government acquisitions use frameworks and processes that leverage several financial tools put in place to maximize the value procured from the solution while decreasing the risk of wasted resources, and ensuring that the best alternative is selected.

In part 1 of a two-part series, I’ll describe the financial analysis tools at the disposal of Federal programs for in-depth analysis, planning, reporting and tracking, to reduce risks and promote success in the conduct of acquisitions. In part 2, I’ll discuss three specific frameworks. [Read more...]

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...]