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…]

Acquisition and Program Management Tools for 2015

ToolboxIt’s the time of year when many of us take stock of the last 12 months and vow to improve next year. We will be smarter, more organized, perhaps even try something new. The numerous Integrity Matters articles written by our on-the-ground experts in 2014 provide a leg up for the New Year. They contain excellent ideas for those involved in acquisition, contract management, and program management – including federal employees and those in industry who support them.

Here is a round-up of ideas that will help your teams and programs succeed in 2015 and beyond. Click on the italicized article titles for more on each topic.

Tools for Federal Teams: Every agency has its own practices and required documentation. However, there are fundamental approaches and tools that can make programs more successful. We outline five: [Read more…]

Get Off the Lessons Learned Treadmill: Simple Ideas for Continuous Improvement in 2015

treadmill photoAs a Program Manager, have you noticed a trend that your program keeps on repeating the same lessons learned or mistakes?  As a program, when completing a yearly reporting requirement, do you hear yourself stating to your staff that we did not complete x, y, or z in order to fulfill our operational requirements?  If you have, there is no better time than year’s end to develop and implement a continuous improvement plan into your program’s 2015 operations.

Are we talking about Kaizen, Total Quality Management, or Lean Six Sigma?  None of these approaches to continuous improvement may be applicable to your program or your program manager’s style or time constraints.  There are simple steps that can be taken, with very little time investment, which will allow program managers to bring continuous improvement to their program’s operations. [Read more…]

3 Tools Worth Reading to Spur Innovative Federal IT Acquisition

Innovation Road Sign PhotoIn this time of tight budgets and potential loss of global technological superiority, the need for innovation is greater than ever.   As Frank Kendall, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics shared with an audience of defense industry leaders recently, “We have to focus more on innovation, and we have to get better capability in the hands of the warfighter.” That focus pervades Better Buying Power (BBP) 3.0, the latest iteration of a Pentagon initiative designed to achieve dominant capabilities through technical excellence and innovation.

These are needed across many areas, including acquisition, where it can improve the management of scarce resources. Indeed, the website reported last year the Government spends $74B on Information Technology, though 26% of major IT Investment Programs (which comprise 32% of IT Budget) are “mismanaged,” according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  Mismanaged is defined as duplication and cost overruns. Undoubtedly, many of these cost overruns are related to schedule overruns. In addition, many digital services have poor outcomes, such as unmet user expectations or unused or unusable features.

How do you acquire and deliver IT in more innovative ways that enable successful mission outcomes, dominant capabilities and maximum taxpayer ROI? In addition to the latest iteration of the well-known BBP series, a wave of recent tools are available offering new and stimulating alternatives to drive innovation. These evolving tools (in contrast with adding to an already bountiful set of policies and directives) include TechFAR, Digital Services Playbook, and Innovative Contracting Case Studies.

Here’s a thumbnail sketch of each of the tools, their importance, and a few of my observations. [Read more…]