The Struggle With the Juggle: How to Master the Trick of Contract Transition

Integrity Management Consulting and GovLoop are proud to present a 12-part series called “Conscientious Contracting: A Thoughtful Approach to Acquisition and Program Management,” that aims to address common challenges and achieve new efficiencies in government procurement.  Integrity Matters will bring you occasional posts written by GovLoop’s Andrew Krzmarzick, featuring the expertise of Integrity subject matter experts and other professionals in acquisition.

JugglerThere’s always been transition among contracts and contractors in government.

But we might be living in unprecedented times.

According to Mike Ipsaro, PMP, CCE/A, Technical Director for Integrity Management Consulting, “We’re probably seeing a bit more transition today. Agencies are mandating the use of strategic sourcing vehicles, causing contract transition from one vehicle to another,” Ipsaro told me in a recent interview.

So how can you handle the “struggle with the juggle,” and make your contract transitions easier and avoid losing time, productivity and money each time you start over?

Ipsaro shared 3 ways that everyone involved in a contract transition can ensure a smoother transfer.

1) Requirements: First, Ipsaro said that an effective transition involves “re-looking at the requirements.” Review both the existing and planned contracts, including the transition requirements. If they appear unclear or incomplete, Ipsaro recommended that “an agency should detail “transition out” and “transition in” requirements into contracts to support the overall acquisition strategy.  Further, requirements should be specific in terms of any unique onboarding requirements or constraints germane to the organization, such as physical or information security.” All too often, an organization thinks only about the planning and execution of a contract. Give serious thought to what happens in the closeout phase and get those requirements in writing to make life easier on both incumbent and incoming contractors (and your own agency staff!).

2) Responsibilities: One of the most confusing aspects of any transition is understanding who is responsible for what activities. That’s where a responsibility assignment matrix (RAM) becomes crucial. With so many moving parts, “a RAM can help to scope out what needs to happen and the players involved in it. Also, it helps to set a timetable and goals for starting and stopping those tasks,” said Ipsaro. A RAM also helps in finalizing estimates for completing the remaining work and re-positioning resources from one team to the next, keeping everyone engaged at maximum capacity throughout the process.  You may find an example on page 18 in our guide entitled, “Addressing the Complex Challenges Facing Today’s Acquisition Professional.”

3) Risks: A third best practice in transition is to identify the inherent risks. For instance, Ipsaro said that one of the biggest stumbling blocks to continuity of work can be business processes, such as gaining security clearances. “Understand the process and how long it may take. There is a tendency to underestimate the time it takes to get someone badged, trained and cleared in time to start a project on launch date,” said Ipsaro. Agencies and contractors can mitigate the risks tied to staff readiness by planning beforehand, conducting training prior to personnel hitting the ground or hiring people that will be ready on day one.

Ultimately, a smooth transition comes down to forethought. “Consider all that could be required, all that could go wrong and try to capture and connect them back to early documentation, such as risk management and quality control plans,” said Ipsaro. In addition, obtain or leverage staff that is experienced in performing the scope of the contract to mitigate risks associated with transition, such as having to learn new tasks.

What has been your experience of the transition period from one contract or contractor to the next?

How have you ensured a smooth transition in your agency?

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