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.

Why is the CMP important to you?

Firstly, having a well-planned contract requires a broader scope perspective featuring many stakeholders. A comprehensive plan helps the team eliminate issues before they arise, mitigate them before they become major problems, and identify roles and responsibilities. The contract has a much better chance of being successful than those without a CMP.

Secondly, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have placed increased emphasis on the effective management of contracts across the Federal Government. The Government Contracting Officer with whom I was working while developing a CMP training pulled out a large contract management plan that she and her team had developed for a very high value contract. She attributed the work that she had done in getting all of the contract management aspects documented and signed off by all of the responsible parties as being a key reason why the solicitation was let. They had a clear plan on how they would manage the contracts within the program after execution.

If those two reasons weren’t enough, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) charges both the Contracting Office (FAR 46.103) and the Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) (FAR 46.104) with quality assurance for the program and including in solicitations and contracts the appropriate requirements for the contractor’s control of quality for the supplies or services to be acquired. A CMP can help document the fulfillment of these charges.

What should be in a CMP?

When done properly, the Contract Management Plan specifies all of the parameters related to government oversight and managing contractor performance. It spells out the specifics of executing this particular statement of work. While not an all-inclusive list, I recommend asking these key questions:

  • Transition – Is this a new contract or will there need to be a transition from the existing contractor should the incumbent not win? What about at the end of the contract regardless of who wins this solicitation? How will that transition happen? What’s the right amount time for a transition?
  • Government-Furnished Items – Will there be any on the contract? If so, who and how will that be managed? What are the repercussions if it is not maintained properly?
  • Performance-Based Objectives – How will you monitor the contract and evaluate whether the objectives are being satisfactorily met? Will government staff be collocated with the contractor? Will you have regular site visits? What kind of reporting is required? What are the deliverables and the critical milestones? What are the key performance indices?
  • Inspection and Acceptance Process – What is the strategy to ensure the contract requirements conform to quality assurance provisions? Who are the responsible individuals? Are their roles and responsibilities clearly defined?
  • Invoice Review – How are invoices submitted – by email, electronically thru WorkFlow, by mail? What is the process for reviewing and approving invoices? Who will do that? Do you need any supplemental documentation to be submitted with the invoice?
  • Vulnerabilities and Risks – Are there any significant contract vulnerability or performance risks? What can be done to mitigate these?
  • Equitable Adjustment – How are Requests for Equitable Adjustment (REA) to be proposed, evaluated, negotiated and contractually implemented?
  • Change Control Process – What is the formal change control process for scope, cost, and schedule? Is there a change board? If so, who would be on that board?
  • Contract Closeout – What is the strategy for closing out this contract? Is it compliant with FAR 4.804 – Closeout of Contract Files?
  • Special Emphasis Areas – How is the contract startup going to be handled? When and where will the post-award orientation be held for government personnel?   What about the post-award conference with the contractor? How will you make sure that you and the contractor have the same clear understanding of the contract and matching expectations?
  • Fee Administration – What is the strategy for administering cost incentives, award fees, conditional payments, etc.? How often will award fee boards be held? Who is on the board? Where will it be held?

As you can see there are a lot of aspects to be considered; a lot of questions to be asked. While some of these areas may seem a bit obvious for being included in the solicitation documentation and might have been thought about prior to release of the Request for Proposal (RFP), it is the “who” and the “how” that can easily get overlooked in the process. Even when the “how” is addressed, it is still critical to know “who” will be responsible when the plan goes into effect.

A Win-Win Proposition

The Contract Management Plan has a lot of upsides to me. Laying out all of the aspects of managing the contract early increases the chances for success and identifies the responsible parts in advance to address issues as they arise. It is a method of ensuring compliance with the FAR and is a good tool to help answer any questions that might come from GAO or OMB. It also benefits industry because the details of the levels and types of surveillance are clearly called out in the solicitation along with the performance requirements, milestones and contract deliverables.

Although it is not universally used across Government and there are some who would argue that it takes effort to keep it up to date over the life of the contract, the benefits are undeniable. A little planning upfront can more than make up for it during the execution and closeout phases. You know the old adage….a stitch in time….

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