Keep your contracting staff in the loop

Program managers do themselves a favor when they include contracting experts early in the process, writes Steve Kelman.

Whenever I speak with experienced contracting people about the joys and frustrations of their jobs, high on the list of frustrations is program officers who come to the contracting office with a procurement package that was developed without input from contracting staff. Contracting officers who raise issues or ask for changes are seen as delaying the procurement and/or being bureaucratic.

Some people believe that program managers who are eager to move fast on contracts must have some version of attention deficit disorder. I most definitely do not agree. The procurement system works much faster than it did before the reforms of the 1990s, and that’s a good thing. We want program managers to care about getting their missions accomplished with urgency, and it doesn’t make sense to expect them to tolerate a molasses-like procurement system.

But it does make sense to spend some extra time getting requirements in decent shape. Sure, it is unrealistic and undesirable to expect that initial contract requirements will be written in stone for an entire project. Needs and available technologies change. But performance requirements for the first module of a new information technology system should be well defined in the initial request for proposals.

A solid RFP has manifold benefits: It improves competition, gets the government a better deal, increases the chances for quicker and more successful completion of a project, and reduces the chances for devastating misunderstandings between the government and a vendor after the contract has been awarded. Rushing through the definition of contract requirements is not a good way to show urgency about a program.

When contracting folks raise objections about a procurement package that was developed without their cooperation, sometimes they are merely being bureaucratic, wallowing in Federal Acquisition Regulation provisions or making a power play. But more often than not, they are raising objections because the requirements are too minimalist, confusing or restrictive. Although few contracting officers have the technical knowledge needed to write requirements, many are good at asking questions and having a feel for when a requirements document is well done.

In many cases, the program office throws a procurement document over the fence to the contracting team, which then makes comments and sends it back to the program office for rework. This is a lose-lose proposition, both wasting time and lowering quality.

It wastes time because work gets done more quickly when people work on a document in a group, rather than one party working on the document in isolation and then launching it on a back-and-forth journey with the other party. Sequential processing wastes huge amounts of time with documents just sitting in — real or virtual — inboxes. Studies show that when you have a document that needs several sequential referrals, 90 percent of the time it takes to process the document is inbox time.

The back-and-forth process reduces quality because program staff members tend to get psychologically committed to a document they have developed on their own, which makes them less open to input. Meanwhile, a group effort can take advantage of the ideas and expertise of the contracting folks, which makes for a better document.

So program folks: involve your contracting folks early, in a team effort. Don’t do it just because it will make them feel better and more part of the mission — which it will, and those are good things — but also because it will produce a better procurement and thus better program outcomes.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.