Shifting landscape requires training

Forget everything you know about federal procurement. Years worth of knowledge and insights have little relevancy due to the wholesale overhaul of procurement regulations over the last two years. To compete in the new world order government and industry executives are finding the need to refresh their old bags of tricks.

"We are seeing nothing short of a monumental need for retraining both government people and the private industry. I participate in training classes and am flabbergasted at the lack of understanding on industry's part of the impact and importance of what has happened " said Bob Dornan senior vice president of the marketing research firm Federal Sources Inc. one of a core group of local companies making a good business these days briefing government officials and vendors on new procurement regulations. "We can't give training classes fast enough " he said.

New Laws Drive Training Boom

It is not just a zest for learning that is driving industry sales forces and business development staffs to training firms. Key procurement reform legislation - such as the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (FASA) the Federal Acquisition Reform Act (FARA) and the Information Technology Management Reform Act - along with the government's emphasis on multiple awards has boosted competition. Learning the new ropes is now considered a survival skill.

"The old style of selling where you won a proposal and were the only ones allowed to sell from it are over. Now you have to wake up every morning and still compete " said Terry Kelly president of Terry Kelly Associates Inc. another firm specializing in training for federal contractors. "I am teaching the practical responses available " she said.

Smaller issues - such as the specifics of how high-profile regulations impact a particular purchase order - can cause big problems for the more junior members of a company's sales staff according to Al Young research director of the Acquisition Planning Service for IDC Government. "Guys like those who go to [Office of Federal Procurement Policy administrator Steven] Kelman's briefings know what is going on. But the people who do the work don't."

To make sure that knowledge trickles down companies such as Dell Computer Corp. are making an investment in their sales staff. A company spokesman confirmed that 60 members of its federal sales staff underwent training in Washington D.C. and Austin Texas.

Mel Paisley national federal sales manager for Hewlett-Packard Co. agreed. "I think it is key that the sales team really understands the implications of the changes."

Government Technology Services Inc. estimates that its training hours per sales representative have at least tripled. The company is now providing its 130 sales reps with 10 to 12 hours of training on the new regulations alone. That is up from an average of three to four hours in previous years according to John Campbell vice president of sales and customer operations.

Following FASA the first wave of major procurement overhaul the General Services Administration's Federal Acquisition Institute partnered with other agencies such as the Defense Department to offer workshops to procurement employees governmentwide said Fred Sims deputy associate administrator for information technology. Sims said it is too early to conduct similar training sessions on FARA.

But GSA is hearing from a greater number of government personnel interested in programs such as the Trail Boss Educational Program and the 1 000 by 2000 Program. "In general anytime you are undergoing any type of significant change like the one that we are now peoples' interest in training tends to peak " Sims said.

The Internal Revenue Service also offers procurement training including courses on new acquisition techniques through its Treasury Acquisition Institute in Oxon Hill Md. For More on Procurement SeminarsGeneral Services Administration* Trail Boss - Chuck Ross (202) 501-1136 or chuck.ross@gsa.gov.* 1 000 by 2000 - Annie Barr (202) 208-2780 or annie.barr@gsa.gov.Internal Revenue Service* Treasury Acquisition Institute - Nick Nayak (202) 283-0983 or nick.nayak@ccmail.irs.gov.Federal Sources Inc. - Betsy Woods (703) 610-8711 or woodsb@fedsources.com.Terry Kelly Associates Inc. - (703) 450-6048 or Tkseminar@aol.com.IDC Government - Al Young (703) 876-5055 or events@idcg.com.

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