Acquisition officials share tips on communication, transparency

Best practices include NASA's "one-day clock," frequent e-mail updates

Federal IT professionals can increase their chances of success by improving communications with program managers and by making their activities more transparent to vendors, executives said at the Federal IT Acquisition Summit on April 26.

At NASA, one of the practices that has boosted communications between contracting officers and program managers is the one-day rule, Joanne Woytek, program manager for NASA'S Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement contract vehicle, said in a panel discussion by governmentwide acquisition vehicle executives.

“We have a one-day clock,” Woytek said. “Everything [communication] has to happen within one day, usually within minutes. We have streamlined internal communications.”

Another helpful practice at NASA is for the program manager to issue frequent e-mail message updates.


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"Some people have even suggested we could ‘dial it back,’ ” Woytek said. “We are telling them everything that happens on an order. It is new for people to realize they can get information without waiting for a phone call.”

And fulfilling basic duties such as answering phones is still important, she added. “People say, it’s funny thing: 'You answer your phone!' Yes, we actually do answer the phone.”

The National Institutes of Health Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center has seen the benefits of bringing program managers and contracting officers together in training, said Robert Coen, deputy program director.

He said another help is having defined roles and responsibilities. “We have systems to place orders and to show roles and responsibilities,” Coen said.

“We reach out to the program side and the contracting side,” added Michael O’Neill, deputy director of Government Wide Acquisition Programs at the General Services Administration. “You cannot have too much communication.

Federal acquisition officials also have found it beneficial to increase transparency, said Robert Burton, partner with Venable LLP, who moderated the panel discussion. One practice that's catching on is for contracting officials to offer debriefings to vendors following an award.

Out of respect for the time and energy that vendors have put into making a bid, contracting officials should provide the losing vendors with feedback on how the selection was made and how their bids could have been better, O'Neill said.

“You have to take the time to respond,” added O’Neill. “We need to respond with meaningful feedback.”






About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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