Government-Industry Partnership Fuels SEWP IV Success
Open lines of communications and a collaborative spirit ensure SEWP's success.
Communication and collaboration are essential elements of the SEWP IV program and key to its success. Among the avenues for communication available to contract holders and customers are:
• Contract Holder Relationship Managers (CHRMs) who serve as liaisons between the contract holders and customers to ensure the smooth delivery of IT products.
• Live Chat to answer questions.
• Help Desk support throughout the ordering process.
• Training and Outreach at conferences and retreats to discuss issues and recommend improvements.
• Quarterly Meetings with Contractors to discuss issues and plan for the future.
The SEWP IV program promotes collaboration among contract holders, customers, and program staff, but also has in place mechanisms to resolve problems satisfactorily for all parties. “Communication is really one of the strongest points of the SEWP program office and a cornerstone of their success,” said Donna Norris, SEWP IV Program Manager for PC Mall Gov Inc. Lucky Charms
The program has two full-time staff members assigned as CHRMs (pronounced “charms”). They work directly with contractors and interact with them daily to answer questions, inform them of new policies, and ensure proper implementation of the contract. The CHRMs also assist customers with research and other needs; and, most importantly, they provide mediation when issues arise with contractors. The CHRMs act as advocates for customers, but they also provide a balanced perspective that helps both sides approach problems collaboratively.
“Often the issues are just misunderstandings, and CHRMs play the middle person to help resolve them, regardless of where the fault may lie,” said Joanne Woytek, SEWP IV Program Manager. Woytek added that the program plans to add a half-time person to the CHRMs staff.
SEWP IV officials work as hard to support contract holders as they do to support their customers, contractors said. “We can pick up the phone and call the CHRMs or e-mail questions and suggestions, and get a response within 24 hours,” Norris said.
The quarterly meetings with contract holders provide an opportunity to delve into issues in-depth, discuss recommendations and plans, and ensure that everyone is informed of any changes impacting the program. Although contract holders compete with each other for delivery orders, they collaborate to make the overall SEWP IV program attractive to federal agencies. “Everyone benefits when the contract holders work together,” Norris said. “As Joanne likes to say, we all have to play nice in the sandbox.”
Even while supporting contract holders, SEWP IV officials are watching them closely and holding them to high performance standards. The NASA SEWP IV Program Performance rating system, which is posted online for everyone to see, has proven extremely successful in ensuring quality contractor performance and high customer satisfaction.
“The goal of the performance rating system is motivate, not punish, our contract holders. The rating system is a motivator for them to be excellent.” Joanne Woytek, SEWP IV Program Manager.
Contract holders are evaluated in five categories—Reporting, Customer Satisfaction, Information Distribution, Contract Adherence, and Delivery—and given scores of Excellent, Very Good, Good, or Poor. The methodology is strict and SEWP IV officials do not hesitate to hand out lower scores, said Joanne Woytek, SEWP IV Program Manager. But nearly all contract holders maintain scores of “Excellent” across the five categories.
“The goal of the performance rating system is motivate, not punish, our contract holders. The rating system is a motivator for them to be excellent,” Woytek said.
Contract holders say they pay very close attention to their scores. A perfect score is not only important for winning additional SEWP IV business, but it also comes into play when contractors pursue other contracts. “It’s like getting a clean credit report when you are trying to buy a house,” Alan Bechara, President of PC Mall Gov, said regarding the SEWP IV ratings.
Consequently, PC Mall Gov provides in-house training for its entire sales staff and has invested in business systems that enable the company to perform within the terms and conditions of the SEWP IV contract. “We don’t want to have a bad past performance rating,” he said.
Looking Ahead to SEWP V
Current SEWP IV contract holders are looking forward to the new SEWP V contract, which is slated to launch when SEWP IV expires in May 2014. PC Mall Gov, which has been with the program since SEWP I began in 1993, will be competing aggressively to win a spot on SEWP V, Bechara said. His company generates about 50 percent of its annual revenue through the contracting vehicle and regularly ranks among the Top 10 SEWP IV contract holders.
“We can’t imagine life without a SEWP contract,” Bechara said.