A call for better management
FCW columnist and procurement expert Steve Kelman has put out a call – he calls it a plea – to discuss how to get more resources and talent for post-award contract management.
He rightly points out in his Lectern blog that procurement is a neglected stepchild of public management, and that post-award contract management is a step-child of a stepchild. Yet the ultimate success or failure of a contract depends on how well it is managed after award.
One of the big challenges to improving post-award contract management is a lack of in-house skills. Kelman traces the erosion of these skills to the 1990s when the government began outsourcing more responsibilities to contractors and the significant downsizing of the acquisition workforce that came about as a result.
Kelman argues that the government needs to rebuild its in house capabilities. These capabilities include how to negotiate contract modifications and evaluating deliverables.
To get the discussion rolling, he offers three examples of initiatives to improve how the government manages contracts post-award.
- 18F and the U.S. Digital Service
- Independent verification and validation contracting
- Personal services contracting
18F and the U.S. Digital Service has been hailed by many as a new way of delivering results to the government faster and more efficiently, but there are cultural issues as well with concerns about politics and publicity and a touch of arrogance.
IV&V has been around a long time, but little attention is paid to it. Is it successful? Does it really help? These are questions Kelman says are worth exploring.
Personal services contracting is a prohibited. It is defined as an individual from outside an organization but is under more or less constant supervision from a government manager. In essence, they are an employee. But if they are an employee, then they should be hired like one and not as a contractor.
But there could be benefits particularly for contract management and IT.
Kelman puts these out as discussion points, as a way of starting a much needed conversation.
I’ll throw out a fourth: greater disclosure and transparency. I know there are risks here, but too often a contract is awarded and it disappears, unless something horrible goes wrong. It shouldn’t be that way.
I think better post-award management is important for contractors because the smarter your customer, the better your business. So, I encourage you to read and comment on Kelman’s blog. His knowledge and insights into the nuances of the procurement system are unmatched. And few are as dedicated to the idea of good government as he is.
Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jan 12, 2016 at 11:13 AM