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Nick Wakeman

Facing down the challenge of post-award management

A recent posting by Steve Kelman and Dan Chenok on the Lectern blog at FCW.com is definitely worth reading.

They recount a not-for-attribution roundtable they hosted with Chenok’s employer, the IBM Center for the Business of Government, that featured a group of contracting officer representatives.

The focus of the discussion was post-award contract management, which they rightly described as receiving “little attention, low visibility and often insufficient resources from government and industry alike.” They probably could add the media to that list as well.

Kelman has written several posts on the Lectern on post-award contract management, which he describes as the third stage of procurement after acquisition planning and source selection. “It is during this third stage that the acquisition rubber meets the performance road,” Kelman and Chenok wrote.

During the discussion, the contracting officer representatives, or CORs, talked about the perception that the role of the CORs is not viewed as part of the cadre of skilled leaders. “They often perform the COR duty as a side responsibility in an ‘other duties as assigned’ manner that is secondary to their day job,” Kelman and Chenok wrote.

But at the same time a central theme emerged that the COR is perhaps the one official most involved in monitoring and managing contractor performance.

To me, there is a disconnect between the importance of the role CORs play and the lack of stature the position holds.

The Lectern post goes on to describe the challenges CORs see to successful contract management:

  • Too much emphasis on reducing risk and following standard processes instead of approaching contracts as an opportunity to deliver value
  • Feedback cycles that are too long and slow to affect outcomes
  • Compliance requirements that don’t add value
  • High turnover of CORs and contracting officers
  • Poor communication. CORs are often out of the loop on decisions that project managers and executives have made. Or they are pulled in only when something goes wrong
  • Lack of tactical and operational training, especially in person, which could build an advice network among CORs

Kelman and Chenok also present several recommendations based on the roundtable discussion. For example, agency executives should be involved in post-award briefings to keep them in engaged. A roundtable participant told the story of how an agency head met quarterly with company CEOs to review progress on key acquisitions.

There also is a need for more frequent feedback on vendor performance. “Moving from annual to quarterly or even monthly feedback can improve outcomes and reduce risks,” they wrote.

Another recommendation that focused on what industry can do is conduct joint industry-government training sessions. CORs need to understand vendors’ perspectives.

Another idea is to do more reverse industry days that allow industry to talk to government about internal processes and how they react to government requirements.

The Lectern blog goes into much more detail on the issues and challenges of post-award contract management from the CORs perspective. I highly recommend reading it. There are good insights into what CORs face and that can only help how you work with them.

And I hope government and industry takes these kinds of postings as a call to action. There is plenty of work to be done.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on May 19, 2016 at 8:39 AM

Reader Comments

Mon, May 23, 2016 Jared Nutumbo Washington, DC

People in this business for decades all no a truth never uttered in public: civil servants, including ones who are competent in other things, tend to be incompetent, risk averse, and ineffective in procurement planning, source selection, and contract oversight. It is high time to outsource these functions exclusively to special-purpose FFRDCSs, which would be banned from any other source of income

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