Monday, May 11, 2015
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Sunday, April 19, 2015
Thursday, April 16, 2015
One of the most difficult challenges project managers have in creating the preliminary project package is the Independent Government Cost Estimate (IGCE).
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Monday, March 30, 2015
Reverse auctions are back in the news yet again this week, highlighted by recent testimony before the House Small Business committee, in which the discussion revolved around the proper use of reverse auctions, and potential to harm both the government and industry without clear guidance and policy.
This is nothing new. Government Accountability Office (GAO) were critical of the process, in addition to criticism by the Small Business Committee’s Contracting and Workforce Subcommittee, which held a with the Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.
Firstly, I think reverse auctions are a great tool to save money, increase competition (especially for small businesses), and speed up procurement times. However, there is one caveat: when used appropriately.
On that note, one of the best articles on appropriate usage came from Stan Soloway of the Professional Services Council, who advised the proper use should come through simple commodity buys where requirements are not to any level of sophistication that warrant another buying method:
…Reverse auctions and strategic sourcing, along with the precipitous rise in low bid buying and efforts to create standardized labor rates that ignore how high performing businesses have to be run, reflect a broader and disturbing tendency toward commoditizing both people and capabilities. This trend assumes that the ability to do something minimally or adequately equates to doing it well, let alone exceptionally well. It understates the critical importance of historic performance and ignores the reality that high quality professional services and technology are highly nuanced and constantly evolving….
I have written about this issue in the past (), and the GAO report started the salvo of calling into the question the use of reverse auctions through disturbing findings at the center of testimony provided by Michelle Mackin, Director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management at the GAO:
Of course, one of the main issues with reverse auctions is the transparency and oversight of the process and the contracts themselves. Dan Gordon said in his hearing that this function is "inherently governmental." He also stated:
…FedBid has an organizational conflict of interest. They control the data. They control the information," said Gordon. "They have a financial interest in having as many reverse auctions as possible, regardless of whether the procurement is suitable for one…
The vast majority of reverse auctions are run through FedBid, the Vienna, VA, based company that got a slap on the wrist after an inspector general report from Veterans Affairs exposed major issues with ethics and business practices.
The most troubling issue is the negative consequences that happen more often than not to small businesses, as the race to the bottom continues to put undue pressure on companies that are already struggling to survive in this hyper-competitive federal market.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
The federal government, and contractors that supply goods and services to the government, do amazing, lifesaving work every day. We normally take for granted these services, like clean air, safe water, and the one of the best standards of living in the world.
So why do feds and contractors have such a bad reputation outside DC?
Well, there is no question that there is a concerted effort, driven by politics, to denigrate public service and the government itself. Regretfully, these messages are very powerful, and overshadow those messages of the important work the government, along with support contractors, currently perform.
However, the two points Mr. Rose makes are both a question and an enigma:
…Government should be more aggressive in telling its good news to people who understand it, and want to hear and repeat it…
No doubt. This is one thing that government does very poorly. Strategic communications is just something that government apparently does not seem to do well, especially as it pertains to sustaining a message, and getting stakeholder buy in.
When the MythBusters initiative launched at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) in 2011, I had always made it a point to cover this initiative, as it pertained to market research and communicating with industry, in classes that I taught to federal project managers. Many students had heard of this campaign, and the information we covered in the classes resonated well.
A few years later, it is rare that any student has even heard of the initiative.
One initiative that can hopefully turn this trend around comes again from OFPP, by way of the Anne Rung, the administrator, who launched a series of podcasts highlighting successes with some agency's prominent procurements.
The inaugural podcast featured Mark Naggar, project manager of the Department of Health and Human Services' Buyers Club. He detailed the use of the TechFAR Handbook and the Digital Services Playbook, on which his team built services using agile and iterative practices to and quickly contract and deliver the development of IT system prototypes.
It is these type of things that government should do more of, and get the message out there about success government is having.
The second point:
…Companies that sell in the government space should be more thoughtful about the stories they tell…
This one is a mystery. Many companies spend substantial resources on creating case studies, white papers, and discussing their products and services as a part of their marketing. Nonetheless, the message about their great work seems to be lost in the cacophony of failures of government, and how contractors are either at fault or guilty by association.
I could not agree more with Mr. Rose, as we need more success stories out there from both sides. They exist, so we all need to help overcome the challenges that missteps create in exacerbating an already bad public perception.