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With Protests on the Rise, What Can Agencies Do?

Posted by on Jun 25, 2017 in Acquisition | 0 comments

With Protests on the Rise, What Can Agencies Do?

The Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) Bid Protest Annual Report, published at the end of 2016, revealed that the number of protests increased for the third consecutive year. Furthermore, GAO’s statistics show that bid protests have been climbing for the last several years: The fact that there is an increase probably isn’t a surprise to anyone involved in the world of Federal government contracting. Taken in the context of the budget battles of 2017 (those looming and those in progress), last year’s increase may be a sign of more to...

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In Search of CLPs: You Don’t Have to Look Far, But You Do Have to Look

Posted by on Jun 15, 2017 in Acquisition | 0 comments

In Search of CLPs: You Don’t Have to Look Far, But You Do Have to Look

Have you thought about your continuous learning requirements lately? Or is it something that you keep buried in the back of your mind until the last minute? If so, you’re not alone, and the clock is ticking for annual certification upkeep deadlines. But maybe it’s time to refresh your mindset for continuous learning. Most of us with a professional certification such as DAWIA, Federal Acquisition Certification (FAC), or PMP have to do continuous learning in order to maintain our certification. The purpose behind the learning requirement is to...

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Federal Spotlight: Suzi Inman

Posted by on May 11, 2017 in Acquisition, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Suzi Inman

Suzi Inman serves as Acquisition Management Specialist/Contracting Officer’s Representative at the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane Division, in Crane, Indiana. She is also Vice President for Membership and Chapter Organization for Federally Employed Women (FEW). Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? Suzi Inman: I have been in the Federal service for 27 years. I started out as a GS-3 Clerk Typist, which was to be a short-term...

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3 Steps to Advance Your Contracting Career

Posted by on Feb 15, 2017 in Acquisition | 0 comments

3 Steps to Advance Your Contracting Career

Now that we’re halfway through February, how many of us are still working towards our New Year’s resolutions? If you’ve made it past January 17, the official Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day, then congratulations! And for those who marked the occasion, it’s still early enough in the year to get back on track. Focusing on career advancement commonly makes it to the top of the resolution list every year. Contracting professionals may find that challenging since getting to the next level typically requires successful completion of required...

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On the Horizon: The Status of Category Management

Posted by on Jan 27, 2017 in Acquisition | 0 comments

On the Horizon: The Status of Category Management

With the change in administration comes change in the Federal acquisitions horizon, and there is reasonable concern that the focus on category management could shift. However, while there is much on the new administration’s agenda, it looks like category management is here to stay—at least for now. The concept of category management – bundling similar items to gain a better price when purchasing in large quantities – is not new to Federal acquisitions. The resources to help agencies leverage the Federal government’s buying power to procure...

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Is Fear of Protests Guiding Your Behavior?

Posted by on Oct 20, 2016 in Acquisition | 0 comments

Is Fear of Protests Guiding Your Behavior?

We often hear students and agencies wanting to know how to avoid protests. I think we first need to establish that companies competing for government business have a right to protest when they feel the source selection was improperly conducted. We believe properly conducted debriefings that communicate why the losing offeror was not selected significantly help to prevent protests that offerors feel are the only way to obtain a fair explanation. Other explanations for protests have been argued but the fact remains that transparency in the...

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NCMA World Congress 2016 Recap

Posted by on Aug 10, 2016 in Acquisition | 1 comment

NCMA World Congress 2016 Recap

Last week, I attended the National Contract Management Association’s (NCMA) World Congress 2016. It’s the premier education event for contract management, procurement, and acquisition professionals – and it was their largest one to date. Although I’ve been a member of NCMA since 2012, this was my first time attending World Congress, as well as my first time presenting at the event. The event started with a keynote by Denise Turner Roth, Administrator at the General Services Administration (GSA). In her keynote, Administrator Roth discussed...

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NCMA World Congress 2016 – Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces

Posted by on Jun 30, 2016 in Acquisition | 0 comments

NCMA World Congress 2016 – Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces

After attending my first ever NCMA conference last year – the Government Contract Management Symposium (GCMS) – I made it my mission to secure a spot as a breakout speaker for this year’s NCMA World Congress, the organization’s largest education event for contract management, procurement, and acquisition professionals. Now, only six months removed from GCMS 2015, I am not only hosting a breakout session on a highly relevant Federal acquisition policy issue, but also facilitating that session with a very promising active-duty acquisition...

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Fourth Quarter Preview: What is the SBA up to?

Posted by on Jun 24, 2016 in Acquisition | 0 comments

Fourth Quarter Preview: What is the SBA up to?

As we approach the fourth quarter of the fiscal year, we are coming upon the time of the year when the most simplified acquisitions and awards to small business concerns occur. According to Guy Timberlake of the American Small Business Coalition, during fiscal year 2014 (FY14) “[Federal] agencies spent $11 billion of $19 billion from Q1 to Q3, [meaning] over $8 billion [was spent] from the start of July to the end of September.” Of that $8 billion, $6 billion was obligated under purchase orders and definitive contracts. Furthermore, $5...

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Five Things to Know about SBA’s Proposed Governmentwide Mentor-Protégé Program

Posted by on Apr 20, 2016 in Acquisition | 0 comments

Five Things to Know about SBA’s Proposed Governmentwide Mentor-Protégé Program

In case you haven’t heard, the Small Business Administration (SBA) plans to make a sweeping change to the Mentor-Protégé Program. Stemming from the Small Business Jobs Acts of 2010 (Jobs Act) and the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (FY13 NDAA), the program proposes the expansion of the Mentor-Protégé Program to all small business concerns. If implemented as proposed, the program has the potential to significantly increase the number of Federal contracting opportunities available to small businesses. This is HUGE for both small and...

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ACT-IAC Acquisition Excellence 2016 Recap – The Breakout Session Edition

Posted by on Mar 31, 2016 in Acquisition | 0 comments

ACT-IAC Acquisition Excellence 2016 Recap – The Breakout Session Edition

Earlier this week my colleague, Vi Zenone, discussed some of the outstanding things that occurred during the ACT-IAC Acquisition Excellence 2016 event last week – from the audience rendition of the national anthem to the cleverly placed reference by Claire Grady of “thinking outside the five-sided box” – but what stood out to me was the fact that the event was a realization of the essential mission of ACT-IAC: Advancing Government Through Collaboration, Education & Action. I was fortunate enough to not only attend the event, but also...

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Highlights from ACT-IAC’s 2016 Acquisition Excellence Conference

Posted by on Mar 28, 2016 in Acquisition | 0 comments

Highlights from ACT-IAC’s 2016 Acquisition Excellence Conference

When was the last time you attended a conference and the whole room burst into song? OK, don’t answer that out loud. Typically, for an event where public and private leaders convene to discuss the latest development and updates around acquisition, that is not usually on the agenda. However, at the American Council for Technology–Industry Advisory Council’s (ACT-IAC) Acquisition Excellence conference held in Washington, D.C. last week that is exactly what happened. When there was a minor technical difficulty with playing the national anthem...

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Part Two: FPSW Labor Violations and Takeaways for Contracting Officers

Posted by on Feb 12, 2016 in Acquisition | 0 comments

Part Two: FPSW Labor Violations and Takeaways for Contracting Officers

Earlier this week I provided background on President Obama’s Executive Order on Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces (E.O. 13673) and discussed its impact on the Federal contracting community. Today I’ll go deeper into working with contractors that have labor violations and key takeaways we, the Federal contracting community, must remember as we approached the scheduled released of the final rule on FPSW in April of this year. So, what do I do if a contractor discloses it has a labor violation? Your particular agency’s ALCA will be the lead liaison...

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Part One: Understanding Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces (FPSW) for Contracting Officers

Posted by on Feb 9, 2016 in Acquisition | 0 comments

Part One: Understanding Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces (FPSW) for Contracting Officers

Introduction Released on July 31, 2014, President Obama’s Executive Order on Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces (I call it FPSW – pronounced: fip-swuh) (E.O. 13673) has caused quite a stir within the government contracting community. While proponents of the order believe it to be an effective way to ensure “[F]ederal contractors respect their workers… [and] show [regard] for taxpayer value,” its opponents argue that it is “unnecessarily excessive, largely unworkable and inexecutable [sic],” and that the “cost and risk of [doing business with the...

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Acquisition and Appropriations Law – Making the Connections

Posted by on Jan 20, 2016 in Acquisition, Financial Management | 0 comments

Acquisition and Appropriations Law – Making the Connections

There are many intersections between the two disciplines of Acquisition and Appropriations Law. Federal Acquisition managers more and more must have a fundamental working knowledge of Appropriations Law. Let’s review one of those important areas of connection: applying the Bona Fide Needs Rule with associated scope changes in a contract modification. Contracting officers must certainly be familiar with the Bona Fide Needs Rule/Law (31 USC 1502) to ensure proper year fund use. This seminal doctrine within the body of Appropriations Law states...

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The FY16 NDAA Acquisition Provisions

Posted by on Jan 14, 2016 in Acquisition | 0 comments

The FY16 NDAA Acquisition Provisions

Last year, as we all brined our turkeys and prepared for the annual harvest feast, President Obama signed S.1356, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16) into law. Then, just a week shy of the Christmas holiday, the House, Senate, and President approved the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill needed to fund the government for this fiscal year. While there was a significant amount of discussion last year about “acquisition reform” leading up to the passage of the FY16 NDAA, it was almost exclusively focused on...

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NCMA GCMS 2015 Recap: Breakout Session Edition

Posted by on Dec 23, 2015 in Acquisition | 0 comments

NCMA GCMS 2015 Recap: Breakout Session Edition

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend the National Contract Management Agency (NCMA) Government Contract Management Symposium (GCMS) for the first time! If you missed it, you missed out on a wealth of information and some great networking opportunities. The keynotes were particularly interesting. There was a lot of discussion about where government contracting (“govcon”), as an industry and profession, is today, and, what direction senior executives and officials see it heading in the next few years. With that said, while the GCMS...

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Gov-Scared!

Posted by on Dec 17, 2015 in Acquisition | 0 comments

Gov-Scared!

Phaedra Chrousos, Associate Administrator of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies at GSA captured the attention of an audience of about 900 people on Tuesday morning at the National Contract Management Association (NCMA) Government Contract Management Symposium with a refreshingly realistic perspective on the challenges associated with getting innovative technology companies to do business with government. Phaedra leads the GSA Office of Citizen Services, which includes the 18F organization that’s charged with transforming the way the...

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Working as an Acquisition Team

Posted by on Dec 10, 2015 in Acquisition | 0 comments

Working as an Acquisition Team

Under the Guiding Principles in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), FAR 1.102-3 – Acquisition Team states that identifying the members of the acquisition team encourages teamwork, unity of purpose, and open communication in sharing the vision and achieving the goal of the Federal Acquisition System. This Guiding Principle is often lost in translation as we progress from the development of the requirement to contract closeout, however it is key to ensuring we achieve the best value for the U.S. taxpayer. So who is this acquisition team?...

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Contracting Light Bulb

Posted by on Nov 12, 2015 in Acquisition | 0 comments

Contracting Light Bulb

Our acquisition community takes a lot of hits for failures in the information technology arena. We all know there are many more reasons for those failures than the competency of the acquisition workforce. One culprit to point to is the lack of tools and guidance available to those charged with contracting for IT goods and services. Recently I attended the Federal IT Acquisition Summit (FIAS) held in Washington DC. I came away with an understanding that there are some excellent existing contracts out there for contracting officers to take...

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COR Competencies: The Art of Working Smarter, Not Harder for the Contracting Officer’s Representative

Posted by on Oct 30, 2015 in Acquisition | 4 comments

COR Competencies: The Art of Working Smarter, Not Harder for the Contracting Officer’s Representative

Being a Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) is one of the hardest jobs in Federal government contracting. As a COR, you not only have to be knowledgeable of the technical aspects of the requirement – you also have to be able to interpret the language of the contract. Not only must you have a thorough understanding of the government’s requirements – you must also be able to discern whether the contractor’s performance will deliver those requirements.  Moreover, while you are often the most aware of everything going on with the contract,...

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Challenges in Acquisition Training

Posted by on Aug 10, 2015 in Acquisition | 0 comments

Challenges in Acquisition Training

I ran across this article in the July edition of NCMA Contract Management. It was written by a colleague of mine, Denean Machis. I found that it provided an insightful look at training the acquisition workforce. While training seems to be an easy target to identify as the cause for acquisition failures, the article suggests another, more systemic reason. I recently wrote a blog expressing some problems I see in the way the government buys training. While certification programs provide foundational knowledge, individuals need to be able to...

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FITARA: Improvement or Impasse?

Posted by on Jul 6, 2015 in Acquisition, Project Management | 0 comments

FITARA: Improvement or Impasse?

Anyone associated with government IT acquisitions, project management, or systems operation is likely to be familiar with the recently passed (Dec. 19, 2014) Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA). This overhaul of the IT acquisition and oversight for most Federal agencies and departments is the largest action signed into law since the 1996 Clinger-Cohen Act. There are many opinions and summaries of the FITARA’s requirements and stipulations, we are only going to discuss its potential benefits and possible...

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What Makes a “Practice” Best?

Posted by on Jun 16, 2015 in Acquisition, Project Management | 1 comment

What Makes a “Practice” Best?

During the Civil War (as the story goes) a Union Soldier’s widow approached President Lincoln to complain about her husband’s death. Her complaint was that her husband died, not from a grievous battle wound, but an infection in his feet. It began with sores worn into his feet by the shoes he was issued. Letters to his wife always mentioned how these shoes fell apart when they got wet, never seemed to last long, and had to be constantly repaired with whatever materials he could find. In those days war profiteers (many of whom were Union...

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Training Shouldn’t Be LPTA

Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Acquisition | 0 comments

Training Shouldn’t Be LPTA

There are many reports that impugn the training that the acquisition workforce receives as ineffectual and the cause of poor acquisition execution and achievement of outcomes.  We suggested in a previous blog a way to improve the outcome of training.  In this blog we’d like to take a step back and describe how buying training could be improved and performance improved. As a training and consulting company, we see many solicitations that specify course names and sometimes lengths, but provide no information about why they are buying the...

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When is an RFI not an RFI?

Posted by on Apr 9, 2015 in Acquisition | 0 comments

When is an RFI not an RFI?

Answer:  When the government mistreats it as a solicitation, which is a Request for a Quote (RFQ) (FAR Part 13), Invitation for Bid (IFB) (FAR Part 14), or Request for Proposal (RFP) (FAR Part 15). What was once thought to be a rare aberration was revealed at a recent government-industry conference to be a more widespread phenomenon. During the question and answer period in one session on market intelligence, vendors pointed out what may be a disturbing trend: in at least two major agencies, the government is restricting all communication...

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The Struggle to Improve IT Acquisition

Posted by on Mar 13, 2015 in Acquisition, Project Management | 0 comments

The Struggle to Improve IT Acquisition

The Federal government wastes about half of the $80 billion per year it spends on IT. Agencies spend, on average, seven times more on IT per employee than their counterparts in the private sector. These alarming figures come out of a recent report from the International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers (IAITAM), which criticizes the Federal government’s unreasonably high spending on IT. The report says that, on average, private sector companies spend under $5,000 per employee on IT; while on the Federal side, the report...

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Between the Classroom and the Job – Acquisition Training

Posted by on Feb 26, 2015 in Acquisition | 0 comments

Between the Classroom and the Job – Acquisition Training

“I will apply the new knowledge and skills to my job.” It’s the last day of class. You’re filling out the course evaluation and get to the above statement. You’ve just had a great training experience and without a doubt you’re better now than before you walked in here. You confidently check “yes” and head home for the weekend. But will you apply your knowledge on the job? When? Sadly, many acquisition professionals won’t be taking what they’ve just learned in the classroom and effectively applying it on-the-job—at least not right away. A lot...

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New FAC-P/PM Curriculum Kicks Off

Posted by on Feb 24, 2015 in Acquisition, Project Management | 1 comment

New FAC-P/PM Curriculum Kicks Off

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) 2013 memo outlined the major revisions to the Federal Acquisition Certification for Program and Project Managers (FAC-P/PM) Program, which became effective on March 31, 2014. OFPP’s move to update the program – particularly to incorporate issues surrounding the frequently troubled Federal IT project – shows the government’s dedication to strive for innovation and improvement. Training the Federal workforce should always be a priority, and the moves to update Federal Acquisition Certifications,...

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Career Resolutions for You and Your Staff

Posted by on Jan 22, 2015 in Acquisition, Coaching & Mentoring, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Career Resolutions for You and Your Staff

Each January, we all make resolutions with varying degrees of sincerity and dedication. As we get further and further from New Year celebrations, life has a way of creeping in. Achieving lifestyle changes is not solely about exercise or dieting; it should also be about improving your professional competence and positioning yourself and/or your staff for future success. This year, why not try a different resolution? Are you an individual trying to manage your career? Resolve to focus on your career. Ask for the stretch assignment. Explore...

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Strategic sourcing — Where Are We Today?

Posted by on Jan 20, 2015 in Acquisition | 1 comment

Strategic sourcing — Where Are We Today?

It was two years ago that strategic sourcing became a “thing” again in Federal acquisition. In a watershed moment for Federal strategic sourcing, GAO’s report from October 2012 said that across the board, Federal agencies were only leveraging a fraction of their buying power—leaving as much as $50 billion per year in potential cost savings on the table. The biggest spenders in government—DoD, DHS, Energy, VA—were only managing about five percent of their portfolio through strategic sourcing efforts. Following that report, in December 2012,...

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Federal Acquisition Report: DoD Approves Use of a Blended Rate for Calculating Executive Compensation

Posted by on Dec 10, 2014 in Acquisition | 0 comments

Federal Acquisition Report: DoD Approves Use of a Blended Rate for Calculating Executive Compensation

With increasing public scrutiny of both high executive compensation and the performance of Federal contractors, Congress included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 a provision to lower the amount of executive compensation for which Federal contractors may be reimbursed. The December issue of the Management Concepts Press Federal Acquisition Report explains how the DoD’s decision to allow contractors to use a blended rate will ease the transition to the lower cap.  Here’s an excerpt: The Department of Defense (DoD) will allow contractors to...

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OFPP Memo Charts Acquisition Improvement

Posted by on Dec 8, 2014 in Acquisition | 0 comments

OFPP Memo Charts Acquisition Improvement

New Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) Administrator Anne Rung has laid out her priorities for governmentwide acquisition improvements. In a memo released last week, Rung details the framework from which agencies will work to overcome a complex Federal contracting space that tends to produce “higher costs, slower procurements, and less innovation.” The plan is built around three concepts – category management, developing the acquisition workforce, and vendor relationships. Category ManagementGSA has been refining its category...

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Does Anyone Look at Those End-of-Course Evaluations Anyway?

Posted by on Nov 12, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 2 comments

Does Anyone Look at Those End-of-Course Evaluations Anyway?

When you complete an evaluation, do you ever wonder if anyone actually looks at your responses? Do companies take your feedback seriously and make changes based on what you have to say? If they are asking for your feedback, they should review it and take action when warranted. Anyone who has taken one of Management Concepts training courses knows there will be an end-of-course evaluation to complete. Why? It’s good practice to collect students’ feedback on courses they’ve just taken. We collect feedback about the learning experience including...

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Audit Questions Contractor Teaming Arrangement Oversight

Posted by on Oct 30, 2014 in Acquisition | 0 comments

Audit Questions Contractor Teaming Arrangement Oversight

A schedule contractor teaming arrangement (CTA) is an agreement between two or more Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) contractors to work together in meeting a particular ordering agency’s needs. The arrangements are set up by the team members independent of the government, and allows for firms to compete for work they would not otherwise qualify for, as the arrangements are structured to complement each firm’s capabilities. As long as the final agreement doesn’t conflict with each team member’s individual schedule contracts, the contractors are...

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The Rules for Protesting ID/IQ Task Orders

Posted by on Oct 27, 2014 in Acquisition | 0 comments

The Rules for Protesting ID/IQ Task Orders

With increasing attention on Federal IT procurement and the rules governing such acquisitions, it’s important to understand the rules that apply to protesting the various purchasing vehicles government agencies use to obtain IT services and solutions. A ccording to Deniece Peterson of Deltek, for the last several years Federal agencies have been obtaining more than half of their IT solutions through indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (ID/IQ) contacts, which means that protests are limited unless certain conditions are met. So under what...

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Procurement Workforce Needs New Approach to Training

Posted by on Oct 16, 2014 in Acquisition | 0 comments

Procurement Workforce Needs New Approach to Training

This week, Federal News Radio.com  is airing a three-part special report called “The Missing Pieces of Procurement Reform” and it is well worth tuning in to hear how some of the leading minds on Federal acquisition workforce development are weighing in.   Yesterday’s segment, Acquisition workers as critical thinkers: A change that has to happen  zeroed in on some of the underlying challenges to improving acquisition workforce development, along with some of the innovations and approaches for better preparing the acquisition workforce.   A...

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How to Make Training “Stick”

Posted by on Sep 10, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

How to Make Training “Stick”

As summer is ending and kids are going back to school, I was thinking about ways to get the most out of learning. While there are many reasons for attending a training class, most of us take training to meet a certification requirement, or because we need to improve/expand our skills. Just like we tell our kids to do in school, we know that during training, it’s important to take good notes, interact positively with our instructor and classmates, and pay attention to the lessons that are covered. Doing these things will get you through the...

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Embrace Flexibility, Innovation in Contracting

Posted by on Sep 2, 2014 in Acquisition | 0 comments

Embrace Flexibility, Innovation in Contracting

The White House is encouraging contracting officials to take advantage of existing procurement flexibilities and find innovative ways to achieve acquisition missions. Innovative procurement doesn’t just hinge on IT buys, though that is a major driver of the effort. Policymakers are encouraging contract and program officials to push boundaries, take risks, and engage in a governmentwide discussion on what’s working and what isn’t. The newly-launched U.S. Digital Service recently released the TechFAR Handbook, a guidebook highlighting...

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Does It Make Any Difference?

Posted by on Aug 14, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Does It Make Any Difference?

From time to time it is important to take stock of why we invest our energy in the things that occupy us.   Birthdays, job changes, and retirements are points where we as individuals commonly reflect and ask “does what I do make any difference?” In early August my colleague, Cleve Pillifant, retired from Management Concepts.  He joins the cadre of senior “‘tweens” who work on occasion a few days or weeks here and there, ‘tween work habits compacted over a career and a complete leisure retirement.   Cleve proudly and irreverently (as is his...

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What You Need to Know About OFPP’s New Past Performance Memo

Posted by on Jul 22, 2014 in Acquisition | 0 comments

What You Need to Know About OFPP’s New Past Performance Memo

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) dropped a memo July 10 with some new requirements for the acquisition workforce on the collection and use of contractor past performance information. In recent years, they’ve taken a number of steps to expand the governmentwide use of contractor past performance, from trying to make evaluations more uniform to seeking better reporting compliance. Now OFPP is adding some additional steps in gathering, evaluating, and sharing past performance. The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) doesn’t...

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Don’t Forget the Sammies This 4th of July!

Posted by on Jul 3, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Don’t Forget the Sammies This 4th of July!

I’m not referring to the “sammies” you may be planning for a July 4th picnic celebration, but you can get back to perusing tasty recipes for your holiday menu in just a minute. I’ll be brief. I’m talking about what are referred to as the “Oscars” of government service awards: The Service to America Medals awarded each year by the DC-based Partnership for Public Service. The Sammies recognize “outstanding Federal employees who are making high-impact contributions to the health, safety and welfare of countless Americans and others around the...

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The Moving Pieces of IT Acquisition Reform

Posted by on Jul 1, 2014 in Acquisition | 0 comments

The Moving Pieces of IT Acquisition Reform

The Federal government spent $82 billion on information technology in FY 2014. As overseers from GAO have warned time and again, these Federal IT projects frequently fail, going over budget or beyond schedule, and in the end contributing “little to mission-related outcomes.” This is a pretty damning assessment of how the government spends its money on information technology. A hearing last month before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Oversight Committee brought together some of the major players in IT procurement policy, who...

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Rock Your Next Federal Job Interview

Posted by on Jun 27, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

You’ve completed the self-assessment, submitted your resume via USAjobs.gov, and have been selected for an interview. Now what?  Interviewing can be quite nerve-wracking in general, but can be even more so for a Federal job, which is quite different from interviewing with a private firm. Successful planning and preparing in advance will be the key to success… and hopefully an offer for employment. Below are some tips on preparing for a Federal job interview. Before the interview… Prepare Using the Job Announcement: You applied and tailored...

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4 Generation Workforce: Instructional Challenges for Human Resources & Management Leaders

Posted by on Jun 25, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

“They’ve been called Generation Y. They’ve been called Echo Boomers. They may go by different names, but there’s no debate about their effect on business. They are the fastest growing segment of your employee population. They’ve been trained to use their heads more than their hands to solve problems.  It will take a new set of leadership skills to understand their perspective and motivate them to succeed.”  –  Donald D. Shandler, Ph.D., Assistant Vice President, Graduate and Adult Education, Marymount University, and author of...

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Pop Quiz: How Do You Evaluate Training?

Posted by on Jun 24, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Recently, I’ve encountered several instances where agencies want to make sure they get what they pay for when training their employees. One method that I’ve observed is giving students a test at the beginning and end of a class. At first glance, this makes sense: Let’s make sure the employees are learning something when we spend our scarce training dollars. To understand the limitations of the before and after test, let’s look at Laura, a GS-9 analyst with ambitions to move up to deputy program manager and eventually to program manager. Laura...

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Assuring Successful Adoption of Business Innovations

Posted by on May 27, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 2 comments

It’s common practice for the government and commercial entities to periodically modify their organization’s reporting structure, business processes, and day-to-day procedures to adapt to the changing needs of the agency or company.  And … it’s human nature to be resistant or hesitant to the accepting the changes, or confused by the new ideas that result from those actions.   Senior leadership tends to introduce the “new ways of doing things” through policies, memos, all-hands meetings, and the all too frequent “word of mouth.”  Although these...

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Employee Performance: Do You See the Big Picture?

Posted by on May 27, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Linda, a supervisor of an eight-person analysis team, went home every night for a week frustrated that her team wasn’t getting the job done. She shared her frustrations with her husband over dinners, “Maybe this team just doesn’t have what it takes. Charles and Kelly don’t seem to understand some of the analyses we do. And, Jose and Pat just seem apathetic most of the time.” Linda’s husband asks, “Wait, didn’t you invest a lot in training those four last year? Remember how many dinners I ate alone because you were doing their work while they...

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Moving Beyond Just Training: FAC-C Signals Shift to Career Development

Posted by on May 23, 2014 in Acquisition | 0 comments

Preparing the Federal acquisition workforce to achieve agency missions won’t be accomplished by training alone. Effectively developing the workforce involves a more holistic, involved, analytical approach. And contracting professionals should take note: “checking the box” certification won’t cut it. OFPP recently revised FAC-C, and the move marks a significant change in the career development approach for the civilian agency contracting workforce. The memo calls out a number of development activities, such as rotational assignments,...

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Use the Active Voice for More Impactful Writing

Posted by on May 8, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

We often lessen the impact of our writing by using the passive voice. In The Government Manager’s Guide to Plain Language, I offer some very practical guidance and examples that illustrate how government managers can add directness and impact to their communications, both with their staff and with the public. Give it a try with something you’ve written recently. See the difference? PREFER THE ACTIVE VOICE In an active sentence, the person or agency performing an action is the subject of the sentence. In a passive sentence, the person or item...

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Assess Before You Diagnose

Posted by on Apr 22, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

I opened my copy of Performance Improvement recently and was excited to read “An Ounce of Good Assessment is Worth A Pound of Analysis and A Ton of Cure” by Roger Kaufman. It is only natural for managers and executives to diagnose their organizations. They want quick answers. The sooner they can figure out what is causing a problem, the sooner they can focus on getting “real work” done. When I go to the doctor, I am the same way. I’ve already Googled my symptoms and think I know what’s wrong. I don’t want to spend time talking about the...

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FAS Chief Aims to Chart the Future of Government Buying

Posted by on Apr 18, 2014 in Acquisition | 0 comments

GSA wants to be the buying agency for the federal government—both now and in the future. To further consolidate what, in recent blog post, Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) chief Thomas Sharpe referred to as a “fragmented acquisition landscape” GSA is working on a new approach and establishing a new platform for government procurement; one he hopes will ensure that the government will “act as one” when buying. Specifically, Sharpe is pushing the idea of category management, which—once implemented—would “guide federal agencies to the right...

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Senate Approves DATA Act, Final Passage Expected Soon

Posted by on Apr 14, 2014 in Acquisition, Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

On Thursday, April 10, the Senate approved the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) by unanimous consent.  The Senate action follows weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations between House and Senate supporters, and the approved bill represents a compromise between the two chambers. The House, which previously approved another version of the DATA Act by a 388-1 vote in November, is expected to give final approval to the bill in the next few weeks. The DATA Act is designed to increase transparency and accountability of federal...

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Is ILT Dying?

Posted by on Apr 8, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Yes, ILT (instructor-led training) is dying, but we need not mourn its loss. Instead, we should realize we are standing on the brink of something exhilarating: the reincarnation of instructor-led training as virtual instructor-led training (VILT). The traditional brick-and-mortar ILT classroom has been smoldering for a while now. As federal travel budgets shrink and training dollars dry up (although the future of training is looking up), organizations are seeking alternatives to fill their training needs. Organizations are continually looking...

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Tips for Government Managers to Overcome Writer’s Block

Posted by on Apr 3, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Whether writing a business plan, memo, or report, one of the hardest tasks government managers face in writing is getting started. In my recent book, The Government Manager’s Guide to Plain Language, I offer some  tips to help you break through the writer’s block we all experience—and also to help you make an initial assessment of what you have written before passing it along for editing and review.   TIPS FOR WRITING DRAFTS To make the draft stage easier and more productive, consider the following steps: • Once you have a complete...

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What is the Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring?

Posted by on Mar 28, 2014 in Acquisition, Coaching & Mentoring, Leadership | 0 comments

One of the most frequent sources of confusion about coaching is what it is in relation to mentoring. There are some distinct differences, and then some practices that can overlap. The distinction is important, as most groups in leadership development activities typically reverse the true definitions. The key difference is that a mentor usually has some superior knowledge, wisdom or experience, and is able to give helpful, specific information to a mentee. A mentor might understand the politics of the organization, know who’s who or how to get...

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Contract Negotiation: The Ambiguous Authority Tactic

Posted by on Feb 20, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management, Uncategorized | 0 comments

In The Government Manager’s Guide to Contract Negotiation, author LeGette McIntyre offers federal negotiators a host of tactics they can use to get a solid, fair deal for their agency. One of these tactics is the “ambiguous authority” tactic—which we’ve all been subjected to when we’ve bought a car! How do you employ the tactic to get the best deal for the government? Share some experiences with your colleagues and we’ll all be better prepared for the next negotiation!   THE AMBIGUOUS AUTHORITY TACTIC You can use the ambiguous authority...

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Healthcare.gov and the Impact on P/PM in 2014

Posted by on Jan 2, 2014 in Acquisition, Project Management | 0 comments

I know I’ve mentioned this throughout this blog, but we all know that Healthcare.gov has been the hot Federal IT topic in 2013.  This legendary flawed rollout will have ramifications on federal acquisition reform for 2014 and years to come. Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president of public sector at the Information Technology Industry Council said yesterday: “HealthCare.gov is critical because it has ignited a discussion on IT acquisition in Washington not seen since the 1980s. There is an alignment of political will on the issue and a healthy...

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Play Dumb to Get What You Want: The Question Tactic in Negotiation

Posted by on Dec 27, 2013 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Play Dumb to Get What You Want: The Question Tactic in Negotiation

Negotiation skills aren’t just for entrepreneurs on Shark Tank. Federal managers can also benefit from mastering these valuable skills. In The Government Manager’s Guide to Contract Negotiation, LeGette McIntyre offers some very specific tactics that could help any fed facing a tough negotiation. Here’s a great example from the book that McIntyre calls “The Question Tactic.” Try this in your next meeting and let us know your results. THE QUESTION TACTIC In any negotiation, knowledge is power. You increase your power relative to the other side...

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Don’t Forget Your Kids…or Necessary Training! OFPP Updates FAC-P/PM

Posted by on Dec 19, 2013 in Acquisition, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

You know what else will help avoid Healthcare.gov repeats in the future?  Better equipped Federal project and program managers. The Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) has just released updated guidance (new since 2007) on the Federal Acquisition Certification for Program and Project Managers (FAC-P/PM) requirements. As Jason Miller, at FederalNewsRadio.com reported, “Under new requirements from the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, agency Chief Acquisition Officers (CAOs) no longer have the option to waive all or part of the...

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Federal Contract Source Selection…Let’s Work Together

Posted by on Dec 11, 2013 in Acquisition, Project Management | 0 comments

When involved in Federal acquisition source selection, Charles Solloway, Jr., author of The Government Manager’s Guide to Source Selection, highlights the need for stakeholder consensus as imperative to contractual success. Solloway believes the need for stakeholders to collaborate is not just a business cliché, but rather a vital step in the procurement process.  Any stakeholder can be a showstopper in the effort to reach a timely consensus on how to proceed with an acquisition. Reaching a consensus is no easy matter. Here are his methods...

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You’ve Got the “Write” Stuff – Top 10 Pitfalls of Effective Fed-Contractor Communication

Posted by on Dec 9, 2013 in Acquisition, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

OK, So the New Kids on the Block song may be a bit out of date.  (I wouldn’t necessarily still call them “new”).  But having the right stuff in collaborative work environments is still vitally important – specifically with the Fed-Contractor relationship, as it relates to these large-scale (and high profile) projects and programs. But what do I mean by the “write” stuff?  Well, in an era of practically only written communication, if you think about it, (email, text, etc.) everyone – regardless of career – should be effective written...

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99 Problems But a Communications Plan Ain’t One

Posted by on Dec 5, 2013 in Acquisition, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

As we near the end of 2013 and (hopefully) the end of “Obamacare-gate,” Feds and contractors alike need to get a jump on improving the management and collaborative work of these large-scale IT projects we’re expecting more of in 2014 and the years to come.  A good place to start? Let’s communicate better. In a previous blog, I noted the New York Times wrote about communication issues between the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and its prime contractor, which failed at effectively communicating all requirements of the...

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Stop, Collaborate, and Listen – Fixing Federal Project Management

Posted by on Dec 2, 2013 in Acquisition, Leadership, Project Management | 1 comment

We’ve seen a lot in the news about the issues (and failures) of large-scale projects coming to successful completion – and specifically, IT projects are at the forefront of high-profile Federal programs.  Obama’s focus on open government to citizens will only require more major IT initiatives throughout agencies.  So, we need to be looking at how to avoid Healthcare.gov repeats.  Our recommendation?  Invest more in the beginning of the project lifecycle. In the Project Management Answer Book, we include the Top Ten Pitfalls to Avoid When...

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Speak Up! Better Requirements Management at the Heart of Federal IT Project Success

Posted by on Nov 25, 2013 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

In a recent article, Roger Waldron, president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, highlights the ongoing issue of government clearly defining what it needs in IT projects, and ensuring the contractor understands exactly what is needed.  Otherwise known as?  A better discussion on requirements – to avoid the Healthcare.gov or SBInets of the future. Particularly difficult are coming to agreements on the large-scale IT project requirements.  Due to the government acquisition process, more often than not the technology itself moves...

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An Agile Approach Will Help the Fed Acquisition Workforce Successfully Chart Their Course

Posted by on Nov 21, 2013 in Acquisition, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

In a recent news article, both Feds and industry weighed in on the importance of a strong Federal acquisition workforce to better equip for large-scale IT project success – but that their historical hesitancy to avoid change and risk pits them in a waterfall environment, rather than an agile approach, that has better secured project success.  Moving to agile will enable fewer Federal projects that are running aground. Is your agency ready for an agile approach?  Well the government thinks so.  GAO ran a report in July, 2012 recommending that...

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Have You Reached a Negotiation Deadlock? Break Through with the Set-Aside Tactic.

Posted by on Jul 30, 2013 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Leadership | 1 comment

What if you’re representing your agency in the middle of a negotiation with a contractor and you reach a deadlock? What can you do to keep the negotiation moving forward—and to gain the competitive advantage? In his book, The Government Manager’s Guide to Contract Negotiation, author LeGette McIntyre offers the “set-aside” tactic as an effective way to keep things moving in your favor. Has this tactic ever worked for you? Is there a chance it could backfire? THE SET-ASIDE TACTIC Deadlocks happen in negotiations, and the set-aside tactic is...

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Find Out if Your Organization is Prepared for Agile

Posted by on Apr 29, 2013 in Acquisition, Project Management | 0 comments

More and more agencies are transitioning to Agile project management. Management Concepts would like to help you assess whether your organization is ready to adopt an Agile framework. We have a brief assessment that will take no more than 5 minutes to complete. After you complete the assessment we will provide your results, which will tell you how prepared your organization is for Agile. Take the assessment...

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The Sequester is Here

Posted by on Mar 1, 2013 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

Barring a last minute compromise, the  sequester will become a reality tonight. In preparation for the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts, OMB released a memo yesterday detailing the effect of the sequester on important government functions. Included in the memo is an explanation of how grant funding will be impacted. The excerpt from the memo about financial assistance is provided below. “Given the widespread use of grants, loans, and other Federal financial assistance to non-federal entities (e.g., State, local and tribal, non-profit...

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