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Posted by on Dec 23, 2015

NCMA GCMS 2015 Recap: Breakout Session Edition

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 keynotes and executive panels provided a wealth of information, I feel that too often the smaller sessions at conferences such as this receive little to no attention in blog posts. So, being the fair person that I am, I wanted to take this time to recap some of the smaller breakout sessions that I attended at GCMS this year.

Not only did these smaller sessions touch on highly relevant topics to the govcon professionals of today, they also provided an opportunity to network, have some fun, and learn something new!

My breakout session agenda began with one of the new interactive breakout sessions – and let me set it up like this…

What do you get when you combine: five tables, twelve govcon professionals at each table, a stack of index cards with FAR questions printed on them, a game board, foam cars, and monochromatic money?

Answer: The Contracts Management Board Game – and it was entertaining to say the least!

At each table, you had senior executives from the Federal government and private industry mixed with mid- and entry-level professionals, all battling it out to see who was most knowledgeable about the FAR, while trying to advance around the board. Think “Monopoly” for the contracting professional!

It was loud! It was entertaining! And, it was definitely one of the highlights of the breakout sessions.

While the next session I attended was not about winning money, or advancing around a board – it was about strategizing. “Applying Strategy: Theory and Application in Strategic Sourcing” provided govcon professionals with a framework within which to think about strategic sourcing. Mr. Al Muñoz, Director of Strategic Sourcing at the Department of Agriculture, framed sourcing into three categories:

  • Tactical, in which govcon professionals are responding to a sourcing requirement for which no sourcing system currently exists (e. a stand-alone purchase order)
  • Reactive, in which govcon professionals are responding to a sourcing requirement for which there is a sourcing system currently in place (e. a blanket purchase order)
  • Strategic, in which govcon professionals are ahead of the requirement and are constantly maintaining information about the market conditions and other socioeconomic factors dealing with such requirement (e. a delivery or task order taking all things into consideration)

(Disclaimer: This is my summarization of the concepts presented. These are not direct quotes from the presentation.)

It was a very interesting presentation, and very valuable to govcon professionals in that it provided a framework within which to think about sourcing requirements. The presentation definitely highlighted the fact the government still has some distance to cover when it comes to strategic sourcing – and category management is supposed to be one of those efforts accelerating the government in that direction.

For the next breakout session, being that I am highly obsessed with professional development topics (seriously, ask my wife), I attended a session titled, “Mission-Focused Organizational Alignment: Guiding Principles and Insights,” which was presented by Mr. James N. Phillips, Jr., Acquisition Chief at the VA National Center for Patient Safety, Ms. Allie Stanzione, Senior Contracts Manager at General Dynamics Mission Systems, and Mr. John W. Wilkinson, President at tHInc, LLC.

The session was based on three separate articles written by each of the individuals, and it was broken-down into three segments dealing with different aspects of organizational, and personal, alignment: (1) mission-focused acquisition management, (2) organizational alignment of the contracting function, and (3) professional development.

The first segment touched on what is required of a govcon professional to successfully serve the customer and end-user, when the easy answer to the customer is “no.” The second segment discussed a study which provided evidence that the effectiveness of a contracting function within an organization may depend on where the contracting function sits within an organization’s structure (i.e. is it a finance function; a legal function; a stand-alone function with its own c-suite executive, etc.). The third segment was particularly important to me in that it discussed what professional development should mean to a govcon professional as alluded to in FAR 1.102-2(c)(1).

Overall, the session touched on some great topics. I would actually like to see a presentation along the same lines at every NCMA conference. After all, the key to a successful government contracting career is knowing where one is today, where one wants to be tomorrow, and how to get there. Sessions like this remind us that professional development is an ongoing process, and as your positions and goals change, you must adjust your plan accordingly.

The final breakout session I attended was titled, “Cybercompliance in Government Contracting: 2015 and Beyond,” and boy was it information-heavy – and HIGHLY relevant in the current cyber-security focused world we live.

It was presented by Mr. Christian Henel, Esq., Attorney at Law at Thompson Hine, LLP, and Mr. Aria Mansuri, Principal Product Manager & Information System Security Officer at Distributed Solutions, Inc.

I have to say, I learned A LOT from this session – honestly, too much to go into in this post, but I will say that, if you work in compliance, I highly recommend you take a look at the presentation. Many topics were discussed from what NIST 800-171/800-53 and FISMA are to the recent DoD Interim Rule released in August of 2015, and particularly the issue of cybercompliance responsibility being shifted to contractors.

It is definitely a presentation to glance at – even if just to become familiar with what cybercompliance really is. There’s definitely more than meets the eye!

Overall, I had a great time attending the GCMS this year. It was a great first experience.

In between the keynotes, executive panels, and breakout sessions, I was also able to network with some of the great individuals in this profession of ours…

After this year, I doubt I will ever miss another the GCMS, and I hope to be at World Congress in sunny (albeit, humid) Orlando come July!

If you were at the GCMS and you stopped by our Management Concepts booth, thank you – it was great chatting with you! Reach out to me on LinkedIn – I’d love to continue the conversations.

And, if you weren’t at the GCMS, I hope to see you there next year!

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