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formerfed

FITARA implementation

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GAO just released a report on agency best practices for Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) implementation.  Some of those pertaining to acquisition are centralize software license purchases, transition data centers to virtual or cloud, and consolidate data centers when appropriate.  All of these involve contracting in varying degrees.

To me, this involves lots of opportunities for 1102s to do new and challenging work, learn, grow, and receive promotions.  But what I see way too much of is 1102s doing little, waiting for training and instructions on how to proceed.  Few seem willing to educate themselves and volunteer to become involved.  What also is happening is agency management including CIOs going to other agencies for that contracting support.

Just curious on how many people here see much of the 1102 workforce left behind for lack of knowledge?

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Despite what I see or perhaps be cause of it, I feel to opine...It's real work...this trying to learn the business ...both top down and bottom up, as well as inside government and out.  Doing this real work generally results in real rewards...partly intrinsic and partly tangible.

My suggestion to all is, as much as you can stand it, make habits in life of listening, tackling responsibility, raising standards and expectations wherever you go, and contributing  to the success of others by often sharing something useful and new.  Do this...and in a way that spirals up, I hope you'll discover more folks intent on filling the void by practicing these things...some (perhaps.many) of them will stick around in this field of work a little longer and have an elevated sense of community with those fellow travelers who also find the journey to be much more than just memorable. 

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I don't think you hire the 1102 to consolidate data centers and push them to the cloud.  The budget to accomplish that would come from the IT department, so it must always originate there.  But let's say it did, is your thought that the 1102 would need a lot of technical knowledge in order to issue the solicitation to accomplish that? 

I'm certain that is true to some extent, but I'd rather the 1102 concentrate on being a great 1102.  The IT folks need us to ensure discussions are fair, to help navigate the small business world, to make sound best-value trade-offs, and a host of other things. They can't do that stuff on their own, but they can pull their weight on the technical side.

I've been fortunate to have a good relationship and a fair amount of trust with the IT groups I've supported over the years, and I've learned a great deal about their business mostly through interacting with them all the time and seeing their various successes and failures (they've seen a few of my failures as well).

To address the question posed, I don't think lack of knowledge is the driver of being left behind.  If you are curious, observant (or nosy), stick around for a few years and can manage a relationship with the folks you support I think you will be OK.  This is more attitude than anything I suppose.

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i’m confused - the budget would come from the IT department so it must originate there?  In most agencies, budgets for procurements come from respective programs.  Many agency contracting officers work on a fee basis for the programs and have little money of their own, but that’s beside the point.

Let me use the example of Agile.  It’s been around in the government for ten years.  Even though it’s old, many 1102s donut know how to begin with a requirement.  IT offices and most program offices look to the contracting office for advise, guidance, and even buy in on approaches and strategies.  So what I’m talking about is more than preparing a solicitation.  It’s planning, strategy development, source selection, evaluation, discussion, and pst award management.  Agile requires something radically different than traditional commodities.

When Agile is tried, many of the failures had to do with 1102s not understanding the concept.  I’ll give some examples.  Agile often works best in a labor hour contract arrangement but many contract offices took the position they can’t do labor hour contracts!  So thing s like FFP were used and it was a disaster in many instances.  Another is source selection.  Often 1102s didn’t understand Agile and insisted on th wold boilerplate factors like technical approach, management plan, key personnel, etc.  Proposals looked good on paper but many companies just copied stuff out of articles and textbooks.  Many companies, especially small had never done Agile before, so 1102s in some instances insisted neutral past performance ratings applied.  That sometimes meant every proposer got a neutral rating especially on small business set-asides.  They didn’t understand the significance of experience versus past performance.  Then there were some who learned a little and said contract developers working side by side with government developers was personal services and they wouldn’t allow it.  Finally there’s evaluation of price.  How does one structure a model to use in the solicitation especially when the overall effort may be largely unknown?  

Structuring a price evaluation approach for Agile is simple compared to Cloud.   Pretty much every company prices differently and if the government uses their own model in the solicitation, deciphering each offerors proposal against that model and comparing is challenging.    That’s apart from finding out after award, actual costs are entirely different than what was proposed and accepted.

Some of these issues might be program offices or at least shared.  But 1102s need to be knowledgeable and understand what is being procured to be effective.  The lack causes many agencies to go outside for 1102 support.  Those are wasted opportunities for personal growth, advancement, and positive experiences. 

 

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18 hours ago, formerfed said:

I’m confused - the budget would come from the IT department so it must originate there?

Honestly I think so.  Budgets are very important- it's why people fight over them.  You can persuade the IT group to consolidate licenses, etc., and you should because its a sensible thing to do.  However, the first official act is humping a requisition over to the procurement office, and that is solely in their control. 

Your remaining concerns are:

  1. Contract Type;
  2. Past performance Evaluation; and
  3. Price Evaluation

When we discuss these issues, we don't deploy much specialized IT knowledge, though certainly a little is required.  If you are curious, observant, stick around for a little while and are tight with the IT group you can get through those problems and run a great procurement together.  You are absolutely right that if a contracting officer has the following shortcomings, they won't be able to pull of an Agile procurement:

  1. Unilaterally refuses to pay people by the hour;
  2. Has zero interest in writing new words for the evaluation factors; and
  3. Cannot evaluate a labor-hour based price proposal

These are procurement shortcomings I think, and they won't be corrected by increasing the amount of IT technical know-how of the CO.  I think those shortcomings would make it more difficult to procure MEP services, for example.  Those will hurt the CO in all sorts of areas.

We don't disagree on much.  I think the cure to this disease lies in being a better procurement guy in general, and you believe further focusing on IT subject matter will help (Correct me though if I'm misunderstanding your cure.)  Would be safest to do both, but we're luck to accomplish even one of those two things. :wacko: .  Most likely outcome is neither- improving people is really hard.

Side note: Have you tried defining a "sprint" or "scrum" and procuring say 20 of those?  They're labor hours in drag, but they might sneak by because you do not have to use the word trigger-word "hour" in the description.  I haven't had 1/10th the push-back on the labor hour thing you may have experienced, but that was my back-up plan if that problem came up.

 

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apsofaco,

You obviously have done many IT procurements before and know how they work.  My concern in the original posts is many 1102s don’t.  The field has a big share of people who either aren’t interested in learning, lack confidence, or maybe are just content doing what what they do know.  

I don’t think the answer is just increasing IT knowledge.  It’s more about becoming bolder, willingness to learn and try new things, and experiment.  The field is full of risk adverse people.

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