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WIFCON community,

My team is in the second phase of a product specifically built for 1102s (Contract Specialists and Contract Officers), to help them efficiently identify rules/regulations/etc. that address questions that come up during their work, including:

  • procurement of supplies, services, construction, or research & development
  • evaluation of contract price proposals, and
  • the administration or termination and close out of contracts.

While designing this tool, we've found it challenging to find & run our prototypes by folks whose job it is to reference the FAR and its supplements, or other rules/regulations which might apply. This has led to some guesswork on our end. We want to minimize that guesswork, so our tool would actually meet the needs of 1102s (starting with our current customer).

Some examples of invaluable insights I'm looking for (from Contract Specialists and Officers) include:

  • what tools they use right now, and how effective they are (if at all)
  • challenges posed by current duties that a tool like this could address
  • how they'd use this tool — what queries would they make
  • give feedback on prototypes

If you are interested in helping, please reply below, or reach out to me directly. Otherwise, I’ll be posting some polls in the coming days & weeks. We’d appreciate any insights you can provide.

 

Thanks a million!

Dave Marsee

Senior UX Designer

ARiA (Applied Research in Acoustics)

Dave -dot- Marsee -at- ariacoustics -dot- com

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2 hours ago, Ibn Battuta said:

What you need are some examples of typical questions asked by 1102s about the rules. What you should see is how poorly those questions are conceived and asked and how difficult it is to find the answers the asker is looking for as a consequence.

Good luck with mission impossible. In a couple of years I'll look for you in the annals of software projects that went South. Hopefully, I won't find you there.

Thanks, Ibn -- Yeah, you've really hit the nail on the head, regarding how people ask questions. We're hoping that our system will be good at pointing users to the right rules/regs, and we hope to have a bit of training on what an effective query could be shaped like.

If you have any insights on Best Practices or pitfalls to be avoided, I'd be grateful.

 

50 minutes ago, Don Mansfield said:

Do you have anyone with 1102 experience on your team?

Not yet. We're a very small company (under 25 employees) mostly made up of data scientists and software engineers. Which is why I've begun this User Research.
In past roles, I've been able to effectively learn about dozens of other target user groups... but 1102s are a rare breed, and it's been tough to find a critical mass of them to talk with. That's why I'm here. :) 

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16 hours ago, Ibn Battuta said:

One pitfall, or maybe challenge would be a better word. Many regulatory applications depend on special words and phrases, such as "solicitation amendment." But working level 1102s are not always alert to the need to use proper terminology when asking a question. If a person putting a question to your system asks about the rules for "changing a solicitation," or "modifying a solicitation," or "adding a CLIN to an RFP after its issuance," your software will have to recognize that such questions are about amending a solicitation or solicitation amendments. I could come up with hundreds of such examples.

I don't know much about software design, but I think you have undertaken a challenging task.

You've really hit on one of the things our data scientists have been wrestling with.
We have a plan in place so that the "right" rules/regs will appear even if the user doesn't search for the "exact" terms that happen to be in the rule/reg.

15 hours ago, FAR-flung 1102 said:

We have. Our company is referenced in that article. ;) 

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Another possible challenge: We have regulations which are easy to find, but there are other influences on what we do, for example audit reports and GAO decisions.  They may not always perfectly line up.  For example organizational conflict of interest in the FAR is addressed slightly differently than how the GAO addresses it.

FAR 9.905:

Quote

The two underlying principles are-

      (a) Preventing the existence of conflicting roles that might bias a contractor’s judgment; and

      (b) Preventing unfair competitive advantage. In addition to the other situations described in this subpart, an unfair competitive advantage exists where a contractor competing for award of any Federal contract possesses-

           (1) Proprietary information that was obtained from a Government official without proper authorization; or

           (2) Source selection information (as defined in 2.101) that is relevant to the contract but is not available to all competitors, and such information would assist that contractor in obtaining the contract.

The GAO often writes something like this:

Quote

Subpart 9.5 of the FAR, and decisions of our Office, broadly identify three categories of OCIs: biased ground rules, unequal access to information, and impaired objectivity. McConnell Jones Lanier & Murphy, LLP, B-409681.3, B-409681.4, Oct. 21, 2015, 2015 CPD ¶ 341 at 13.

The GAO splits the two principles into three categories.  They don't conflict or anything, but may cause your computer a headache. 

I don't know how ambitious your project is, but I find the audits very frustrating.  They may be your highest, sourest fruit to pick.  I wish you the best of luck!

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Government Purchase Card is an interesting subset for two reasons: 1) Coordinators receive a high volume of questions from users who are not Contract Specialists and 2) Many of those users find themselves facing edge cases not readily resolved  by their established procedures or  by their reading of  the regulation.

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On 1/23/2020 at 2:44 PM, apsofacto said:

Another possible challenge: We have regulations which are easy to find, but there are other influences on what we do, for example audit reports and GAO decisions.  They may not always perfectly line up.  For example organizational conflict of interest in the FAR is addressed slightly differently than how the GAO addresses it.

...

The GAO splits the two principles into three categories.  They don't conflict or anything, but may cause your computer a headache. 

I don't know how ambitious your project is, but I find the audits very frustrating.  They may be your highest, sourest fruit to pick.  I wish you the best of luck!

We do plan on returning related content, both rules/regulations and GAO decisions. As long as we return appropriate results, I don't suspect that the splitting of he groupings will be a problem. But I'll pass this advice on to the developers. Thanks! 

On 1/24/2020 at 5:38 AM, FAR-flung 1102 said:

Government Purchase Card is an interesting subset for two reasons: 1) Coordinators receive a high volume of questions from users who are not Contract Specialists and 2) Many of those users find themselves facing edge cases not readily resolved  by their established procedures or  by their reading of  the regulation.

Thanks -- I've been passing this along to the data scientists. if it's not too much trouble, can you share an example of one of these edge cases?

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How about this what if: "I'm going to a training conference in two months...registration is expected to fill up a month before the conference. Can I pay the registration fee via GPC? I have a travel card, but don't expect to get orders until a few days before I travel."

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 1/29/2020 at 11:23 AM, policyguy said:

Have you looked at Defense Acquisition University "Ask a Professor" website?  If not you may find it helpful. Here's the link:

https://www.dau.edu/aap/Pages/home.aspx

Another resource you may want to check is the National Contract Management Association.  Here's the link:

https://www.ncmahq.org/

DAU: We are making heavy use of DAU resources, but I don't know if we've seen this one. I'll pass it along. :)
NCMA: I believe our CEO attends this conference. I bet there'll be good resources there.

On 1/29/2020 at 5:15 PM, FAR-flung 1102 said:

How about this what if: "I'm going to a training conference in two months...registration is expected to fill up a month before the conference. Can I pay the registration fee via GPC? I have a travel card, but don't expect to get orders until a few days before I travel."

Thanks! Yikes, that's a complex query. :) 

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2 hours ago, dmarsee said:

Thanks! Yikes, that's a complex query. :)

Oh boy expect a whole lot of that though.  Here's another what if

"I was reading Vendor B's proposal and I heard they really struggled on a job in Boise.  The Boise job is not on their project list in the proposal, can I consider this information when I score their past performance?"

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