By Cynthia Zieman, CFCM
Imagine this scenario. Your acquisition lead time is quickly slipping. Time is running short to develop your solicitation documents, which could jeopardize meeting the target project completion date. What do you do? It’s likely that you don’t start entirely from scratch on a completely blank page. Do you pull the last electronic version of the contract so all you have to do is update the project specific requirements; or maybe copy and paste standard terms and conditions, and clauses and provisions into a new solicitation document?
That may sound like a reasonable approach, but if you do, you might be setting yourself and your agency up for some headaches down the road because outdated text was included in either the solicitation or contract documents.
Is there a better solution? Yes, and it offers potential cost savings and improved productivity, plus it minimizes the related inherent risks to the agency when developing solicitation documents without the solution.
The answer: Use solicitation and contract templates that are kept current by subject matter experts. Why?
- Ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that the required text in the finished solicitation document (and ultimately the contract) is current with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and agency acquisition regulation updates at the time of solicitation issuance.
- Contracting officers and contract specialists avoid starting from scratch or from a document with outdated text. Instead, using electronic templates provides standardized language that may be used for most situations, and can also be tailored for project specific and unique situations.
Ensuring that all FAR updates to provisions and clauses, and agency required contract language are reflected correctly and timely in your contract templates is critical. Outdated contract language could result in claims, delays, and even violations to federal laws (e.g., implementation of U.S. trade laws and sanctions against foreign countries, or environmental protection laws).
Whether your acquisition group is a large or small scale operation, it is well worth the effort for your organization to create and maintain contract templates with standard boiler plate language. Templates can be created for many of the typical solicitation methods and contract types your agency uses for the acquisition of goods, services, and construction. Many agencies and organizations already have these tools in place for their acquisition teams. Often they are used in conjunction with a commercial or agency-developed software solution.
Here are some quick touch points for organizations to consider for maintaining and using even a basic set of templates:
- Policy – Establish an agency or department directive for mandatory use of the templates, whether for specific or all solicitation methods and contract types.
- People - Dedicate subject matter experts (e.g., acquisition analysts and legal staff) to ensure templates and boiler plate language is current and accurate.
- Process – Provide easy access to the electronic library of templates, or writing system, and ease in use of the documents. Specific text should be protected from accidental deletion or unwanted revision, while other areas can be editable for project-specific details. Version control should be maintained by a SME in the acquisition policy group, along with a database of archived versions.
- Training – Offer training on the use of the templates, also describing their purpose, and why the templates are a helpful tool for the agency.
In short, avoid the risk in issuing solicitations that contain outdated terms and conditions, and clauses and provisions. Instead, develop, maintain, and use a basic set of electronic contract templates that contain current and accurate boilerplate language. It’s worth the effort.
Reposted from the Integrity Matters - Perspectives on Acquisition and Program Management blog.