It’s Not Too Late to Plan Your Acquisitions for FY14

GovLoop and Integrity Management Consulting are proud to present a 12-part series called “Conscientious Contracting: A Thoughtful Approach to Acquisition and Program Management,” that aims to address common challenges and achieve new efficiencies in government procurement.

Happy New Year!

I know, I know, FY14 got off to a rocky start because of the people over on the Hill fighting with the people in the White House.

However, if you are a federal employee involved in any way with your agency’s acquisition activities, now is really the best time to be thinking about the year ahead – especially in an era of fiscal uncertainty.

So how do you effectively get your people and programs to be thinking proactively about acquisition?

First, if you’ve never engaged in a planning process and you would like to initiate one, you should know that you have the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) on your side. The FAR requires agencies to engage in acquisition planning and to perform market research for all acquisitions. Specifically, FAR Part 7 says, “Acquisition planning should begin as soon as the agency need is identified, preferably well in advance of the fiscal year in which contract award or order placement is necessary.” Second, while compliance with the FAR is important, solid planning also helps an agency to proactively manage risk and identify opportunity during execution.

Sometimes needs emerge as the year unfolds, but many requirements, such as follow-on programs and initiatives, can be predicted with a bit of intentional planning. Ideally, below is how an acquisition planning process works best:

1. Convene the Right People. At minimum, the planning process should bring together every individual responsible for significant aspects of the acquisition. Typically, there will be a point person that leads a multi-disciplinary team, including representatives from contracting, budgeting, legal, and technical personnel.

2. Begin With Your Baseline. Look at acquisition activities from previous years to gain a sense of your organization’s common annual purchases. Moreover, do a bit of research and look at similar acquisition activities from like organizations to understand how they engage in buying this product or service. Summarize and discuss your findings with the team, evaluating the likelihood of having these same or similar requirements in the year ahead.

3. Make Note of the Milestones. Not only will you want to see what has been purchased, but when it is needed. Are there contracts that are expiring? Does one purchase require the completion of another to move forward? Establish a prioritized timeline with key dates, building around program milestones and then identifying needed contract milestones.

4. Put Your Plan In Writing. The FAR gives clear guidance on what should be included in an Acquisition Plan:

  • Statement of need. Summarize the technical and contractual background of your acquisitions, including outcomes from previous activities, if available. If not, make some projections based on its connection to strategic objectives or known requirements. The key here is to call out the capability gap being closed by your acquisition.
  • Applicable conditions. What are all the existing or anticipated considerations that could affect a given acquisition? Think in terms of constraints that narrow your options in any way.
  • Cost. Put a stake in the ground when it comes to cost goals. You’re operating on a budget and need to allocate resources appropriately.
  • Capability or performance. Provide a bit more detail around the capabilities and performance needed for supplies or services.
  • Delivery or performance-period requirements. When do you need the supplies or services? Is anything urgent? Can the acquisitions happen concurrently or does one need to occur before another?
  • Trade-offs. Review your need, cost, capability, condition and time parameters, examining them for competing interests. Explore the give-and-take between them and know where you might need to sacrifice in order to achieve your most important outcomes with the acquisition.
  • Risks. Nothing comes without a certain amount of risk and you can never predict every potential point of failure. However, with a bit of imagination, you can think about what could go wrong and think about ways to avoid, transfer, control or assume those risks.

There are several other factors that you should keep in mind when it comes to acquisition planning, and I would refer you to this summary at Defense Acquisition University:

Moreover, I was able to find a few templates and tools from other agencies that you might want to review as well:

Do you engage in acquisition planning at your agency?

How does it work?

What planning resources would you share with your colleagues?

This blog was brought to you by Integrity Management Consulting, an award-winning small business and leading provider of major systems acquisition and program management support services to Federal customers. Integrity’s mission is to deliver exceptional results for government customers, employees, and the community, driven by a single value: Integrity.

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