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FCW : April 30, 2013
22 April 30, 2013 FCW.COM Management consultants de ned IT system, federal lead- ers should specify their business goal and keep it at the center of all discussions. Garnett begins by holding wide-ranging conversations with industry representatives to identify the directions in which a program might evolve and the consultants who are successfully doing that kind of work --- well before her team begins writing a request for proposals. "You don t want to be in a position of having to de ne for a contractor you haven t selected yet what...approach to take," she added. "One of the biggest issues we have is letting go of telling the contractors what it is we need from them as opposed to how to do the job." For instance, a year ago HUD s Community Planning and Devel- opment organization wanted to improve a computer system that tracked certain activities, includ- ing the removal of lead paint from houses. The team made sure to tie the project s results to the number of houses treated successfully rather than to the IT requirements to upgrade the system. "They were able to remove lead paint from 4,000 homes," Garnett said. The work "is on the front end of understanding what your require- ment really is --- what is the business outcome you re trying to achieve, not the computer system you re trying to put in place. They were excellent at de ning their business need, and they allowed the technology folks to tell them what system would work." Technology is only one piece of any solution. "It s not just an IT issue, ever," Isman said. "It s IT combined with human capital combined with process combined with the business portfolio. Really think about what needs to change and how [you] man- age that change through the cycle." Furthermore, consultants are some- times asked to solve thorny problems for which the solution is not clear, making it counterproductive to nail down detailed speci cations ahead of time. "We ll see a rm xed-price contract for a very unde ned piece of work, which reduces the exibility on both sides to actually be agile and adjust to the logical changes that are going to happen in a program," Isman said. As sequestration unleashes hordes of proposals related to cost contain- ment and cost analysis, federal execu- tives should stay focused on how a given project would contribute to the overall mission. "My advice to the folks who are on the receiving end of those marketing calls is to make sure whoever comes in understands how to put what they re selling into the context of your busi- ness situation at your agency," said Mark Forman, who was administra- tor of e-government and IT under President George W. Bush and is now president of Government Transaction Services. How to handle the RFP process Once she has identified the business requirement, Garnett brings in consultants to help her write a statement of work. "There s a big difference between how we in the federal space view what we re saying and how the contracting community looks at it," she said. The RFP should require contractors to spell out how the proposed solution would work with the agency s IT management framework and specify that they develop a plan for handing off manage- ment to agency employees when they are done, which is your path to self-suf ciency. "Good consultants know the way you build dependency is repeat busi- ness," Forman said. White recommended keeping proj- ect cycles short to ease the transition into new, potentially disruptive technol- ogy or system updates. "Every cycle needs to deliver an MVP --- a minimum viable product," he said. In addition, the project plan should include every stakeholder. "You have to de ne what it is you re going to do [and] have clear guidelines on who s doing what when and following up on it," Garnett said. "Whoever has an impact on the success of the plan has to be mentioned." When reviewing proposals, you should be wary of responses that sim- ply regurgitate the language in the RFP. "The real focus has to be on man- aging for value and focusing on that desired outcome," Garnett said. Experts also recommend checking "Good consultants know the way you build dependency is repeat business." --- MARK FORMAN, GOVERNMENT TRANSACTION SERVICES
April 15, 2013
May 15, 2013