Tag Archive for Estimating

Shared Contract Work Order Management System for Federal Agency and Contractor

How can we make the work on contracts more efficient and effective?  One powerful way is to enable people from the Federal Agency and the winning vendor Contractor team to work together in a shared environment to manage the work.  In this article, I’ll review a work management system that we just delivered that does just this.

The story is about how we were able to take our off-the-shelf IDIQ Task Order Management solution and rapidly apply it to meets the custom requirements of an RFP from a Federal Agency for a shared Contract Work Order Management System.  The story is partially about our solution, but, it is also about how a Federal Contractor can leverage CorasWorks (software and people) to outdo the competition, win business, and, stay close to their customer.

Situation

A civilian Federal Agency released an RFP as a small business set aside valued at about $100M over its term.  It is an outsourcing contract for IT-related Services.  The format of the contract is a single-award IDIQ with general Task Orders and specific Work Orders supporting about 30 core work areas.  The Work Orders are the primary method for getting the work done.

The new wrinkle is that the agency required, as part of the proposal, that the vendor provide a shared, collaborative, online work management system enabling the participants from the Agency to work with the participants from the Prime contractor and their team.  The system had to support the release of specific Work Orders that would come in as Agency requests, get released for estimates, get estimates, and drive the approval process.  In addition, the system had to support visibility into the work in progress including planning, tracking the work, ongoing collaboration, issue flagging, and reporting.

The big practical challenge for the Prime contractor and team was that the Agency required the vendor to have the system up and running on the date of submittal of the proposal.  It would be a live system, accessible by the Agencies review team during the proposal review phase and would then be migrated post-award.  This was a major compliance challenge that could have doubled or tripled the cost of submitting the proposal.  And, whatever system they proposed, they were going to have to live with for the duration of the contract.

Approach

A member of the Prime bidder’s team was a Top 10 Federal Contractor that is a CorasWorks customer and was familiar with our IDIQ Task Order Management solution that runs on Microsoft SharePoint.  This solution is designed for use within Federal Contractors, primarily in a multi-award situation, to manage the process of responding to task orders.  Upon review, it was decided that this solution would be the base for the required Work Order Management System.  The primary reasons were:

  • the core off-the-shelf feature set is very close to the needs of this contract work order management system
  • the configurability of CorasWorks would enable the team to deliver the required demonstration environment at a very reasonable cost and on time
  • CorasWorks is an open application environment, ie., not a proprietary code base, and thus, it be custom-configured, enhanced, and extended, by the Contractor team, to meet ongoing needs.

Solution

The solution was implemented by CorasWorks with our bidding team of the Prime Contractor and subcontractors.  We started with our off-the-shelf IDIQ Task Order Management solution running in a CorasWorks provided online environment.  We then applied it to the Agencies requirements.  This work took a couple of weeks of configuration and testing. Some key requirements for the system were:

  • The system was designed to support Federal Agency participants and Contractor participates within a common, online collaborative work environment requiring appropriate control of permissions and work action authority.
  • The system was setup up to support two workstreams (distinct stage-based processes).  One for Work Orders that cover the core contract work areas (the bulk of the work).  The other for new Task Orders that would be released to expand the scope of the contract.  Each workstream was a bit different.
  • Each workstream had to support 2 work Phases.  One was the Approval Process with the key stages of Request, Review, Estimating, and Approval.  The other was for approved work orders, Work In Progress, covering Working Planning, Work in Progress, and Closeout.
  • The system needed robust reporting to show process metrics and exception reporting across the life cycle of work.
  • Each work order or task order has its own Workspace that contains the detailed information for the item across its life-cycle and supports the collaborative activity required to drive the item forward.

Result

The system was delivered within cost and exactly on time which was objective one for compliance and is now in ongoing support mode.  The system met the compliance requirements of the Agency and included an interactive checklist to make it easy for the Agency to validate compliance.  While this system is not the core reason why the Agency will award the contract to a vendor team, it was perceived as a major reason why a team would be knocked out of the competition.

In addition, after working with the system, the Prime Contractor is now in process to procure CorasWorks for internal use and to leverage this Contract Work Order Management system to create a standard way of working on each of its major single-award contracts and for use for its IDIQ task order management.

My Comments

It is not uncommon for CorasWorks to be used to bring up collaborative work environments that bring together participants from Federal Agencies, Prime Contractors, and, contract teaming partners.  In fact, this particular agency has had experience working in similar CorasWorks-based environments for two other major contracts/programs with another Top 10 Federal Contractor (see Large Federal Contractor Drives Customer Intimacy and Value with Dedicated Program Workplaces on SharePoint).

However, this particular application of our IDIQ Task Order Management system was new.  Instead of focusing on winning the work, as in the typical multi-award IDIQ scenarios, it is all about getting the work done with visible participation of all members (Agency and Contractor).  Our existing solution provided 90% of the base system allowing the team to get where it needed to be very quickly.

I can see the use of CorasWorks for Contract Work Order Management in three scenarios.

  • One where a Federal Contractor uses it just within their organization and working with teaming partners to manage work requests on their single-award contracts.
  • Another is for a Federal Agency to manage their request processes within the Agency and the interaction with their vendors.
  • The third is an integrated, shared work environment as in this scenario.

I believe that this last scenario, the integrated work environment, is the top of the food chain in terms of driving efficiency and effectiveness of the work delivered on Federal Government contracts.  We’ve seen it before and it is proven.  However, you need an enlightened agency and a contractor that can handle the transparency to make it work.  Like any collaborative process, it takes the team some time to learn how to work together and how they work will continually evolve as they learn.

William

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See additional articles for IDIQ Task Order Management in this blog.

Visit CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management for product information.

Examples of Collaborative Resource Forecasting that Drive Global Manufacturing Results

It is a challenge to forecast, allocate and coordinate resources across a globally dispersed manufacturing organization.  It is even more challenging when the work spans functional groups or separate divisions making different products.  These kind of activities typically fall into categories such as Demand Management, Forecasting, and Resource Allocation.  However, the common objective is to simply get all stakeholders working off the same page and collaborating in their forecasting, estimating, and supporting activities.  The value of doing it well can be extraordinary.  In this article, I’ll look at two customers with different needs that leveraged CorasWorks on SharePoint to get the job done.  They cover two of the primary classes of resources where we need to forecast demand: people and material (others being capital, equipment, and facilities).  The solutions are relatively simple, however, leveraging collaboration they drive a new level of global effectiveness.

The General Challenge

Almost by definition, a global organization has a need for coordination and collaboration to forecast demand and allocation of resources.  However, we have lots of barriers to success.  In many situations, organizations reach for two classes of tools.  If the problem is “deep” they tend to leverage their ERP system and build or buy an app.  If the problem or opportunity is not as deep, the tool of choice is usually a bunch of spreadsheets.  However, there are a class of problems where what people really need is a simple way to work together off the same page.  They need an app that is visible, accessible to all stakeholders (even across divisions), easy to use, provides for collaborative work, and has a specific feature set that addresses the needs.  For such an app, the ERP approach can be too heavy and restrictive and the spreadsheet approach is usually a mess.

The Right Solution for Global, Purposeful Collaboration

When you need people to work together globally to coordinate and collaborate on demand forecasting, using CorasWorks on SharePoint, gives you an effective solution.  SharePoint provides the collaborative platform.  CorasWorks provides the application.

Lets see how it works by looking at two specific customer scenarios…

 

People Forecasting and Resource Allocation for Electronics Product Development

A global electronics manufacturer of 20,000 people has a global division that creates graphics products.  They have a rolling planning process with a five year horizon where new products/product revisions are submitted, approved, and planned.  They wanted a way to forecast the demand and coordinate the people (FTE’s) allocation across many different component functional groups.

They had tried a number of different approaches to the problem.  They first tried spreadsheets which was a mess.  Then, they tried their ERP which was far too heavy.  Then, they tried MS Project Server, which was too inflexible to meet the needs.  With CorasWorks they found a just right solution.

The application lives in their private cloud.  People submit their projects which go through an approval process.  Then, each of the component functional groups enters estimates of FTE’s on a monthly basis to allocate to the projects.  At any time a functional manager can update their estimates which may impact the overall plan.  Each functional manager is able to manage their estimates across projects.  Each product manager is able to see the estimates across functions and across other products.

The solution now provides all of global engineering with a single view of the project demand, the planning, and the resource commitments at a high level over the next five years.  The stakeholders get a full top down view that is consistent.  The level of detail is enough to coordinate the commitments from each of the groups.  Then, each group leverages their internal systems to take it to a lower level of detail to manage specific projects and resource utilization.  When they need to make a change, that change is reflected back up at the global level.

 

Forecasting Steel Consumption for Automotive Component Supplier

Now, for the flip side – we are looking at a scenario for demand management for commodity materials.  A 15,000 person $2B revenue, global supplier of automotive components wanted an effective way to forecast their demand and track their steel availability and consumption.  Steel is the primary material used in their products.  It is used across all of their main divisions and in plants in more than 15 countries.  Each division can track their purchases using their financial system.  However, given the financial impact of steel prices and supply/consumption they wanted a way to globally collaborate across divisions.

The solution was an application created using CorasWorks running on SharePoint.  Given the scale of the solution, it is a SQL Server database application, but, the front end is CorasWorks on SharePoint, thus, providing the global collaborative framework.  The application tracks forecast needs of steel by type and grade.  It tracks purchases including currency management.  It tracks and organizes the information by plant and supplier.

This application is elegantly simple to serve the needs of a mission critical process. It is global, cross-division, cross-plant in scope.  It puts all of the information at the fingertips of the users and the buyers allowing for the optimal efficiencies on purchases and consumption in the 100’s of millions of dollars per year.

 

Global Collaboration with a Purpose

At the heart of these applications is collaboration.  It is about people across functions (graphics products) and divisions/plants (steel) working together to get the best results. Each application only has a few hundred users but they have a lot of user interaction in a many-to-many, collaborative environment.  The apps provide a virtual place for many people to see and interact with many others – people they probably didn’t know.  And, note that the applications are for very specific purposes based upon hard data vs. soft collaborative activity.

 

Summary

The two customer scenarios above are very different applications for Demand Management.  One is about people allocation in complex projects.  The other is for commodity material purchases.  Yet, they are both about forecasting, estimating and tracking across a globally distributed manufacturing organization.  Simply put, they make it far easier for a distributed group of people to get a global job done.