Innovative tool delivers increased contracting capability
September 18, 2013
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Sept. 18, 2013) -- Austere budget conditions faced by leaders across the Army this and next fiscal year are elevating the need for innovative tools critical for decision-makers in the acquisition community.
An internal workload management database created by a Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., contracting officer is helping meet that challenge by allowing his office to better support its customers while saving potentially significant time in contract administration.
Thomas Williams created and launched the Contract Reporting and Management Resource as a method for tracking both formal pre-award contract actions and actions currently being administered by the Mission and Installation Contracting Command-JBLM Post Award Branch. Pronounced kramer, the CRAMR tool was developed as a Microsoft Access database.
"Past methods of tracking and storing data were considered archaic because spreadsheets were used to do those tasks. On top of that, a spreadsheet is not the proper tool to store, track or extract this type of data," Williams said. "Also, because there were multiple trackers where data was being stored, it increased the risk of incorrect or incomplete information that could be given to our customers, field directorate offices or the headquarters."
Pamela Munoz, the director of MICC-JBLM, explained that the internal workload management database offers greater accuracy on the status of actions for contracts not available through the Virtual Contracting Enterprise "so that management has a clear picture of any problems or delays in the procurement process."
In addition to tracking the status of in-house requirements as they move through the contracting process, the director said the powerful capacity available through the CRAMR database affords expanded capability.
"We are in the process of populating the database for contract administration workload management," Munoz said. "There used to be several different spreadsheets we used to track or report actions. Now we just use one database and sort the information as needed."
Williams said the database is becoming MICC-JBLM's central repository for contract actions, with the exception of simplified actions valued at less than $150,000, and can serve as the single resource for the organization to obtain necessary data for its internal and external customers. Plans call for the addition of simplified contract actions to the database in the near future as workload is migrated to the database.
Williams points to the process of recording the status comments of formal pre-award contract actions. Previously, the contracting office had to create a new spreadsheet to track the status of actions. To preserve that data for historical purposes, a new spreadsheet was created weekly that accrued to 52 by the end of a fiscal year. Factor in the element of review for a contract action's history, and the contracting officer said the research could be quite tedious.
CRAMR simplifies that process by providing users the ability to view all comments in one location, run reports and print a contract action's status comment history.
"In essence, it provides the contract specialist a written log of the acquisition and can be included in the official contract file," he said.
The database also offers management insight on workload distribution to help ensure balance throughout the post-award branch while maximizing workforce efficiency, Williams said.
Williams will continue to tweak the CRAMR database as additional information is migrated and is confident the new tool will prove valuable for Army acquisition leaders.
The MICC-JBLM is responsible for providing contracting support to Army and Air Force organizations on the joint base as well as Army requirements at Yakima Training Center, Wash. Its procurements include supplies, services, minor construction, utilities and grant-cooperative agreement support. Through August, the contracting office has executed more than 1,600 contract actions this fiscal year valued at more than $100.9 million, including more than $28.8 million to small businesses.