Database offers improved contracting support
December 31, 2013
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Dec. 31, 2013) -- The development of a database application by contracting experts and their stakeholders at Fort Belvoir, Va., is yielding greater customer support and buy-in while also addressing key capability gaps in managing contracting operations.
The Contracting Tactical Operations Center, or CTOC, application was designed to provide online, real-time procurement insight to address the challenges of a geographically dispersed command, acquisition training, managerial capabilities and resourcing levels at Mission and Installation Contracting Command, or MICC-Fort Belvoir.
Lt. Col. Maria Schneider, the director and commander of MICC-Fort Belvoir, said managing those processes was previously limited by antiquated workload tracking methods, redundant data entry, significant resourcing gaps and training shortfalls. She added that the legacy approach was extremely labor intensive and time-consuming with minimal return on investment, resulting in inefficient operations, unnecessary stressors on the already strained workforce, and diminished customer service to supported activities.
"We sought a no-cost solution to mitigate shortfalls and morph data into actionable information that could be accessed readily from multiple locations without network issues, while providing greater visibility, promoting individual accountability and truly managing performance," Schneider said.
CTOC provides visual aids, inclusive of varied organizational perspectives, in order to provide increased situational awareness of procurement actions throughout their respective life cycle. It also aides in defining workload priorities, properly allocating resources, while emphasizing organizational and individual accountability and risk assessment.
Schneider gained buy-in with an integrated project team approach that included representatives from the contracting workforce, resource managers and supported activities to identify information important to each. The Phase I development effort focused on managing acquisition planning, pre-award execution and obligation rates.
"The value is not in the data collection but in the data output. We've managed to bridge the gap between collecting data and providing online, real-time actionable information," said Jerry Harvey, who helped lead the effort. "We have more than 12,000 discrete searchable comments attached to fiscal 2013 procurement actions. These comments have been invaluable in telling the story. The general business rule of 'capture what you did today with your procurement' has freed up valuable work time for contracting specialists and enabled managers to review daily actions on their time."
The team leveraged an existing Army Materiel Command software used for task management and assigned a project lead to work through the tracking of data feeds, creation of data elements, establishment of business rules, concurrent beta-testing and follow-on maintenance and revision.
Schneider said CTOC helps mitigate a variety of capability gaps at MICC-Fort Belvoir. Those include identifying and analyzing trends in the submission of complete acquisition packets to enable tailored training for supported activities; ensuring connectivity between various systems associated with the generation of a purchase request; and improving management workload visibility throughout the entire procurement lifecycle to allow greater flexibility to respond to unforeseen conditions. CTOC can also help increase accountability for all parties to enable prioritization and root cause analysis; centrally track non-database items; expand the record of communications associated with the procurement action; and automate the use of toolkits and other oversight checklists into daily operations capable of conducting queries to develop a tailored training program for the workforce.
"CTOC helps underscore the relevance of the command to our supported activities by leveraging already existing Standard Procurement System data to do our jobs better," said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Gabbert, the MICC commanding general, who recently reviewed the capabilities of the database. "Best practices such as this should be shared with other directors and leaders throughout the organization."
Developers of CTOC are now engaged in a Phase II effort focused on incorporating various elements of post-award contract administration with a desired end state of offering local installation leaders a visually enhanced dashboard of information on open procurement actions, spending trends, proactive post-award administration and a snapshot of legacy and current close-out actions at their fingertips.
The MICC is responsible for providing contracting support for the warfighter at Army commands, installations and activities located throughout the continental United States and Puerto Rico. In fiscal 2013, the command executed more than 43,000 contract actions worth more than $5.3 billion across the Army, including more than $2.1 billion to American small businesses. The command has also managed more than 780,000 Government Purchase Card Program transactions this fiscal year valued at an additional $880 million.