View from the top - Strong customer support via consistent engagements
February 4, 2014
As our Army scales down and adjusts to today's needs, having a good working relationship with your customers is critical. As contracting professionals, we are in the role of being good financial stewards of government funds.
Part of this stewardship is understanding your requiring activities' requirements and how they fit into the commander's intent. This can best be attained by having a solid working relationship with the customers you support. Within the 409th Contracting Support Brigade, we have taken a deliberat process to make this happen. We have identified our focus on customer support in our mission statement as well as our vision of the organization.
There is also the ever-increasing stringent fiscal environment within our Army. We have to maximize resources to get the most out of every dollar we spend. In order to do this, contracting professionals, both military and civilian, must take the time and engage with their customers. If you take the time to get to know your customers thought and planning processes, it can be the needed common ground and start of a great strategic partnership.
Contracting professionals need to get involved at the earliest stages of the planning process. Often our customers see contracting as bureaucratic and an inpediment to getting the mission done. Only through engagements early and often can we overcome this stereotype. Within the 409th, we have worked hard at integrating with our customers and becoming a part of their planning process.
Each of our regional contracting offices is aligned with an Installation Management Command garrison and I expect our RCO chiefs to attend the garrison commanders' staff meetings. I believe the chiefs need to have a seat at the table of regularly scheduled contract planning meetings and be looking for opportunities to better serve our customers. The bottom line is, you should know your customers, be interested in their decision cycles and work at attending their meetings. This all goes back to getting out and seeing your customers; being proactive versus reactive.
One of the 409th CSB's most successful initiatives has been the integration of procurement liaison officers with our largest customers. These critical positions have assisted our customers by placing highly skilled contracting professionals alongside them so that they can provide advice, assist with acquisition planning and development of requirements, plus obtain requested status on actions. The ability of our LNOs to rapidly interface with customers over complex acquisitions helps to reduce friction prior to acquisition packages arriving to the contracting offices.
In addition the LNOs are charged with educating the continuous turnover of our customers in the process of acquisition development and how the 409th provides contracting support. They also serve as an early warning to the command when things are not working as planned, enabling me to get involved early to head off potential issues.
All of these initiatives are here to help our customer, so we may better serve. This focus on serving the customer means that sometimes another acquisition organization may be better suited to support them. To ensure we have an understanding of the contracting operating environment in Europe, we also meet regularly with all contracting organizations operating in Europe through a coordination board.
The European Contracting Coordination Board, spearheaded by the 409th, includes acquisition and logistics leaders across Europe. Part of the intent is to address current and future challenges faced within the European contracting community.
To have a customer focus within your organization the command must have a deliberate process to do so. The 409th has found success utilizing LNOs, integrating our RCO chiefs with the garrison commands and with the 409th leadership integrating with U.S. Army Europe and IMCOM-Europe. While it's easy to stay in the safe confines of your work space, I encourage all of you to step out of that comfort zone and engage. Develop strategic partnerships that will help you as well as your customers.