It is not a simple task trying to keep track of all the contract requirements that are coming up or requirements that have slipped, which is why the Milestone Email Generator Project came about, thanks to an inquiry from Army Contracting Command-Rock Island’s (ACC-RI’s) Munitions and Industrial Base Directorate (MIB).
The project started in December 2020 with MIB contracting staff asking the Data Analytics Team about building the capability to email their customers a friendly reminder that certain due dates were coming up or past due. A past due checker spreadsheet was developed to show the ACC-RI 7-30 Day Forecast Report with rows that match certain criteria, which then generates custom tailored emails that go to the customer. The past due checker and forecast report spreadsheet uses formulas and macros in Excel and then communicates with Outlook to generate emails. This email initiative has not been implemented yet, but all of ACC-RI’s buying directorates have shown interest in using it and ACC-RI intends to deploy it in the very near future.
Joe Tremont, Operations Research Analyst from the Data Analytics Team, says that a lot of issues that the team hears about from contracting teams and branch chiefs revolve around the timelines associated with customers’ responses.
“This tool helps the contracting teams stay in touch with their customers and giving them friendly reminders that these requirements are upcoming or past due,” said Tremont. “In order to meet the award, the customer needs to send us the information we are waiting for so that we can proceed and that will help the center meet its contracting requirements.”
Once a month, directorates run the email generator and customers would get a heads up on items that were upcoming or past due.
The vision is for each directorate to have its own email tool and a designated person who will run the tool once a week or once a month to generate and send out the friendly reminders.
“We need to start the process early enough to finish the whole contracting life cycle of solicitation and getting the bids, reviewing, and awarding the contract on time,” said Tremont.
The information on the spreadsheet has been most helpful for all directorates in keeping contract milestones on-track.
“In actuality, the tool can work for any milestone that we track,” said Tremont. “We track about eight key milestones in the contract life cycle and just the way it presents the dates is more useful than this wall of data that reports tend to be.”
Tremont says that the tool also scans through the report and pulls out the key information and organizes it. That information is converted into an email to let the customer know that the requirements package, or any other milestone we pick, is past due or due very soon and the contract award date could be in jeopardy.
Tremont says that the Data Analytics Team really wants to support the contracting teams and the branches with quality of life products. “We love making these types of products for them to help them do their job better and more efficiently to make their contracting cycle better,” said Tremont. For example, the center’s Excel Pro-Tips training that employees can take to learn some of the skills used to make the reports, as well as raising everyone's knowledge of what Excel can do.
“This training is conducted every couple of months and is based on questions I get from people or things I think will help the center be more efficient,” said Tremont. “I would encourage everyone to sign up for them and maybe they'll learn some quality of life tips that can make something take seconds that used to take hours.”