Highlights From NCMA World Congress 2019

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Nearly 20,000 members strong, the National Contract Management Association (NCMA) is the world’s leading resource for professionals in the contract management field.

Each year NCMA holds their annual World Congress which is the nation’s premier training event for contract management, procurement, and acquisition professionals. Participants from both government and industry backgrounds gather to learn about critical issues challenging our industry.

This year’s World Congress was from 28-31 July 2019, when more than 2,500 contract management professionals from across the federal government, state and local government, private industry and education gathered in Boston, MA. This year’s theme was, “Shaping Acquisition: Modern, Adaptive, Connected.”

An engaging list of main stage speakers included Suzanne Vautrinot, president of Kilovolt Consulting Inc., who spoke about balancing risk with opportunity, as well as a Workforce Challenges panel consisting of several key acquisition leaders in the federal government. They offered their thoughts on innovative ways to make today’s workforce more flexible and nimbler and the use of enabling technologies such as AI and “workforce bots.”

Other mainstage sessions included a panel discussion on managing change and some of the emerging challenges facing government acquisition and a keynote by Stacy Cummings, Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Acquisition Enabler, US Dept of Defense. She emphasized the ultimate goal of DoD to modernize its acquisition process and introduced attendees to the Adaptive Acquisition Framework, a flexible acquisition process that is tailorable based on the operational need to have capability delivered.

A new innovation was the use of “Exchange Sessions,” which were informal discussions led by a moderator to focus in on a topic of interest to attendees. These exchange sessions were set in groups of 10-20 and allowed participants to share best practices and ask questions of each other regarding how to overcome a variety of acquisition challenges.

While the conference provided an opportunity to network and learn there was also an opportunity to celebrate NCMA’s 60th anniversary at the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art with live music, dinner and an extraordinary view across Boston Harbor.

TAPE LLC’s SVP and Chief Operating Officer Ted Harrison moderated a panel at this year’s event entitled, “What do the 809 Panel Recommendations Mean for Small Business?” The Section 809 Panel has made several recommendations aimed at refocusing DOD’s small business program. While many have extolled the bold recommendations that would allow the government to purchase “readily available” items more like the purchasing department in private industry, still others have sounded the clarion call to stop what some perceive as the destruction of the DOD small business programs. This panel sought to find the truth in a discussion with representatives from the 809 Panel, DOD small business, and industry.

TAPE actively supports NCMA in several ways. TAPE COO Ted Harrison is a Board Director on NCMA’s National Board and TAPE CEO Louisa Jaffe is on NCMA’s Board of Advisors and has supported NCMA for many years. As well, Ted Harrison was the event chair for the annual Government Contract Management Symposium in December 2018 in Washington, DC.

You can read more about the event on the NCMA event page, or check out what’s planned for World Congress 2020.


How NDAA 13 and 14 Have Shifted the Contracting Paradigm – NCMA March 2014

Thanks for your interest in Bill’s NCMA presentation, “How NDAA 13 and 14 Have Shifted the Contracting Paradigm.”

Click here to download a PDF file of the presentation slides.


Not Small Anymore – TAPE Presents at the NCMA Small Business Virtual Conference 2013

Photo of a team of people attending a virtual business conferenceOn December 19, 2013, the National Contract Management Association (NCMA) will bring together experts to cover small business topics in a four-hour virtual conference. I am co-presenting with my wife Louisa Jaffe, CEO of TAPE, LLC, and we invite you to join us.

Our presentation is called: Not Small Anymore—Beyond the 8(a) and Small Business Size Standards.

We’ll discuss how a small business can ensure they remain successful upon graduation from the 8(a) program and small business size standards, and present tools and tips to guarantee business success over the long term. We’ll answer questions such as:

  • What are the steps to be taken now to prepare for the time when the competition from other small businesses and open competition becomes more challenging?
  • How do you keep and develop new customers during this crucial time?

Because this is such a unique format, I recently interviewed Michael Fischetti, J.D. CPCM, Fellow, Executive Director, National Contract Management Association, about what attendees can expect from this virtual event.

1. What are you most excited about in presenting this event?

The opportunity to help our small business community with an event tailored just for them. We’ve designed an online event that will provide regulatory and legislative guidance, review proposal evaluation models used by the government, look at audit preparation, and discuss open competition beyond the 8(a) status.

2. What advice do you have for people attending their first virtual conference?

We recommend that attendees bring together their colleagues and participate as a team. We find that virtual training lends itself to a collaborative learning environment. After the session is over, many teams will hold wrap-up sessions to discuss lessons learned. After the seminar, everyone is on the same page and willing to work toward these new ideas.

3. The NCMA puts on many events, both live and virtual. What are some of the benefits of virtual events?

Besides the obvious ease of signing up and becoming astute on the biggest issues in our community, NCMA is able to obtain just the right presenter for the goals of a particular event, since the available pool of experts increases in a virtual environment.

For our attendees (and their employers), it’s being able to participate in training without having to leave the office. Since members can participate as a group, the lowered cost per person makes the format really reasonable.

4. What has been your experience with past virtual events?

That our members like them and are motivated  to attend a live event (e.g., the NCMA Government Contract Management Symposium or World Congress) next time to meet more of their peers, mentors, customers and clients in person.

5. What do you hear from NCMA members about the value of continuing education through attending events like this?

That it can’t be beat in terms of cost and time efficiency for meeting their CPE requirements and again, encourages them to attend a local chapter or other “in-person” event, or at least read up and become more proficient in their profession.

Thanks for sharing these insights, Michael!

NOTE: Early bird pricing ends next week! Please use this link to register now, and share with anyone in your network who might benefit. http://www.ncmahq.org/SBVC13_spkr


NCMA Conference Keeps the Focus on Education

As I wrote in an earlier post, in 2013, the federal government has limited travel and canceled many industry trade shows. Unfortunately, conferences have gotten a bad rap lately, with overspending and more focus on entertainment than education.

Luckily, conferences like the National Contract Management Association’s World Congress, held last week from July 21-24, 2013, still hold the focus on education. Speakers included the top subject matter experts in the world of contract management. The NCMA even offered certification exams for the designations of Certified Professional Contracts Manager, Certified Federal Contracts Manager, and Certified Commercial Contracts Manager – right at the conference!

If you’re going to attend a conference, it’s important to choose one like this that’s based on educational opportunities. It’s getting harder for government employees to get funding to attend conferences if they can’t justify the educational benefits. Even for this stellar conference, some of the government attendees funded their own way there. We at TAPE were very grateful that so many were willing to do this!

Attendance was down a little bit as a result of this change in the conference landscape, but it definitely meant that everybody who was there was very motivated. So although there was less traffic in the exhibit hall, we had a lot of very good interactions, and people were definitely there to do business.

As for my presentation, “The Fish Don’t Jump in the Boat” (my favorite topic!), we had a very good group, a mix of people from PTACs, who were there in force, several small businesses, and it was wonderful to have Alice Williams in the group as well. She is the Associate Director, Office of Small Business at Army Contracting Command, and also shared the stage with my wife Louisa Jaffe, President and CEO of TAPE, on a panel discussion.

We reviewed a lot of the topics that have appeared in this blog, and it was great to see how a new audience appreciated the content. There was even one question about mid-tier issues (another favorite topic!). (P.S. The session was recorded – if the NCMA releases it to the public I will definitely post a link here in the blog.)

If you’re considering adding conferences to your marketing mix (read this post first, from TAPE’s Director of Marketing and Communications), be sure to choose conferences like the NCMA World Congress that are well oriented to education, because those are the ones where you’re likely to find the most government people.

As with all things, you have to go where your customers are. Even if you don’t think contracting officers are your customers, they are the people who talk to your customers and put out your contracts, and that makes them your target audience. At my presentation, we talked about the importance of establishing a relationship with your contracting officers.

The location of the conference added a lot to our experience as well. As I tweeted from Nashville, the Gaylord Grand Opry Hotel and Convention Center was like a city in itself!

There is another good education-based conference coming up next week. From August 6-8, 2013, The Department of Veterans Affairs will host the 2013 National Veterans Small Business Conference (NVSBC) in St. Louis, Missouri. NVSBC is VA’s largest nationwide conference (they’re expecting more than 4,000 attendees) and is specifically designed to put veteran-owned small businesses together with procurement decision makers in both government and commercial industries.

At the NVSBC, I’ll be presenting another version of “The Fish Don’t Jump in the Boat,” bound to be a unique discussion based on who is in the room. Will you be there?


NCMA World Congress 2013 – Federal Contracting Conference in Nashville

I’m proud to be participating in the 2013 World Congress of the National Contract Management Association in Nashville, Tennessee from July 21-24, 2013. I’m presenting a breakout session called, “The Fish Don’t Jump in the Boat,” to share the best lessons from this blog.

According to their website, “The National Contract Management Association’s World Congress is hailed as a must-attend event because it’s the most comprehensive training event for contract management, procurement, and acquisition professionals.

With over 20 educational tracks, content is offered for professionals at each and every stage of their careers—and with over 1,500 attendees, there are vast networking opportunities!”

If you plan to be at the NCMA World Congress, please check out my session and let me know you’re a reader of this blog!

TAPE’s CEO and President Louisa Jaffe is also presenting at the NCMA World Congress. Here’s how to find our sessions:

The Fish Don’t Jump in the Boat (Session D08), Bill Jaffe, Tuesday, July 23, 2013, from 11:15 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

This session will bring you best-of-breed business development tips and strategies to use in pursuit of work within the federal marketplace. Topics of interest are tips on navigating through the Small Business Administration, stages of growth, risks and rewards of IDIQ contracting, marketing tips, proposal writing tips, capture management strategies, and internal infrastructure improvements.

How Asset-Based Thinking Can Help Create Collaborative and Productive Relationships (Session G05), Louisa Jaffe, Wednesday, July 24, 2013 from 9:45-11:00 a.m.

This session will help attendees identify the assets within and between key stakeholder groups (i.e., government customers/contracting officers/industry) in executing the procurement process. By applying asset-based thinking (ABT), attendees will learn how to generate concrete strategies for building stronger, more collaborative relationships. This interactive session will teach participants the fundamentals of ABT and how to apply them so they can maximize the potential of their relationships while minimizing miscommunications.


Were You at the NCMA Conference?

At TAPE, our relationship with the National Contract Management Association (NCMA) has helped us to find, attract and hire the best and the brightest in the contract/acquisition field. Motivated employees attend NCMA conferences as part of their professional development, making this a well-kept secret for finding qualified experienced contract/acquisition professionals.

This week was the NCMA’s Government Contract Management Conference (GCMC) in Washington, DC, from November 5-6, 2012, at the Renaissance Downtown Hotel. TAPE CEO and President Louisa Jaffe serves on the Executive Advisory Council of the NCMA and is a regularly featured speaker at their conferences. This year, she spoke about “Using Asset-Based Thinking in Leadership” along with the author of Change the Way You See Everything Through Asset-Based Thinking, Kathryn D. Cramer, Ph.D, Founder and Managing Partner, The Cramer Institute LLC.

Asset-based thinking (ABT) is a methodology that looks for the asset in every situation. ABT is part of the TAPE culture and the presentation showed conference attendees how to use it in the day-to-day work environment.

“ABT is weaved into everything we do at TAPE. It is a methodology that is practiced throughout the company by all of my employees,” said Jaffe. “I am very excited to share with the NCMA community how effective ABT can be as a leadership tool,” she added.

TAPE had a booth exhibit and was a Gold sponsor of the event. We’re also an annual NCMA corporate sponsor. All of these roles help us to stay very visible in the organization, to the point where we would be missed if we weren’t there. So aside from the opportunity to meet potential contract management employees, our involvement with this conference and association keeps us “top of mind” in our industry. And that is a very good thing.


NCMA World Congress 2012 in Boston

I’ve been blogging lately about how to get the best bang for your buck at conferences. Here is another example of how we at TAPE applied these strategies at the NCMA World Congress 2012 in Boston, put on by the National Contract Management Association.

We brought several of our acquisition support staff, which was especially helpful since my wife (and TAPE CEO and President) Louisa and I were late to the event. We had a very good reason: we were celebrating our daughter’s wedding, conveniently located in Maine.

This event was an opportunity for us to meet contracting officers (KOs), contract specialists and senior procurement officials. Since they would each be in charge of handling various procurement actions, we kept our selling materials general.

Instead of focusing on acquisition support, we worked to build up goodwill by sharing helpful information (such as what you’re reading on this blog) with the good folks from PTAC Boston as well as several OSDBU offices. We are not small business consultants; for us this is a way to help others where we were helped.

We also talked a lot about the Mid-Tier Advocacy group (MTA), because many of the KOs have the same frustrations about good small businesses going away too soon (growing larger than the government’s size standards), while the average businesses stay in the NAICS codes for too long.

Results:

  • Education – Many of our staff went to educational seminars.
  • Business-to-Business (B2B) Contacts – We met several folks we can follow up with, including someone that could potentially fill an immediate need for a teaming partner.
  • Government Contacts – TAPE’s CEO and President Louisa Jaffe sits on the NCMA Advisory Board that helps to shape curriculum and agenda for this annual event. The Board also takes the opportunity to meet during the conference.
  • Service Opportunity – The government needs 20,000 contract people. We can assist by helping to train returning vets who were working in supply. They have the  long-term procurement experience so it’s a natural fit.

How do you measure your success when you return from a conference?


How Do I Get a GSA Schedule Contract?

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This is a guest post by Morgan Taylor of Winvale.

Having a GSA Schedule contract can provide a whole new world of business opportunities for your company. Billions of dollars go through GSA contracts each year, and there are millions of GSA contractors. The GSA Schedules program is a great way to break into government sales, but it can be a lengthy and confusing process if you’re not familiar with the requirements. Check out the steps to getting on a GSA Schedule below.

Preliminary

It is important to determine if you are eligible to submit a GSA proposal before beginning the proposal process. Below is a list of requirements to keep in mind:

  • Must have financial stability
  • Must have been in business for at least two years (unless it is a Schedule 70 Springboard offer)
  • Must be able to prove that proposed products/ services have been sold commercially
  • Must be compliant with the Trade Agreement Act (TAA)
  • Must have a DUNs Number and active SAM.gov registration

If your company meets the above requirements, then you are ready to begin the proposal process. There is a great deal of required documentation that must be submitted with a GSA proposal. The documentation is separated into three main sections: Administrative, Technical and Pricing.

Administrative

The administrative section gives GSA a background of your company. This includes documents such as financial statements, the employee handbook, the company organizational chart and SAM.gov registration. Additionally, at least one person from your company must have an active digital certificate upon submission. The administrative section also consists of various required training courses which prepare the vendor for acquisition and maintenance of a GSA Schedule.

Technical

The technical section of the proposal gives GSA a deeper look into your company’s experience and expertise. The technical section requires corporate experience and quality control narratives, which highlight the company’s skills and abilities as well as organizational functions. The technical section also includes descriptions of past projects completed and a customer ratings report called the Past Performance Evaluation.

Pricing

The pricing section is the bulk of the proposal. Offerors must provide pricing support for all proposed products or services that support the company’s commercial price list or market rates. If offering labor categories, you must provide detailed descriptions of functional responsibility, education and experience. In addition, the offeror must disclose all commercial sales practices, commercial prices, and GSA proposed pricing. The pricing section itself can include up to 15 different documents upon submittal.

Proposal to Award

Once the proposal has been submitted, GSA can either reject the offer due to insufficiencies or request clarifications. If the assigned Contracting Officer feels that the offer is sufficient, he or she will next aim to negotiate for lower prices. Once negotiations have concluded, a Final Proposal Revision (FPR) will be signed, and the contract will be awarded.

Submitting a GSA proposal can be a complicated process that requires a great deal of GSA knowledge and experience. Winvale has highly experienced consultants who have worked on proposals for nearly every GSA Schedule. Winvale consultants can support your proposal process from the very beginning all the way to award. Looking to acquire a GSA Schedule? Give us a call!

Morgan Taylor is a consultant for Winvale’s Professional Services Department where she provides GSA Schedule acquisition and maintenance support to her clients. Morgan is currently a member of the National Contract Management Association (NCMA).


Benefits and Disadvantages of the GSA Schedule Program

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This is a guest post by Morgan Taylor of Winvale.

At Winvale, we are constantly challenged by organizations new to the federal market with questions around why a GSA Schedule contract is so valuable. Any savvy consultant should be prepared to adequately describe the benefits of a GSA Schedule contract program and even articulate drawbacks of having one in place.

Let’s focus first on this contract vehicle’s benefits.

What are the benefits of a GSA Schedule contract?

NO. 5: COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

FAR Subpart 8.002 and 8.004 describes the order of precedence for federal agencies considering sources in procuring goods and services. Federal agencies have a statutory obligation to consider mandatory sources of supply of goods and services, and the use of Federal Supply Schedules (i.e., GSA schedule contracts) are encouraged in advance of “commercial sources in the open market.”

This means that your organization will have a competitive advantage when compared to competitors who do not have a GSA Schedule contract. This is significant, because it puts you in an elite group of organizations who may receive preference (in most cases, chances are in your favor) when an agency is considering how to meet its needs.

Having a GSA Schedule is also a great asset to advertise on your company website and marketing materials. Having a GSA Schedule provides a great deal of visibility in the federal marketplace that can be used to win GSA bids and even Open Market bids.

NO. 4: A LONG-TERM PARTNERSHIP

GSA Schedule contracts can last up to 20 years, do not have a sales limit, and everyone in the federal government can use them. Specifically, GSA Schedule contracts have four five-year option terms. It is one of the most widely used government contacts available and they are recommended to anyone serious about selling to the federal government.

Of course, vendors will need to remain productive (generating at least $25,000 annually) and ensure they are properly administering their contract from a reporting and compliance standpoint, but the contract can help facilitate a long-term relationship with agency customers.

NO. 3: ENJOY EASIER AND FASTER PROCUREMENTS

Schedule orders do not require much of the extensive documentation and competitive analysis that is required when vetting commercial sources in the open market. This is why the GSA Schedule contract is so valuable. The contract pre-qualifies you to sell to federal buyers because the GSA has already negotiated fair and reasonable pricing for those federal buyers and made the requisite responsibility determination. This means it is significantly easier to win government business, as individual agencies do not have to go through the process of determining if your pricing is competitive in the market.

As can be seen under the FAR subpart 8.4 language, depending on the specifics, agencies can order directly from a GSA Schedule holder and do not need to make that public. By placing an order against a GSA Schedule contract, the government buyer has concluded that the order represents the “best value.” Less work makes contracting officers happy.

Another way GSA Schedule contracts lead to easier and faster procurements is through pre-vetted technical capabilities.When submitting a GSA proposal, offerors must provide technical narratives that capture a company’s experience in the field and specific expertise related to the proposed Special Item Numbers (SINs). In addition, offerors of SINs such as the Highly Adaptive Cyber Security (HACS) SIN 132-45, must undergo a verbal technical evaluation to ensure the main criteria is met.

While this can sometimes make for a lengthy proposal process, it allows agencies to buy from contractors with the assurance that the work performed will be satisfactory and meet all requirements. This can prevent GSA Schedule holders from having to submit separate technical narratives in each individual bid proposal.

NO. 2: ACCESS TO EXCLUSIVE OPPORTUNITIES

Once you have a GSA Schedule contract, you gain access to GSA sites that other companies do not. For example, GSA eBuy is a website that only contract holders and agency buyers may access. This acquisition tool is where agencies look to request information and quotes from GSA Schedule holders. GSA eBuy often houses high-dollar, high-profile contract opportunities not available anywhere else. GSA eBuy makes it easy to find business opportunities, respond to government requests and establish new business relationships. An impressive number of orders are transacted through this exclusive website.

…AND NO. 1: EXPAND YOUR CUSTOMER BASE

This is the absolute key for anyone pursuing a GSA Schedule contract. The vehicle widens your customer base and has great potential to lead to increased revenue over time. A GSA Schedule contract is also accessible by state and local markets. The Cooperative Purchasing Program under the GSA Schedule program allows state and local governments to purchase from Schedule 70 for information technology and Schedule 84 for law enforcement and security products and services, at any time, for any reason, using any funds available. Having access to this additional market is a key differentiator that again exhibits the value of having a GSA Schedule contract.

The U.S. government is the biggest buyer of goods and services in the world, and a GSA Schedule contract could mean new business relationships and major opportunities with a reliable customer and source of income during tough economic times. Any business should certainly take notice.

What are the disadvantages of a GSA Schedule contract?

PRICING RESTRICTIONS

GSA Schedule pricing is determined by establishing a company’s Most Favored Customer (MFC) and discounting from there. GSA is obligated to make sure that the government receives the best pricing possible, so maintaining the established discount relationship is an essential part of having a GSA Schedule. Once your ceiling GSA rates are awarded, you are required to charge at or below this rate to government buyers. You may never charge above the GSA established ceiling rate if you are selling through the Schedule. You must also maintain the discount relationship, meaning that you may never charge a commercial customer lower than your MFC rates, or you are required to revise your awarded Commercial Sales Practices (CSP).

These rules require that you monitor the amount you bill and the discount you provide to every customer class, which can sometimes cause unwanted administrative burden.  However, structuring pricing this way can help establish firm guidelines for sales desk and business development departments within your company.

COMPLIANCE AND MAINTENANCE

The GSA Schedule should change and grow with your company. Schedule holders should be monitoring the contract pricing and Terms and Conditions throughout the life of the contract to ensure that all changes made commercially are updated on the contract through a contract modification. To remain compliant, contractors are required to report all GSA sales, accept Schedule refreshes and keep the contract terms and conditions current, accurate and complete. Having a GSA Schedule does take some extra time and effort, but if maintained correctly, can be a valuable tool for your company’s continued growth in the federal marketplace.

The GSA Schedule has clear advantages but does require companies to take on additional compliance and maintenance concerns. Looking for compliance and maintenance assistance? Give us a call!

Morgan Taylor is a consultant for Winvale’s Professional Services Department where she provides GSA Schedule acquisition and maintenance support to her clients. Morgan is currently a member of the National Contract Management Association (NCMA).


Contract Management Professionals, the World Congress is Here!

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© W.Scott – Fotolia.com

NCMA has been holding its World Congress since 1996, and each year it gets better and better. TAPE has been an exhibitor there for the past several years, and it’s interesting to meet contracting folks in a very different environment from the usual locations, or with their small business folk, etc.

I asked NCMA Executive Director Michael Fischetti: What’s new for this year’s event, July 26-29, 2015 in Dallas, Texas?

This year you’ll see some changes in the “interactive” nature of the event. Along with education aligned with the Contract Management Body of Knowledge (CMBOK), attendees will have increased opportunities to provide solutions to problems of the day as well as meet new colleagues in the field.

What are you most excited about?

Our fantastic line-up of key leaders and practitioners in the field, most of whom are new to our podium!

I see World Congress has a mobile app (search “NCMA Events” in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store) – what features does it offer for event participants?

The mobile app contains the A to Z of World Congress. It includes the full agenda (which attendees can customize based on what they plan to go to), speaker information, sponsors and exhibitors, social media tools, and more. There’s even a part of the app that provides detailed local information about Dallas, including local restaurants, directions, and airport information.

Who will benefit the most from attending the World Congress?

Anyone involved in contracting, whether they’re from industry or any level of government. Anyone who wants to network with others across the profession and the environment they work within.

Does the employee justification packet really work to convince employers to send people to the event?

Absolutely, and our attendees tell us they love it! World Congress is well worth the investment of time, and this packet provides answers to the questions that their training officers, leadership, or customers ask.

See you all in Dallas!

If you’re a contract management professional and you haven’t registered for the World Congress, click here to learn more. If you’re a business developer, this is a chance for you to meet contracting folks over a beer or soda between sessions. You’ll hear them discuss the issues relevant to you, like LPTA or small business. This year we’re sending our CFO, who’s also in charge of our contracts shop.


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