Why communication can make or break a successful acquisition and improve contract management
Improving Contract Management is not an easy process. There are numerous steps that are involved with the acquisition process. From identifying the initial needs, all the way down to monitoring performance once a contract has been awarded will require multiple people – sometimes from different departments – to get involved. If too many people are contributing to the acquisition process but aren’t making the effort to communicate with one another internally, then the process can be unsuccessful from the start. This creates a communication gap. Not only is effective communication imperative to a successful acquisition process and improving contract management, but an open dialogue with the industry and potential vendors is too.
Setting the Standard from the Beginning
Communication comes in many forms. When the initial “need” is recognized at the beginning of the acquisition process, it is important to outline that in the proposal and requisition. Internally, everyone involved should be on the same page when it comes to requirements and expectations. As a result, a good proposal will leave no room for interpretation. Requirements should be concise and straight to the point. By failing to do so, this puts your organization at a disadvantage because potential vendors won’t have the full picture as to what you’re looking for.
Vendors may be one of the most important stakeholders throughout the whole process. They’re the most invested in the needs of your organization. The Federal Acquisition Process (FAR) not only encourages but requires dialogue between potential vendors. Take the time to communicate with their teams to learn more about their product or service and how it can best benefit your organization. Through this open vendor dialogue, your organization can learn more about the industry, concerns, trends, and more.
Utilizing the Contracting Officer’s Representative for Improving Contract Management
Once a contract has been awarded, the process of monitoring performance and tracking compliance begins. It can be overwhelming especially when there are other active contracts you’re monitoring. Many organizations are now utilizing Contracting Officer’s Representatives (COR). The COR oversees the contracting process once a contract has been awarded. They act as a liaison between departments and contribute to the ongoing dialogue internally. A COR can help close the communication gap and contribute to improving contract management since they ultimately become the “voice” for the contract. If certain individuals are not defined as having ownership on certain parts of the process, it makes it that much more difficult to get answers when you need them. The COR ensures that all requirements are being met and is the go-to person for anything related to the contract.
Bringing It All Together to Close the Communication Gap
Effective communication is an active, ongoing process. It will continually improve so long as everyone is looking to improve. While people can only do so much, it’s important to have the right tools in place so that the communication gap closes and eventually becomes obsolete. Many organizations find that how they manage their contracts and most parts of the acquisition process operate in silos. Not everyone has access to the same information. Some of the most critical pieces of information can go undetected by the required party. Not having a well-oiled overview on the process can lead to double work, incurred cost, and can open your organization up to more risk.
Having a contract management platform in place that is flexible enough to handle multiple departments is the step in the right direction. When implementing a contract management platform, all contracts live in one central repository and all workflows and processes are documented. You can use the platform to inform other team members of open items and important dates to keep in mind. Easily track contract versions and quickly get tasks executed in the fraction of the time it would take to do so on your own. With a contract management platform, this gives the COR a tool that they can use to track performance and compliance. They can generate reports, quickly search for documents, and maximize their role.
Probably the most important component of a contract management solution is the ability to quickly communicate with vendors. With this platform, you can give your potential vendors an opportunity to submit questions, documents, and other relevant information that aids in awarding a contract. When you make adjustments to the initial proposal, you can easily alert potential vendors and eliminate manual emails.
Communication is not easy and it is a skill that requires continual improvement. When it comes to organizational communication, not having enough can have a detrimental effect. In government, it could mean losing out on a qualified vendor. When you make the effort to ensure everyone is on the same page and give them the tools needed to be successful, you’ll find yourself with more wins than losses and improving contract management.