Being a Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) can add a whole list of tasks and activities to a manager’s already busy day-to-day responsibilities. A lot of time can pass from the date of certification as a COR to the time when a procurement request (PR) package is needed to acquire products and/or services to carry on the program mission. There may be updates to the various regulatory documents that govern acquisitions, or new management directives and policies. Organizational changes, too, can affect the duties expected of CORs.
Add to this the fact that CORs can vary widely in their level of experience, and they may have a different understanding than their Contracting Officer (CO) as to what information is needed to complete a PR package.
The result is that sometimes documents prepared in the pre-solicitation phase do not comply with acquisition policies and regulations, forcing contracting officers to return them to CORs for re-write or completion. This preventable delay could result in a loss of service or the need to undergo a temporary bridge contracting action.
So, how can CORs stay up to date on changing rules, changing templates, and changing deadlines?
Workshops, But Without the Elves
I was honored to be chosen to present a case study on this question, “Better Tools to Empower CORs and Program Managers,” at this week’s NCMA World Congress. In my presentation I describe a program my team developed to support a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agency. Its Office of Procurement assists CORs with planning and preparing their PR packages, then monitoring their approval progress to contract award.
We found that approvals (and subsequent contract awards) were delayed by the need for CORs to remediate deficiencies or omissions from the PR package documents. Seeing commonalities among the reasons for the rejection of the documents by the contracting officers, we proposed a series of workshops to refresh and update CORs on the basics of the PR package and the duties of CORs, from creation of the PR package through the close of the resulting contract.
Workshop topics cover four major areas:
- Planning (work breakdown structures, scheduling, market research)
- Budget and financial resources (funding, cost estimates, spend plans)
- Contracting (contract documentation, contract types, COR file documentation)
- Execution (performance monitoring, deliverables management, project closeout)
Structured to Encourage Discussion, Attendance
The workshops have a “brown-bag” feel, a collaborative setting where individuals of varying backgrounds can share their experiences as a COR. The workshop is not a unilateral presentation on a COR skill. Participants demonstrate an understanding of the topic via an in-class exercise. This is followed by a knowledge check, akin to a 10-question quiz. Workshops last 45-90 minutes depending on the topic, and the content utilizes examples within the component and/or the department. This allows for immediate applicability of the information delivered. The workshops are held onsite to accommodate busy schedules. Attendees can earn 30 Continuous Learning Points for completion of the series, towards the 40 needed to recertify as a COR.
Starting Point; Not the Finish Line
The workshops are not a cure-all for preventing delays in PR package submission and delayed contract awards, but we have found several benefits:
- They are an excellent vehicle for refreshing already-certified CORs with the tools and techniques that they need to apply, keeping them current with the latest information on the rules and regulations that govern the procurement process
- They help establish the expectations between CORs and those supporting them in the Office of Procurement as they work together in executing a well-developed procurement request, ultimately leading to the desired contract award.
- In our case study, fewer pre-solicitation documents have been returned and obligation rates have been more than 42 per cent higher in the past two fiscal years.
Training is one way to tackle the challenges faced by busy CORs. Do you have other ideas? Please comment.
Related blog post: Do CORs Matter in Your Agency? Why They Should