If you work in the Government acquisition world, this podcast is for you. (not just for Contracting Officers!)

We spend a lot of time on the podcast talking about the Acquisition Time Zones and the Execution Time Zones. Today Kevin and Paul discuss the infrastructure that supports all the activities that occur during the time zones. Listen and learn how this “third side” is often overlooked or undervalued by those in the other zones.

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Kevin Jans and Paul Schauer created the Contracting Officer Podcast to help government and industry acquisition professionals understand more about how the other side thinks. As former government Contracting Officers who have also worked on the industry side, Kevin and Paul share their perspectives in support of the podcast’s mission: Make government contracts better, one contract at a time.


Transcript Below

Paul Schauer 0:08
Welcome to the contracting officer podcast. It’s not just for contracting officers. If you’re anywhere in the government acquisition world, this podcast is for you. Today we’re talking help people with different roles in the acquisition group may not completely understand how what they do impacts others in the process. This podcast is brought to you by Skyway acquisition, visit Skywayacq.com to learn more. Okay, let’s get started. Today, we’re talking about government contracting in terms of three, I’d say focus areas, but but we’re going to use it a triangle because I know you love triangles, Kevin, simplicity of the triangle, we’re gonna say three sides of the government contracting triangle. The way we’re going to talk about it is the pre award area, the post award area, and then the infrastructure required to support the pre award and post award areas.

Kevin Jans 1:04
All three of these matter but but to different people and at different times. And most people in government contracting don’t deal with all three. Or at least they don’t excel in all three.

Paul Schauer 1:16
Before we get into the what and why of the three sides of the Gulf con triangle, let’s stop and say thanks.

Kevin Jans 1:25
Thanks this week, it was a Jeff Sperry Jeff is he’s a web developer and a wizard of all things it but in his spare time for eight years now is ensured that our podcast gets posted on our website, as well as published for everyone to hear. Plus, and this is my favorite part about Jeff, is he picks the image that goes on each podcast episode. Those are great. They’re awesome. And many of our podcast listeners actually have commented on how entertaining some of the images are. And that’s all Jeff because Jeff’s Nanda golf comm person he’s he’s a web developer, right? So he picks ones that relate to him. And to see some examples of how entertaining they are. Go to Episode 311 and 123.

Paul Schauer 2:07
The the Broad Agency Announcement episodes, one of my favorite pictures. Thanks, Jeff, we really appreciate your help all these years and making sure our podcasts get posted every time for almost 400 episodes now. Well, when you’ve been on vacation in the middle of the night, when I forget to do something right. He keeps me on track. He really is an unsung hero of the contracting officer podcast. So thanks, Jeff, we really appreciate it. We don’t say that enough. I back to the three sides of the GOV con triangle, Kevin.

Kevin Jans 2:41
We have pre award activities, post award activities and infrastructure activities. Those are the three areas of three sides of the triangle to the pre award. That’s all the stuff that can be tied to a specific eventual contract, or a broad agency announcement or a sliver or a purchase order something that results in the contract. All the stuff that happens before formal signature, post award is all this stuff that can be tied to a specific contract. And then same list. But this is all the stuff that happens after award. So for award afterward. And then there’s infrastructure, which is everything else.

Paul Schauer 3:17
Everything else required to win business or buy something to pre award to deliver something or manage that that contract process. Let’s dive deeper into each of them. Before I just ramble on about the infrastructure.

Kevin Jans 3:32
The important thing to remember here is that each one of these is a different skill set. And it’s usually different people. And part of why there’s three sides of a triangle is we don’t necessarily know what’s happening in those other groups or have any awareness of it or realize how complicated they could be.

Paul Schauer 3:48
Yeah, that for real, I definitely did not have insight into it until I joined a small business and became all three of them at once. Right? Right. So Exactly. Let’s dive in a little bit to pre award activities here, you gave a whole list of of, you know, all the stuff tied to tied to getting a contract awarded before signature. Let’s separate it between the all the stuff on the government side and all this stuff on the industry side related but different.

Kevin Jans 4:18
On the government side, this includes developing the requirement, doing market research that’s then tied to that requirement. The I call them the RF X activities, RFI RFP, draft, RFP, all of that stuff. And then there’s evaluating the proposals, there’s evaluation notices, there’s actually awarding the contract and then there’s the debriefings and the protest, potentially, there’s all that those are things you know, hopefully not but it happens. But all of those things that the government is doing before award.

Paul Schauer 4:49
Getting the money, right, making sure that there’s budget lined up to buy whatever you want, that all that has to happen before you can award anything. on the industry side, you It’s sort of like the the mirror image mirror image. That’s where I was going. I locked up there. Everything you just said, Right? There’s there’s targeting your customers, they’re shaping the award, right? Remember, this is a specific contract. This isn’t the whole world of things that you could you could sell specifically for this sale.

Kevin Jans 5:20
And making sure that the customer has funding, which that’s one of the things that the industry is making sure happens that as a contract officer, I didn’t think about that. Yeah. But those are the things that the person who wants to win a contract, they should be aware of whether or not this contract is going to be funded and how so.

Paul Schauer 5:38
And the bigger it is, the more the industry is actually involved in making sure things are funded, you know, all the way up to the congressional level. Yeah, that’s, that’s a whole different rabbit trail, great. Pre award industry has specific jobs, like proposal management, making sure we submit a compliant proposal. The proposal part is the big activity for for the contracting people at this point, but the people that are going to actually build the thing, deliver it, whatever may not be involved at all.

Kevin Jans 6:10
And even some of those ancillary elements that happen right at the end of the pre award, like a debriefing. And then and then like you said, now you’re starting to look at, oh, we’ve won the contract, we’ve awarded the contract. Now we have the next half of the work to do, which is the post award.

Paul Schauer 6:24
Right, then it’s just to this, the next side of the GovCon triangle of Kevin’s GovCon. Triangle is post award. This is everything that happens, that’s tied to a specific award specific contract, after it’s signed. On the government side, what’s going on?

Kevin Jans 6:41
In theory, you’re starting with an award announcement, because all the people that didn’t win need to know right, but you have a kickoff meeting, you have to train the contracting officers representative, if there isn’t one, where’s that initial funding? Where’s the actual in the case of the Air Force? Where’s the form nine, we have to have all of this, all this funding laid out? Who’s gonna manage the contract? What is the Defense Office, if it’s a defense, financial accounting services, who’s gonna pay a contract, who’s gonna pay it, then there’s the delivery management, like, we have to make sure everybody understands where is the thing or the service is going to be delivered. I mean, the people who talked about that during pre award may not be the same people. So now we have to brief all the people who are gonna manage the contract to say yes, this is this is being delivered to this location on this day, it’s going to be accepted on site or accepted in the contractors facility, all of those things. And then you get into the performance process, and the proof and things like the contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System, the C pars reports and all of the things that happen after award up to and including closing the contract out, which could be five years from now.

Paul Schauer 7:46
And industries on the other side, preparing for a kickoff meeting, getting ready to perform, getting their suppliers together, getting subcontracts issued hiring people, maybe tracking performance, trying to retain employee retention, trying to retain all the people they need to perform, delivering all the deliverables. It’s not just delivered this, this widget deliver this box, a lot of time there’s paperwork, see drills, they call it contract, data requirements, list, the actual list of paperwork, you have to deliver with your products, or or along the way to delivering your products. There’s contract clauses that require reporting during contract performance. Everything related to this contract delivering on this contract up to and including, like you said, Kevin contract close out at the end, there’s a formal process, not not for maybe delivering a widget, you deliver it, they pay you it’s over with. But for larger contracts, there’s a formal con formal process to close out that contract and say, Alright, it’s officially done.

Kevin Jans 8:50
It’s important to kind of pull the string on that, if it’s a large contract, this list is completely understood there probably a person that’s responsible for just the Cedral, right, but a smaller contract, or even like a simpler acquisition procedure, some of these things still apply. But there’s still a activity associated with post award, you still have to make sure that you deliver and you still have some of these elements. So understanding the degree of how long the list is, and how many different people are responsible for it. That can change on the size of the contract. But the end of the day, these are post award activities, which are different and pre award activities.

Paul Schauer 9:26
Alright, the third side of the GOV con triangle, call IT infrastructure. This is everything else required to support your mission. If you’re on the government side, or run your business, if you’re on the industry side, including grand strategy, including the big picture of what you’re trying to accomplish, not this specific contract, but everything else.

Kevin Jans 9:48
On the government side this this is training, all the different training that goes into the acquisition team and then for that matter, all the folks that touch a contract. It’s it can be a listening session. Hands that government folks will have with industry, all the small business program director events that they go to, that are not tied to a specific contract. I haven’t thought about I go to a government conference and you’ll see a booth with a government IDIQ contract that their branding and marketing trying to get you to get into government folks to use that contract. Yeah. So there’s some advertising going on, on the government side, because some of these contracts are self funded, right? That’s not tied to an individual task order on that contract. It’s a vehicle. That’s an infrastructure item. And then you have the Small Business Outreach, the long term acquisition plans that a lot of agencies do, industry conferences, all of this stuff isn’t tied to an individual contract. But it matters. And it’s part of the government interacting with with industry, and somebody’s got to do it. And you don’t necessarily interact with with folks that are doing the different pieces of it, when you’re in the other two sides of the triangle.

Paul Schauer 10:53
On the industry side, there’s sort of sort of their counterparts to these things, but there’s so much more going on to run the business is not just branding and advertising and training your people. It’s understanding your market, building relationships within your industry, big picture business development, could be lobbying, it’s even like accounting, right, get it paying the bills, getting the bills paid, who who makes sure the electric bills paid, so that the lights stay on, right. Not related to a specific contract. But it’s gotta be done. You may have quality people or safety people that are are over the whole business, that it’s necessary for specific contracts. But it’s not there just for that contract. The point we’re trying to make here is there’s three separate areas that may have completely separate people involved in them. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re on the government or industry side, you may not be aware of all the complications involved in each of these areas in pre award post award. And in the infrastructure, the big picture.

Kevin Jans 11:59
Oftentimes, we get really good at our side of the triangle. And as a result, we don’t know what’s going on the other side of it get even further detached from it. And we think it’s not as important or as impactful. And the things that I didn’t know that I didn’t know, as a contracting officer, a lot of them are about photos taken example, the amount of work it takes to be an HR manager in government contracting, like this triangle, the reason we’re saying it’s a gulf quadrangle, what it takes to be a government contractor, and all three sides is different than what it takes to be a commercial contractor. Yeah, these they still apply, but their concept of the triangle still applies. But the infrastructure being a government contractor is not the same as being a commercial contractor.

Paul Schauer 12:40
No, it’s It’s more is surprised. It’s not less.

Kevin Jans 12:47
Alright, shouldn’t be a surprise, I guess. No.

Paul Schauer 12:50
All right, Kevin, we always talk about government contracting in terms of the acquisition time zones in the execution time zones. This is what we’re talking about here. The pre award requirements zone, market research zone, RFP zone, selection zone, contract is awarded, moves to post award right could be different people entirely honeymoon zone, performance zone, recompete zone wrap up zone, which is that contract close out. None of those happen without the infrastructure without that third side of the triangle, the supporting infrastructure, right. This is how the government delivers on its mission requirements, the big picture, not just one contract. And this is how companies stay in business operate their businesses.

Kevin Jans 13:30
And if you’re new to the podcast, and you’re not familiar with the acquisition and execution time zones, we cover those in episode number three and Episode 372, respectively.

Paul Schauer 13:41
Let’s talk about the people that that are active on each side of the triangle.

Kevin Jans 13:47
So there we talked about the three deciders way back in episode 118. These are three groups of people. There’s the economic decider that decides if the contract is going to happen. There’s a customer who decides what the contract is for the requirement. They want the stuff and then there’s the contracting officer or the group that supports the contracting officer and they decide how are we going to buy this.

Paul Schauer 14:06
On the industry side, the contracting officer might be the procurement department or the subcontracts manager or the buyer.

Kevin Jans 14:15
All three deciders are required for every acquisition, because you got to have money, you got to have a requirement, and you got to have a way to actually take the money from the economic designer and buy it the stuff that the customer needs. So all three of these are needed. So in context of this GovCon triangle, they’re impacted in different ways.

Paul Schauer 14:31
On the pre award side of the triangle, all three government deciders are involved. And industry is certainly involved in pre award to we’ve talked, we’ve talked on almost every podcast about the importance of being involved early and targeting and shaping. Contracting Officers may not be involved as much or at all in the very, very early parts of pre award when the customer when the mission is talking about what are my requirements, what do I need to to complete my mission, and the money, people are talking about what budget we need to support the mission contracting officer may not even know that’s going on. But at the end of the pre award process, once you get through market research, and releasing an RFP, the contracting officer is is really leading the process by then.

Kevin Jans 15:20
The economic decider just wants to know that the money is going to be used, the customer just wants to know that the contracts gonna be awarded, they’re gonna get their stuff. So at that point, that the end of the pre award side of the triangle, the contracting officer is going to be the most involved. But all three are involved in some way during the pre or post award.

Paul Schauer 15:38
All three may be involved. But the economic decider is really not as active, right? The money still has to be there. But unless it’s a really long term contract that requires incremental funding funding along the way or multi year funding, once the contract is awarded, the economic decider is pretty much out of the picture. The contracting officer may be out of the picture, if it’s a very simple contract.

Kevin Jans 16:04
If the contract goes exactly as planned, because you know, that happens?

Paul Schauer 16:08
Well, if it’s just, I want to buy 10 of these things, deliver them, right, once the contracting officer signs a contract, it’s delivered, it’s over, it may not be that big of a deal for contracts, folks. But most of the stuff that we talk about most of the stuff we spent our careers in on the government side, contracting officers were very involved post award, but it might not be the same contracting officer that was involved in a pre award.

Kevin Jans 16:35
Right. In fact, that often in my career, hardly ever was I administered few contracts that I would myself.

Paul Schauer 16:43
Same thing happens on the industry side, there’s a whole group of people involved in winning work. We talked about that business development people, marketing people, proposal managers, proposal development, all those type of people, once the contract is awarded, they’re on to the next, right, they’re not involved in actually delivering what they sold to hopefully, hopefully, they’re tied in with the people that have to deliver it. So they didn’t sell something or bid on something that’s impossible to deliver.

Kevin Jans 17:09
There’s a risk in there. But that’s, again, hold a whole different topic.

Paul Schauer 17:13
The third side of the triangle may be completely separate people, the folks involved in supporting the larger mission, or making sure the company runs may not be tied at all to a specific contract, either winning it or buying it or delivering it, completely separate group of people. But just as important to the overall process.

Kevin Jans 17:40
As a contracting officer, I had little context on what was involved on the industry side of the infrastructure unless it was tied to a specific contract. I wasn’t touching it. I was busy awarding and managing contracts. So all the things that the company is doing that aren’t related to an individual contract, I had little context of.

Paul Schauer 18:03
Yeah, and I probably did tons of things that made it harder for them to run their business as a contracting officer, because I wasn’t quite aware, until I got on the other side and work for a small business and found out all of the things that need to be done just to be able to bid on work and to deliver on on government contracts. It’s very similar. If you’re a software developer, on the industry side, you probably have little interaction with or interested in, in your company’s accounts receivable department. Right? They’re super important that they’re making sure you get paid for the work you do. But if you’re developing the software, you may not know who they are, or how they how they work or how anything big picture impacts their ability to get the company paid. Different people. All right, Kevin, wrap up thoughts on why as as a government acquisition person that you care about the these three separate areas.

Kevin Jans 19:04
On the pre award side of the triangle, this, for me personally, this was my focus, I spent the bulk of my career writing source selections and awarding contracts. And it’s still where I do most of my focus. The post award side for me, I hit that off, that I had in most of my contract management, the post award stuff to on the larger contracts and administrative contracting officer, or even to another contracting officer in our office who managed contracts after work. I managed a few I mean, there was one six years into my career, I picked up a contract and I was actually learning what this is like. But I really until then didn’t get the complexity of contract management. But you and I did episode 352 That was my Ode to how complicated post award can be if you’re not aware of it. And then on the infrastructure side of the triangle, these activities aren’t tied to a specific or future contract. Therefore I spent little time on them, because my role is to execute contracts. So I execute the requirements that our customer needed. Therefore, I didn’t realize how much time my customer and the economic decider spent on that infrastructure side, they’re out with this strategy. They’re out building all these infrastructure infrastructure elements that we talked about. That’s a lot of what the other two deciders do. And as a contracting officer, it’s a lot of stuff that you that’s happening, you might not even know about.

Paul Schauer 20:26
When you’re in that government acquisition part of the world. Sometimes you forget that most of the people that work for the government aren’t in the acquisition world right there. They’re not just buying stuff. They’re getting the work done. They’re accomplishing the mission of the government of their department of their agency. They’re not involved in buying stuff. Yeah. For industry folks, there’s same segments occur, right? Pre award is how you win new work, business development, targeting writing proposals, sales. This is understanding how the government could buy from you on a specific contract, and winning postal orders delivery, this is this is how you make money, right? You deliver the products or the services that are required and get paid. It’s very common, just like you talked about Kevin, where you are on the awarding the contract side of the game, and then you would hand it off to another contracting officer. on the industry side, once once something is sold, or one, the team that executes it may have none of the people that want it. There may there may be some but but very few, and they don’t necessarily understand how each other work. And the infrastructure side, big picture strategy, business strategy, operations, right? Your your your tax accounting department, right? If it’s not tied to a specific contract, these folks don’t even really know that pre award and post award activities are going on. It doesn’t doesn’t cross their minds at all. Right? I didn’t not understand how this worked until I left the government to go work for a small government contractor. And suddenly, I became pre award post award and infrastructure right there. All three, my job. Yeah, that that’s the reality, right for small businesses does, the people are the same as you scale. As your business gets bigger, you get more specialized people whose whole jobs are in these areas. The government, I think, is mostly like that, across the board where people are in one of these three areas, or maybe in some places, they crossed between pre award and post award. completely separate in the government side, on the industry side for small businesses, especially. It’s all one big job.

Kevin Jans 22:42
So for the Skyway team, like we’re a bunch of former contracting officers. And so the three sides of the triangle, the pre award, post award, and infrastructure, several of us are really good at the pre award. That’s where I live, that’s where Vicki lives, and all former accounting officers on the post award side, didn’t do as much of that. Angela, Joe and Shelly getting former accounting officers, they live in there. When it comes to infrastructure, we have partners that we relate to we when somebody says I need help understanding how accounting works in the government contracts, work control, or exactly, we’re gonna send you to Wayne Leyland, and we’re gonna send you to other people who he was on a podcast a while ago. But that’s the ideal, I realized this as a contracting officer. Not only that, I don’t understand all this, but we’re really good at the first two. But the infrastructure, there’s a whole industry that helps companies with that, because it’s so different than the pre award and post award.

Paul Schauer 23:34
That’s a good blink. And and I think, because during the acquisition process, and during the official contract execution process, the contracting officer is sort of the focal point of communication back and forth between industry and the government. Industry, folks, sometimes don’t understand how limited of a worldview that most many, maybe I’ll say most most contracting officers have a very limited worldview. By nature, that’s it’s their job to focus on this. Not all the rest of it, even though you have to ask them the questions. Everything has to flow through them. Don’t expect that they’re going to know all the answers. And so when when when they’re not answering your tastes, while it’s not because they don’t like you, or because they’re incompetent. It’s because they have to figure out the answers through through the maze of infrastructure on their side, right?

Kevin Jans 24:21
Exactly. Yeah. Yeah, that number. Somebody asked me is this is this contract and require ITAR compliance and why? Okay, well, the first part I can answer yes or no, but the why I don’t know. I have to go after the ITAR guy. So yeah, that’s a it’s a whole different conversation.

Paul Schauer 24:37
That’s a whole different conversation we should not have on this episode. So. Exactly. So with that, I’ll talk to you later, Kevin. Okay, I’ll see you all. Thanks for joining us for another episode of the contracting officer podcast. You can find podcasts playlists organized by broad topic areas on the Skyway site at Skywayacq.com/cop/ for contracting officer podcast. Thanks again. We’ll see you next time.