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Government Contract Management Conference: Key Issues in Federal Acquisition (Part 1)

Ben Allen, Vice President, Public Sector Solutions
November 21, 2011

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the annual National Contract Management Association's (NCMA) Government Contract Management Conference in Bethesda, MD. Appian was again a sponsor and exhibitor at the event. It was great talking to so many acquisition professionals and catching up with people - some of whom I hadn't seen in years.

As always, the conference provided excellent speakers, panel discussions, and breakout sessions. Of note, I thoroughly enjoyed GSA Administrator Martha Johnson's keynote, the insights from Nick Nayak and Nancy Gunderson on a panel discussion regarding "the Future of Acquisition Policy," and the Joanie Newhart-led panel on "Building Tomorrow's Contracting Management Workforce Today." Common themes were presented throughout both days of the conference, and in particular, I was struck by the speakers' focus on change, data quality/standardization, and budget concerns.

I'll try to summarize all three in a series of posts, as these are important issues facing the fundamental operation of ensuring our government agencies have the goods and services they require to effectively carry out their missions.


Change was by far the most prevalent theme of the conference. Both keynote presentations spent significant time commenting on how rapidly things have changed in the acquisition community, and how their respective organizations have had to quickly adapt. Change will continue and organizations have to be prepared to embrace it and respond appropriately in order to be successful.

Appian's Acquisition Business Management (ABM) solution, built on Appian's BPM software suite, is designed with the idea that processes inevitably change over time. In fact, we encourage it. Change means the organization is analyzing their processes and the acquisition landscape, identifying areas of improvement, and implementing updates in response. This is only possible with a platform that allows you to model, execute, and refine the application all without requiring costly customizations through code changes.

During Martha Johnson's keynote she commented, "Contracting is an art." However, traditional COTS acquisition packages are built using someone else's interpretations of FAR/DFARS regulations. In essence, traditional COTS acquisition products constrain the artist's vision by limiting the flexibility of their tools. Anything beyond a predefined configuration item results in costly customizations. In a rapidly changing environment, these traditional solutions simply won't provide the organization with the flexibility needed to quickly adapt and evolve. With a BPM based solution, however, you are no longer bound by the constraints of traditional applications and are able to quickly configure your specific solution to meet your specific needs and vision.

Next up, I'll take a look at the discussions around Data Quality and Standardization. In the meantime, a reminder that you can see Appian's federal acquisition solution on display, as well as hear acquisition-specific presentations and panels discussions, at Appian World 2012 (April 15-17, 2012 at the Reston Hyatt outside D.C.). Register today!

-Ben Allen, Appian Professional Services