How best can acquisition professionals meaningfully contribute to the success of their agencies’ short-term and long-term goals? The easy but routinely incomplete answer is for them to be technical experts. The more challenging answer is for acquisition professionals to be technical experts as well as internal consultants who work collaboratively with agency staff to identify and solve their business needs.
In some ways, acting as a consultant within an organization is harder than rocket science. At least in rocket science the right formula will lead you to one correct answer and one best action.
Not so with consulting. The challenges, joys, and struggles of consulting are much more indefinite because consulting skills are built on the complexities of human relationships and people’s differing perceptions, which results in changing expectations, rules, and methods of business. Despite the federal government’s efforts to standardize and measure performance with tools such as the balanced scorecard, a consultant’s effectiveness is ultimately in the eye of the beholder.
Business competencies identified by the Federal Acquisition Institute—including the ability to influence, oral and written communication, critical thinking, and problem solving—directly support an acquisition professional’s ability to serve as an internal consultant by enabling them to:
- Understand the principles of planning as well as conduct and evaluate feedback meetings with program managers.
- Determine the most effective methods of obtaining information and conducting market research.
- Use consulting skills to work with a program manager to develop clear, precise, and complete descriptions of need.
- Explain the causes of program manager resistance and how to deal effectively with resistance.
- Identify strategies for administering the contract and evaluating the acquisition.
An Acquisition Consulting ModelMany consulting models exist but typically they are composed of discrete phases that at times overlap. Once engaged in the process, the following phases are not always sequential but they can overlap. At times a consultant has to backtrack to an earlier step to clarify issues that emerged as the project developed.
The Acquisition Consulting Model can be directly tracked against the phases of the acquisition life cycle and increase the likelihood of successful acquisition and mission outcomes.
· Entry, engagement, and clarifying needs
· Obtaining information and conducting market research
· Dealing with resistance
· Describing the need
Solicitation and Award
· Obtaining information
· Dealing with resistance
· Administering the contract
· Evaluating the acquisition
Serving as an internal consultant is a challenge. Is it worth it? Absolutely. What a wonderful way to make a truly meaningful difference for your agency and your employees.