By Lisa Cooley, M.SAME
Minor renovations and repairs can be just as challenging for federal agencies as a new capital expenditure project, even though they may be considerably smaller in scope. Often, there is a backlog of smaller projects due to a lengthy procurement process and difficulty in establishing an optimized scope of work within the available budget.
As the largest real property owner in the nation, the federal government depends on its agencies to develop efficient asset management processes and plans. Taking 18 months or more to finish small repair or construction projects means missions could be at risk.
Help is on the way, however, in the form of data-driven project delivery tools. Big Data is more than a buzzword. With pressure increasing to ensure that projects stay within budget and on schedule, federal building owners and facility managers can now leverage vast data sets with high-tech tools to transform established, proven delivery methods for both construction and repair and maintenance projects.
THE POWER OF BIG DATA
While new data and technology developments are driving its evolution, staying
faithful to the relational contracting focus that historically made JOC successful will
also be critical to its continuing value.
Having the most accurate costs to govern contracting is critical. The job order contracting (JOC) method centers around a detailed price list of construction tasks and costs known as a unit price book. An accurate unit price book provides a basis for the owner and contractor to scope and execute the work collaboratively.
There is tremendous value in a partnership between the owner and contractor when determining the best way to get the work done. If the unit price book is inaccurate, incomplete, or lacking in contractual precision, it can strain the relationship and create unnecessary tension over the course of the contract. That tension may impact the overall speed and success of the project.
New JOC-specific datasets provide better pricing control by including updated task descriptions, quantity modifiers, detailed technical specifications, and integrated terms and conditions. These datasets also incorporate owner-specific line items and requirements. More frequent and localized pricing updates increase accuracy and, therefore, competitiveness on these long-term contracts. The more precise, localized, and customer-specific the prices are, the more optimized the system is.
Additionally, datasets can quickly become vast. Users need technology enablement in order to truly make them effective. Evolving software applications provide the tools to manage these datasets, allowing for easy auditability and increased efficiency for both the government and contractors.
LEVERAGING PROVEN TOOLS
METHODS TO COMPLETE THE MISSION
When faced with stringent budget requirements, constrained timelines, and staff limitations, federal agencies have needed to forgo traditional procurement methods and turn to alternative project delivery. Indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract solutions have simplified acquisition of base engineering requirements, and single award task order contracts are now widely used pathways when it comes to getting federal renovation, repair, and minor construction projects completed quickly and easily. JOC was first piloted in the Department of Defense in the mid 1980s, and its value and growth were fueled by significant changes and disruption during the 1990s, such as when the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 sought to introduce efficiencies for smaller purchases. Additionally, there was an expanding commitment to support socioeconomic business programs, and multiple rounds of Base Realignment and Closure demanded flexible tools for adapting facilities. Technology also played a role as early automated estimating systems were able to better manage and leverage the robust unit price data sets that form the pricing mechanism of JOC. JOC’s flexible delivery model accommodates Federal Acquisition Regulation requirements and, ultimately, can be used to complete a wide variety of facilities and infrastructure work.
Effective asset management requires athletic adaptation to dynamic needs such as shifts in mission, disaster response and recovery, or urgent safety modifications. Standby project delivery tools such as JOC are increasingly being leveraged and integrated into the building lifecycle to provide agencies with speed and agility in their asset management strategy.
However, JOC is no longer a closed system for federal customers. Projects are identified as part of a larger asset management strategy; as a result, JOC data and technology must interface with other systems, automatically flowing information back and forth to reduce the burden on overstretched facilities staff. While new data and technology developments are driving its evolution, staying faithful to the relational contracting focus that historically made JOC successful also will be critical to ensuring its continued value.
TAILORING DATA & SERVICES
Innovations to JOC that have occurred outside of the Department of Defense (DOD) provide a roadmap for how the delivery method can be enhanced to meet current needs. When JOC gained traction in select federal civilian agencies and local governments in the early 2000s, there was a need for more robust expertise and support for new programs.
A more turnkey approach was developed—one that combined tailored data deployed in a customer-specific way, technology that supported JOC workflow, and expertise in the form of outsourced JOC experts who worked as an extension of government staff to ensure the success of the program. This set of data, technology, and expert services was deployed as an integrated program, under a performance-based fee methodology that put the program manager at risk and tied their revenue to successful project execution. Notable public agencies, institutions, and government departments have benefited from this type of solution.
While DOD entities historically required a needs and feasibility analysis to ensure there was adequate ongoing project funding, program execution, staffing, and skillsets, the ezIQC Program (launched in 2008 by Gordian) allows entities to leverage cooperative contracts on an as-needed basis, and with significant support in project scoping and price proposal validation. For example, the Georgia National Guard takes advantage of job order contracts through a statewide program offered by the Georgia Department of Administration. The success of ezIQC provides a roadmap for how JOC can evolve in alignment with government-wide category management goals and in support of skills and resource constraints experienced by DOD.
With the importance of sustainment, restoration, and modernization investments to the cohesion of a strategic asset management program, JOC and other unit price contracting methodologies are the focus of renewed attention. But JOC cannot stand still. It must evolve to meet the current DOD environment and include resourcing and skills gaps, better leveraging of robust data and analytics, and a more seamless integration of enterprise systems.
By utilizing the technological capabilities of Big Data, JOC will be positioned to continue delivering for federal agencies.
Lisa Cooley, M.SAME, is Vice President, Federal Solutions, Gordian; email@example.com.
[This article first published in the May-June 2021 issue of The Military Engineer.]