An Inside Look at 2018 SAME Small Business Conference

By Bruce Sarty

I had the opportunity to represent Gordian at the combined Society of American Military Engineers and National Veteran’s Small Business Engagement Small Business Conferences in New Orleans. ­­As a part of the 4Clicks team, this was my first time participating at an event as a member of Gordian, and it was great to share perspective with my colleagues. I also enjoyed interacting with the small businesses that make up the majority of 4Clicks, a Gordian company users and the DOD and Federal entities our software was designed to serve.

Gordian's booth at 2018 SAME SBC.

The greatest insights came from attendance at the National Veteran Small Business Coalition meeting, where their Executive Director, Scott Denniston, and the Associate Executive Director at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Tony Costa, spoke to crowd and answered questions about ways to improve construction execution and small business support at the Veteran’s Administration (VA).

Key Challenges Identified by Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB)

1. Independent Government Estimates (IGE) are not thorough or realistic leading to project cancellations and difficult negotiations, especially under Job Order Contracts. The cause of the shortfalls range from inexperienced estimators to inadequate training and staffing.

2. Low bid procurements put SDVOSB’s on a bidding hamster wheel that doesn’t support the growth of these emerging businesses and adds little value to the VA itself. In fact, low bid frequently brings on businesses that are least skilled and have the least understanding of the project scope on board to complete the VA’s critical mission-related construction work.

3. Lack of partnering between owner and contractor can lead to poor relationships. High turnover, understaffing and the challenge of managing a large number of emerging businesses have led to the perception among SDVOSB’s that there is lack of partnership.

Conquering Challenges with Job Order Contracting

The proven benefits of a well-managed Job Order Contracting (JOC) program could help solve many of these issues and help the VA address longstanding challenges in its Minor Construction and Non-Recurring Maintenance programs.

JOC ends the “non-value added bidding cycle” by procuring a program of small projects for a maximum term of five years, so the successful bidder and the government can turn its attention to the successful execution of projects to meet mission needs. A thoughtfully designed and supported JOC program also provides tools that would address the VA’s challenges. Technology tools and robust training make government staff more efficient in the generation of IGEs and also reduce negotiation friction and cycle time. Strategic technology and training integration into the JOC program are a tremendous benefit to contractors who may be new to JOC and need to train a growing staff.

At Gordian, we believe formal partnering programs will set up JOC programs for success.  The value of formal partnering in JOC has been proven by academic research and is a new area of focus for the US Army Corps of Engineers on larger projects.

The VA’s approach to Job Order Contracting has been decentralized, leading to poor execution without adequate staff or training resources. A robust JOC program management plan—with a focus on training, technology enablement, partnering and, when necessary, outsourced staff supplementation—would benefit the VA and SDVOSB contractors alike. We hope to work as a team with NSVBC and the VA to support and improve SDVOSB programs and small projects execution!