The Business of Government Hour

 

About the show

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The executives discuss their careers and the management challenges facing their organizations. Past government executives include Administrators, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Operating Officers, Commissioners, Controllers, Directors, and Undersecretaries.

The interviews

Join the IBM Center for a weekly conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business.

David Sutfin interview

Friday, November 30th, 2001 - 20:00
Phrase: 
David Sutfin
Radio show date: 
Sat, 12/01/2001
Guest: 
Intro text: 
Contracting ...

Contracting

Complete transcript: 

Washington, D.C.

Friday, November 9, 2001

MR. LAWRENCE: Welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and the co-chair of The Endowment for The Business of Government. We created The Endowment in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. Find out more about the Endowment by visiting us on the Web at endowment.pwcglobal.com.

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our conversation today is with David Sutfin, Chief, Procurement Operations, GovWorks. Good morning, David.

MR. SUTFIN: Good morning, how are you, Paul?

MR. LAWRENCE: Fine thank you, and joining us in our conversation is another PWC partner, Debra Cammer, Good morning, Debra.

MS. CAMMER: Good morning.

MR. LAWRENCE: Well, David, many of our listeners may not be familiar with GovWorks. Could you describe GovWorks and its activities for us?

MR. SUTFIN: Sure. GovWorks is simply buyers for hire. We're the folks in the hallways of federal agencies with the sign on us that says we'll work for a fee. GovWorks has been in business about five years. And we like to say that if you have a procurement problem, we can solve it for you, we can find a tailored solution for you.

Let me give you an example of what GovWorks does. We were asked to help the Veterans Affairs Administration with a rather large IT procurement. This project involved upgrading their telecommunication infrastructure and it took about two years. But we worked very closely with the program and project office, we worked with the hospitals. There are about 180 facilities around the country that needed to be upgraded to make sure the hospitals could support the veterans, the disabled veterans in their time of need.

We were very fortunate in that they had a good project office assisting us and that we were able to bring innovation to this project, as well. In fact, we received an award from the Industry Advisory Council for our innovative use of acquisition techniques. We also used all small businesses and minority businesses to do this work.

And what we did was, we went out and we wired all these facilities with fiber optic cable and upgraded copper cabling so that they could use the latest technology.

MR. LAWRENCE: Now, I'm told GovWorks is part of the government, but it's something called the Franchise Fund, could you explain what that is and the special status it has?

MR. SUTFIN: Yeah, it's a unique authority within the federal government. The authority allows us to provide common administrative services to other federal agencies. Now, common administrative services are those administrative functions that all agencies use to do their business, such as, personnel, procurement, finance, property management. The Act specifically allows us and five other pilot franchise funds to sell their services to other agencies. And the law requires that we recover all of our fees from our operations.

So, we have to charge our customers to do our work. Now, that's a bit different. That makes us a business within the government. But we are federal employees. We are federal agencies and, so, we have an issue of trying to explain to our potential customers who we are and what is the authority. And the Franchise Fund actually allows us to do what other agencies typically have to rely on is the Economy Act.

The Economy Act carries with it certain administrative burdens that the Franchise Fund gets around. So this is a very innovative technique and it's helpful for us, as well as the agencies, to have this special authority.

MS. CAMMER: Could you talk about your customers?

MR. SUTFIN: The list is long and they're varied. We have served just about every federal agency in the federal government. We have about 300 project offices that we work with. Some are here for the long-term; some come and go as they need special projects handled.

MS. CAMMER: What kind of services do you provide for your customers?

MR. SUTFIN: We try to provide a range of services. They include information technology, support services. We also buy commodities and other services.

MR. LAWRENCE: What�s your role in the organization?

MR. SUTFIN: My role is chief of procurement operations and so I'm the manager that looks after the day-to-day operations. As such, I try to make sure that we have enough staff, they have the resources that they need and, also that we planned our operations well.

MR. LAWRENCE: How many employees are with GovWorks?

MR. SUTFIN: We have about 35. It's a mix of contracting officers and support personnel. Most of them have a lot of experience. We try to hire senior contracting officers or individuals who have a natural talent for helping people trying to get the job done that's most important. Not every contracting officer comes to this well, so it's an opportunity for those that like to serve people, like to help to expand their horizons.

MS. CAMMER: David, let's switch and talk some about your career. Tell us how you got started.

MR. SUTFIN: Well, my father was a military pilot and so a government career seemed somewhat natural for me. I started as a result of having to go into the Air Force or I joined the Air Force, I should say, back in the early seventies. I was one of the lucky ones that won the lottery during the Vietnam War.

And, as an alternative to going into the Army, I chose the Air Force and, quite honestly, it was a wonderful experience. I spent four years learning about acquisition. And from there, I went to the National Park Service as the deputy regional contracting officer for he National Capital Region, and then to Treasury and, finally, to Minerals Management Service, where GovWorks is now housed.

MR. LAWRENCE: What drew you to public service?

MR. SUTFIN: Well, I think it's just part of my life. As I said, my father was in the military, he was a career man. When I went into the Air Force, I enjoyed acquisition a great deal and I wanted to continue in that career field when I left. I did look around in industry as well as government and was hired by the National Park Service and found that to just be a wonderful experience.

The National Capital Region was responsible or still is responsible for a lot of the monuments, the White House, in the National Capital Area, so it was a challenge. In fact, I was involved in upgrading the White House. It was the first major renovation of the White House since the 1950s. So we got to do a lot of interesting things.

I've been up the outside of the Washington Monument, few can say that.

MR. LAWRENCE: I'll have to think about that for a minute. As you reflect back on your career, what positions best prepared you for your position you hold now?

MR. SUTFIN: I think they all did in some way. A foundation was built in the Air Force and then I built on it in my other jobs. I found that, as I mentioned, working for the National Capital Region of the Park Service was really interesting. But I would say that GovWorks is probably the most challenging experience that I've had. Because it is like a business within government, you have to bring a lot of different elements together to make it work. You have to bring the accounting, the marketing, the customer service elements together and make sure that the organization knows which direction we're going and always stays customer focused.

MS. CAMMER: In all of your years of government service, what qualities have you observed as the key qualities for good leadership?

MR. SUTFIN: I think flexibility; the ability to articulate; the ability to build community within an organization. Those are most important. And I think, probably, trustworthiness is the single one element that all leaders have to demonstrate to their employees. If they trust you, they'll follow you anywhere.

MS. CAMMER: Do you think these qualities are different in the public sector or the private sector?

MR. SUTFIN: No, absolutely not. I think they're identical, in fact, you can see within the public sector as well as the private sector that these are the key qualities that most leaders have. Probably for the private sector, more of a visionary leadership style is sought after. But I would say that, for the future within the federal government, you're going to see a need for leaders that do have a vision of where they need to take the organization to shape it. Because I think we're being challenged every day to rethink how government is organized and how it operates. So that'll be key.

And, also, when I talked about this issue of community, I think that's very important. Your employees have to feel that they are part of something that's important and that they are going in the right direction and that they're going to be involved in the decision-making. And I would suggest that most employees will follow a leader who calls them to action, if that leader's ready to step out and make the right decisions on their behalf.

MR. LAWRENCE: What are the challenges of working in an organization like GovWorks that is in the public setting, but in many ways acts like a private sector organization?

MR. SUTFIN: Well, it's the marketing and the accounting and the customer focus. Most of us in government tend to leave the accounting to one side. We have very good accountants that know how to deal with appropriations and the expenditures. But, as a franchise fund, we're required to recover all of our expenses. So we have to keep books just like a corporation. So that's challenged us to think about how we account for those operations. How we structure reports that tell us are we, in fact, operating in the black or do we need to change.

Also you have to be market driven. You have to think about what the clientele wants. You can't walk into a customer and say this is a package, this is a solution that you will follow because it's good for you. You actually have to explain to them why you think this is the right way to go and then, get their buy-in, so that they feel that they're part of the decision-making process.

And then, getting the word out to the federal agencies has been quite an interesting process for us. We went through a performance-based acquisition ourselves, where we asked industry to come in and tell us how they would market GovWorks to the agencies. And this is an awareness program. We had a firm from St. Louis that came in with just a dynamite presentation. They had branded us as GovWorks, they understood who we are and what our message should be and they were able to articulate it during their oral presentation and so, it worked beautifully and it's been a good relationship.

MR. LAWRENCE: That's a good time for a break. But come back with us after our break as we continue our conversation with David Sutfin of GovWorks. Rejoin us when The Business of Government Hour continues.

(Intermission)

MR. LAWRENCE: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and today's conversation is with David Sutfin, Chief, Procurement Operations, GovWorks.

Joining us in our conversation is another PWC partner, Debra Cammer.

MS. CAMMER: I wanted to ask you if you could continue to talk about GovWorks and help us understand when it was created and what was the impetus behind it and how it works?

MR. SUTFIN: We started back in 1996. In the prior administration, there was an attempt to reduce the overall size of administrative service personnel within the federal government. Now, the administration had a goal of cutting about half of all positions. We had a fairly well working team of acquisition professionals. We had been relied upon by the Department of Interior to handle some of the more difficult projects that they had.

And so we thought it was important to keep that team together. So, I took the staff off-site and I posed the issue to them: what do you want to do? Quite honestly, I said to them, I will have a job at the end of this downsizing, but some of you won't, and the question for you is what do you want to do about keeping this team together?

And they agreed unanimously that they wanted to keep their team together and that we would go out and sell our services to other agencies and build on our past success.

So we started looking for customers and that was an interesting experience unto itself. We found a few customers. We made a decision that we had to do it right. So we made sure that each and every one of them was more than satisfied with the quality of our work. But we had a call from one particular office at GSA and they said, we understand you're providing contract support, can you come down and talk to us because we use outside contracting shops to help us. And we said, sure.

Went down and met with John Ordigo (phonetic). Now, John, is head of the National Finance Center in New Orleans. He's since moved on. And for those of you that know John, John talks in very fast, clipped sentences or phrases, most of the time.

At the end of our half-hour interview with John, we weren't sure if we had a commitment to work with him, but by the time we got back to our office in Herndon, we had a fax with an interagency agreement asking us to sign up and be a contracting shop for them. So it moved rather quickly from that point forward.

MR. LAWRENCE: Was the impetus for the creation simply the reduction in administrative costs? It sounds, also, like there was a quality issue, as well?

MR. SUTFIN: There were, there were several issues. I think for many of us, as we began to mature in our careers, we were looking for something different, as well. But I would say that that reduction was a call to action. From that, then, we said, well, let's change the paradigm of how we operate. Let's see if there isn't a better way of providing services to customers. And so we did a complete shakeout of the procurement process.

Our office had been innovative in the way that we approach acquisition. In fact, we were using past performance as an evaluated factor, long before Dr. Kelman (phonetic) even showed up on the scene. And he was right, past performance is one of the key elements in understanding who should get a contract.

We also were innovative insofar as we used oral presentations in 1996. Now, we were one of the first agencies to use this process. Today, it's written into the Federal Acquisition Regulation, but then, no one was using it or very few were using it. And we were written up as having developed a best practice, and it was published by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the GSA government wide office.

Since then, we've used statements of objectives as a way of identifying a problem that an agency needs solved and then letting industry come in and propose solutions. And so, we've married statements of objective, oral presentations, and past performance into a theme for our support of other agencies when we come to serving them through acquisition.

MR. LAWRENCE: Do you have measures of how this led to increased effectiveness or efficiencies for your customers? So, for example, if it was designed to reduce cost, have costs been reduced and has it led to procurements that have resulted in a better selection of vendors, for example?

MR. SUTFIN: Well first off, it has resulted in much better selection of vendors. We've seen the number of protests and the disputes go down dramatically. In fact, virtually no disputes. And, in terms of protest, we've only had two protests in the 12 years that I've been with Minerals Management Service. So, yes, it's very effective and it does improve the speed with which we can acquire goods and services for our clients.

We used to worry about taking years to complete an acquisition. We now complete acquisitions in a matter of days and weeks rather than months and years. So this has been a tremendous benefit for the agencies. Program managers no longer have to worry about whether their statement of work will be outdated by the time we contract for it.

MS. CAMMER: It sounds like you've demonstrated a lot of best practices for the procurement office. Could you talk about how it's been viewed, both within the Department of Interior as a procurement option and outside of the department procurement offices?

MR. SUTFIN: I think much of what we've done has been ported out to the other agencies and to the rest of the department. Although we are still seeing that there are pockets of -- pockets where these processes still have not been put to full use. And I think that's unfortunate because if they would look at different ways of approaching acquisitions, I think most of the problems that acquisition offices suffer would go away.

We hear stories from our clients when they've tried to introduce some of these methodologies to their acquisition shops, that they've been resistant to use them or reluctant to use them because they just don't want to take that risk. It's an interesting dynamic. Most of us in the acquisition community are comfortable with process, but we tend not to be risk-takers. So there is an opportunity here for the acquisition community to step out of its comfort zone.

MR. LAWRENCE: Can you give me an example of your work with an agency that you're particularly proud of? I'm trying to see the different ranges of what might be done and so what I'm imagining is it that innovation was introduced or is it because they turned the whole process over to GovWorks? What's sort of the best of all possible worlds I'm supposing?

MR. SUTFIN: We've built a reputation of working very closely with our customers. We don't dictate to them. What we do do is we try to look at a different approach to the acquisition process.

We had a particular project that we are very proud of. And this is an e-portal for the medical community within the Defense Department. We went through the acquisition process that I described to you. As a result, we selected a firm that came up with a very innovative approach to the medical community's problem of getting information out to their customers using the technology of the Internet.

This portal, once it's completed, will be moved from office-to-office within the defense community. A nice result of that was that we had a call from HHS they, too, were looking at developing a similar e-portal, or medical portal. And so we introduced them to the Defense Department and the project manager there. From that, they learned what they did, the benefits of using GovWorks and were then challenged to come to us and have us do their acquisition.

In the end, we saw a horizontal movement of technology and information and process that served a larger community. And that, to us is really exciting, when we can move information from agency to agency.

MS. CAMMER: I'm wondering, you have this view of federal government acquisition plans that's pretty broad. What could you tell us about the trends that you observed over the last five years and then even more recently, in the last year?

MR. SUTFIN: Well, I think the trends are more involvement of the program office in acquisition. I see that we're going to have greater challenges to get industry involved in the operations of government more through this administration. Competitive outsourcing will be a direction that this Administration is going to move toward.

I think that we all have to be prepared to adjust to what this Administration wants done. The President has said that he's going to bring competition to the federal government. And if you look at GovWorks, we're already operating in a competitive environment.

So, what we've developed here, and the other franchise funds, I think are good operating models for the rest of the government and the administrative providers within the federal government.

MS. CAMMER: Have you noticed differences in the kinds of services that the federal government's looking to acquire?

MR. SUTFIN: I think the services are about the same, but we do see more information technology being purchased. We see that they're buying services that are integrated, as opposed to piece-meal, we don't see as much stovepipe purchasing of services. I do see that we are buying technology much faster and it's getting into the mainstream quicker. And so that's a very positive outcome.

MR. LAWRENCE: Well this is a good stopping point. It's time for a break. When we come back, we'll ask David Sutfin of GovWorks about the management challenges he faces. Rejoin us when The Business of Government Hour continues. (Intermission)

MR. LAWRENCE: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and today's conversation is with David Sutfin, Chief, Procurement Operations, GovWorks.

Joining us is our conversation is another PWC partner, Debra Cammer.

MS. CAMMER: David, could you tell us about the kind of reception you've received from the acquisition community?

MR. SUTFIN: It's been mixed, some office are looking for help. With the downsizing of the acquisition community, they truly do need help. Other offices are really not aware of what we offer and that's a challenge for us to get out there and explain what GovWorks is about and why we're here to help them and that we shouldn't be seen as competition or a threat. I know that seems hard to imagine that anybody would perceive us as a threat -- that was a joke.

But, honestly, we don't want to take away jobs. And we've told our customers and other acquisition offices that our intention is never to take over complete acquisition shop. What we want to do, though, is help them with particular projects that are difficult or where they have a shortfall in staffing, we'd like to come in and assist them.

MS. CAMMER: Have you had turf issues, and how have they been resolved?

MR. SUTFIN: We have. Quite honestly, there are agencies that have set up barriers that, in fact, do not want to have outside contracting op shops come in and assist their program or project managers. And they have developed internal policies that say that there can be no off-site acquisition support.

Others are very open to it. I think those are the organizations that are really moving in the right direction. They understand that when you can't serve your customer, you've got to find a solution for them. And so, we are always looking for that right balance in approaching our customers.

Oftentimes, though, we work with project or program managers directly and they very much appreciate what we're doing and how we operate. And in turn, they go out and sell GovWorks to other agencies. One of the best ways to get new customers is to make a customer happy, ecstatic about the service. And they'll tell somebody, and they'll tell somebody else. And word-of-mouth has generated a lot of interest in GovWorks. That plus conferences is the way that we bring new customers to us. We probably get about 15 percent of our customers through conferences, trade shows, and I would say, well over 60 to 70 percent of our customers actually come from referrals. The rest of it we get through a variety of means.

MS. CAMMER: Are there other agencies like GovWorks in the federal government?

MR. SUTFIN: Oh, there certainly are. GSA, of course, is probably the most well known. It has a well-known reputation for the services that it provides. And then you've got several other franchise fund organizations that are providing acquisition services. And we try to keep touch with one another from time to time and see what they're doing and be aware of what directions they're going and whether we need to follow or if we're going the right direction, and maybe we need to steer clear of what they're doing.

You don't want to create a false impression within this environment. We know that this is a pilot, we want it to be done right and so we're very careful about how we approach acquisition and services to our customers.

MR. LAWRENCE: You began as a bureau acquisition office and then transitioned to a franchise fund with a broader customer base, could you describe the challenges in making that transition?

MR. SUTFIN: They were, I would say, threefold: they were organizational; political; and structural.

Organizational had to do with who is going to do the work? Who has the capability to do this type of work, which is a bit different than the norm, because you've got this marketing component.

The other was political: making sure that our internal organization knew that we were still fully committed to them. We didn't want them to feel that they were now second-hand. We wanted them to know that we were going to meet their expectations. The other thing was to be sure that we had buy-in from our management team, the executives. And Bob Brown, who is our associate director for administration, has been very supportive of us. And without Bob's support, I doubt we would have gone as far as we have. And then we always had our director's support and this has been very important. And then, within the Department of Interior, we had to make sure that they understood what we were doing, why we were doing it, and that there was going to be value to the federal government.

We have worked very closely with Sky Lesher. Sky is the deputy CFO at the Department of Interior and I think Sky, in fact, has been on your program. Sky has been instrumental in the development and formation of the franchise fund within the Department of Interior.

MR. LAWRENCE: You described three types of problems. And I guess the one that most interests us, because we focus on management, is the organizational issues. I'm imagining that the transition resulted in change and people don't always deal with that very well. Did it and how did you deal with it?

MR. SUTFIN: It's a very good question and there have been some issues. Initially, going into it, we knew that we had to move people into this environment so we asked those that were interested to volunteer. The ones that chose to, turned out to be the best for this type of environment.

But, as we grew, there was a need to become more inclusive and make sure that everybody was participating in it, because no one wanted to feel that this element of the organization had more importance than the other. So we began to cross-pollinate rather than have one part of the organization do franchise, the other part do MMS work.

The other issue is team building. As you move into this environment, which is a competitive environment, you want to make sure that everybody is working together in the same direction. And so, we've had an opportunity to sit with the staff over the years and talk about what are the issues that they see that are impact to them as we've grown?

We started at $33 million, in terms of contract awards, our first year. We are now at about $333 million, so in 5 years, you can see that's a tremendous growth. Some of the things that we've had to deal with is just the paperwork and the files and keeping enough support staff to make sure that all of this was organized.

There are a lot of issues that we hadn't anticipated. I mentioned earlier the accounting element. That's very important, you can't continue in the franchise fund unless you're paying your expenses. One of the requirements of OMB was that we had to be fully self-sustaining. So, you've got to watch your cash flow; you've got to make sure you've got enough revenue to cover expenses. This is somewhat alien to most federal employees. Fortunately, because we're in contracting and we deal with the business community all the time, we're looking at proposals and pricing proposals, it comes a bit more natural to us than it might to someone else.

This other issue of marketing that I discussed earlier, too, was foremost.

MS. CAMMER: What about the challenges of managing international contracts? Can you talk about the logistics involved in some of those contracts that you have?

MR. SUTFIN: We are actually working overseas in Europe and Asia, as our customer-base has grown, and we've taken on some new responsibilities. We are working with the African Development Foundation and their mission is to support entrepreneurial government within sub-Sahara Africa. And they've asked us to come in and provide full acquisition support for them. They do not or did not have an acquisition shop. And so, our buyers are most eager to do this. This is really a challenge and it's a pleasant challenge.

But what they found is, they have to know Portuguese, they have to know French, as well as English, and some dialects within the African continent. Now, no one on our staff actually understands those languages, so we've had to go out and find translators.

Also, you're dealing with the laws and customs of those countries and, so, you have to understand how they operate. And it is a different environment when you're dealing overseas activities and things have to move much faster.

MS. CAMMER: It sounds like you got involved with international work and then found out what the challenges were.

MR. SUTFIN: Absolutely.

MS. CAMMER: What lessons-learned do you have from that experience?

MR. SUTFIN: I think, or any organization, do your due diligence, find our what it's really about, that's most important.

We discovered some downside to not knowing the full scope of services over there. but there were some upsides, in that it has broadened the knowledge base of our contracting officers. They now know how to move money from the United States to a foreign country; what banks to use for the conversion, something that they would not have known otherwise. They now know how to deal with foreign contractors, they understand that there are different conditions. But, absolutely, due diligence is most important.

We are also working with USAID and they have some fascinating projects that they're doing in Africa. One of them is trying to bring the Internet and knowledge about AIDS to the young people over there. And we've been working with Dr. Motin (phonetic) and Carolyn Coleman of USAID on their project.

In fact, we see a synergy between what the African Development Foundation is doing and what USAID is doing in trying to promote development within sub-Sahara Africa.

MR. LAWRENCE: That's a good stopping point and it's time for a break. Come back with as we continue our conversation with David Sutfin of GovWorks when The Business of Government Hour continues. (Intermission)

MR. LAWRENCE: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and today's conversation is with David Sutfin, Chief, Procurement Operations, GovWorks. And joining us in our conversation is another PWC partner, Debra Cammer.

Well, David, in the last segment, you were talking about contracting and different things, and I'm curious -- a lot is mentioned about accountability and performance and people often talk about performance-based contracting. Do you use these tools in the services you render?

MR. SUTFIN: Absolutely. We have been using performance-based contracting for a number of years and we've segued from performance-based into statements-of-objective. But that, to me, is just another form of performance-base contracting. And we've been at this, as I said, for a number of years, probably going back four years. We've used it for our own internal contracts and we've shown other agencies how to use them to their own good advantage.

The beauty of it, I think, is they are simpler. They're much easier than trying to develop a detailed statement of work. Many times, program managers are so wedded to the old process, but once we've shown them how you can streamline this process of identifying what you need done and then think about what is the outcome that you want, rather than the details of how they have to perform the work, most of them kind of hit the forehead and say, gee, why didn't I think of that. It is, in fact, a far easier way to contract and it does provide a better outcome for the agencies.

MS. CAMMER: We know that GovWorks is preparing to launch a new line of telecommunication services, similar to GSA. Can you describe these services and how they differ from GSA's services?

MR. SUTFIN: Well, I think there is a fundamental difference. Over the years, agencies have tended to buy telecommunication services in stovepipes, that is, they buy long-distance here, local service here, wireless there. What we want to do is bring commercial best practices to telecommunications for the federal government.

We don't want to use the old government mandate of how telecommunications should be bought or delivered. We want to say to industry, tell us how you provide these services to industry, come to us with your standard service level agreements, and we'll set up an IDIQ contract with you and then, as agencies come to us, we'll have individual task orders that you'll compete for. And what we'll do is ask you to do a due diligence period. As we want you to get in and look at the environment of that agency.

Many of the agencies have been downsized when it comes to telecommunication experts and so, they may not, in fact, know the full extent of their telecommunication environment. So we want to make sure that the contractors that are interested come in and understand that agency's environment, their needs.

We also want them to come to us with their best practices. We want them to be able to sign up for the long-term with that agency. Many of the telecommunications professionals tell us that they need somebody that understands their organization; that knows the environment; and then can respond quickly with solutions.

The economy and government are moving at a much faster pace than ever before. And we just can't take the time to go through these individual purchases like we used to. We can't buy services in stovepipes, we need to have a unifying thought or theme about telecommunications and that's what we're hoping to achieve here, which is different than what is currently being done.

MR. LAWRENCE: What do you see as the upcoming IT and acquisition trends in the federal government?

MR. SUTFIN: Well, I think competitive outsourcing will be a trend. I think the Administration's made that very clear. And I think for agencies, one of the first things they have to do is identify what is their core mission, the essential part of their organization that no one else can provide.

After that, then they have to look at what I would call non-core but essential functions that they really cannot afford to outsource because they are so vital to the organization. And then they should look at what we call non-core, non-essential. That, I think, is the opportunity for agencies to outsource. Take those functions and identify what is the problem or the objective that can be resolved by having it outsourced and then let industry come in with their solutions. Make sure you get a wide opinion about how to address those, and don't try to dictate. Don't say, but we've always done this function this way so, therefore, this is how industry should approach it. Let them come to you and suggest a better approach. We think this is really a direction that all agencies need to take.

When it comes to IT, I think there are several areas. First is e-commerce. E-commerce has been around for, oh, the better part of seven years. In fact, I served on the Federal Electronic Commerce Acquisition Team back in 1994 and we developed a blueprint for the President's management council on where e-commerce should go. This involved acquisition professionals, financial management professionals, information technology professionals.

At the time, we were told that whatever we developed had to be implemented within three years. I thought that was overly ambitious and I said, at the time, to Marty Wagoner who was heading up that group, that, if we get it done in 10 years we'll be lucky. And I think it's coming true, that just as we approach t he 10-year mark, we're seeing more and more use of electronic commerce. But there is going to be a greater push within this Administration to get more information out to the citizens, to the users of government services through electronic commerce, through the Internet in ways that we had not seen before.

The other issue is security. September 11 was, as everybody knows, a wake-up call. We have talked about security when it comes to information technology, but we thought we had more time to deal with it. September 11 has told us we don't have a lot of time that we have to address it now. And so, I think all agencies and procurement professionals have to be sensitive to the fact that we've got to be able to buy solutions for our agency customers quickly and solutions that work for those individuals.

MS. CAMMER: David, could you share your plans for expanding GovWorks services into other agencies?

MR. SUTFIN: Well, our plans are to make sure that when there is a need that isn't being fulfilled that we're there to help. As I said earlier, we're not here to take away jobs. We do have an aggressive awareness program, where we're trying to get information out to the agencies.

We had an interesting event just the other day. Our procurement attorney at the Interior Department has been a very strong supporter of what we're doing, Alton Woods. And one of our specialists received a phone call from a gentlemen at HHS saying that he was looking for help with his acquisition; talked about the project in question and, as our contracting officer talked to this individual, she learned that he, in fact, is a brother-in-law of Alton Woods. At which point, he said, why didn't Alton tell me about this? I've been looking for help. So, there are some interesting dynamics at play here.

While we have served over 300 project offices to date, there are many more that don't know about us and don't know what services we offer and how we can help them and so, we're going to try to get that message out.

MR. LAWRENCE: We hear a lot about the upcoming retirement wave and the difficulty of federal government agencies in recruiting and retaining employees. I'm wondering how you imagine GovWorks would help support an agency, perhaps, losing personnel?

MR. SUTFIN: Yeah, it's a big issue and I think there are even bigger opportunities there for us and for the agencies. We are, as I said earlier, building on what we've done before, getting the word out. And I think as the acquisition community begins to retire, there will be a greater push to find alternatives, to use industry to get the job done, but also to look for internal service providers that can handle the acquisitions.

There will be centers of excellence that will develop quite naturally over time and we expect GovWorks to be one of those centers of excellence. We already bill ourselves as a federal acquisition center and we want to make sure that people understand the quality that we bring to the acquisition process.

I think, though, as we see what's happening with industry, there is an opportunity, also. With the economy taking a nose-dive, there are many very skilled individuals now that are looking for new opportunities. And we've found that we've been able to tap into that resource and hire highly qualified, highly motivated employees. I think agencies need to begin to look at new sources of employment.

MR. LAWRENCE: Well, David, I'm afraid we're out of time for today's show. Debra and I want to thank you very much for being with us.

MR. SUTFIN: Thank you. I just want to let the listeners know that if they want to know more about GovWorks, they can go to our Website, it's www.GovWorks.gov, that's GovWorks and our phone number is 703-787-1400.

MR. LAWRENCE: Thank you very much. This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with David Sutfin, Chief, Procurement Operations at GovWorks.

Be sure and visit us on the Web at endowment.pwcglobal.com. There, you can learn more about our programs in research. You can also get a transcript of today's very interesting conversation. Again, that's endowment.pwcglobal.com.

This is Paul Lawrence, see you next week.

David Sutfin interview
12/01/2001
David Sutfin

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