Topic Teasers Vol. 49: Working Government Contracts

Question: I’m a PMP and an experienced project manager, but I just landed a great job in a government agency. We are working out procurement contracts, and I must admit that I’ve never heard of most of these contract name types they are throwing around. Does the government do different contracts that those we were taught in our training?

A. Within the federal agencies there is one sole source for tangible goods and a second for people who might be subcontracted into jobs on a project-by-project basis. These sources are reconsidered every four years. Depending where you are in the cycle, you will either use the source already in place or you may have a voice in choosing the next source.

B. The federal and state governments each make their own rules about procurement. There is no common thread of how it is done; therefore, if your project spans several states you will need a separate purchasing agreement and supply source for each state.

C. Government projects are run in exactly the same way that other projects operate under the supervision of a PMP, so check the version of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) from the year you were certified to see what procurement guidelines you should follow.

D. There are some general ways you can learn in which government contracting differs from traditional private sector contracts, but check the details with your agency as laws and agency practices differ from year to year. You may have to make small adjustments in your practices as new rules are legislated.

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