How does one ensure the financial success of one’s government contracts? If we were to poll twenty-five different government contractors, we would likely get 25 different responses, and most wouldn’t be wrong. Some would say it takes a great program manager, while some would say it takes executive management committed to providing the necessary resources. Others might say it depends on the type of contract being worked or the type of fee being earned. All of these would be correct.
Project Manager=Jack of all Trades?
Over the past several years, a program manager’s (PM) job has transitioned from being the technical authority and leading customer interface to also being a financial manager. The days of a PM meeting with a contract administrator once a month to find out how much money he or she is making or losing are in the past, for the most part. Today’s scenario commonly has PMs being responsible for the entire health of their programs, financially and contractually. That means understanding provisional and actual rates, different fee structures, different contract types, and accurate budgeting.
Project Control Analyst to the Rescue
To help with this added responsibility, many contractors use program control analysts to assist PMs. An experienced program controller is usually equal parts accountant, contract administrator and payroll analyst, while also having expertise in government budgeting and reporting requirements. An experienced project controller also needs to be comfortable interacting with his/her government customer counterparts on budgeting and reporting matters.
Many programs/contracts now have direct funding for these positions. In this case, these program controllers will report directly to the PM. It is easy to understand how program controllers should work well with government customers, but what about their back-office coworkers? The synergy and teamwork between these two groups is often overlooked and often the reason behind inaccurate or untimely customer reporting and budgeting.
Who’s Responsible for What?
What dates are customer reports due?? What date does the accounting month close?? Who is responsible for timesheet changes?? What do actual rates have to do with me and my customer?? Why does your customer need projections for the next FY?? What is a revenue adjustment?? Why doesn’t the invoice match my cost report?? Award fee accruals?? Who is DCAA??
Communication Issue: Lay it on the Line
Sometimes the Accounting/Payroll/Contracts personnel and Program Control don’t speak the same language even if the overall goal is the same. Often it is the customer who ends up paying the price for the lack of communication, and that can result in a direct impact on profit.
Practices that can help improve your process:
- Set clear expectations for all parties involved
- Get these groups together early and often, from contract set-up to monthly cost reporting
- Cross-train between groups when possible
- Have defined policies and procedures
- Encourage open communication
- Clearly define rolls in the organization
There are many methods to ensure financial and overall success in our programs. Just don’t leave teamwork out of the process.
Government Contract Assistance
At RGCI, we have walked in your shoes and know what it takes to streamline and improve your program financial and contractual management function. Let us help you to enhance consistency, accuracy, profitability on your contracts, and achieve, for you, a greater level of customer satisfaction.