As head of Maximus‘ federal services business, Tom Romeo oversees an approximate $500 million portfolio of work for the federal government in areas such as health program support and business process services to agencies for the facilitation of a process the company calls the “Citizen Journey.”
The company views the Citizen Journey as one that contains new expectations for how people interact with their government through the use of technology and some agencies are responding to that demand with newly designed websites and other interfaces that aim to replicate what is seen in the commercial world.
In this conversation with ExecutiveBiz, Romeo offers his outlook on how agencies could replicate the same experience consumers have with notable names such as Amazon to help facilitate citizen interactions with government, as well as the future of LPTA methods in IT acquisitions and how small businesses can evolve their role in the government contracting arena.
ExecutiveBiz: What is the main challenge with partnerships across government agencies and how do you see that being solved?
Tom Romeo: There have been several programs recently to create a demand for more inter-agency co-operations. An example would be the Affordable Care Act, which required interactions between IRS, SSA, CMS and the state governments.
When data is embedded in legacy systems, it can be a challenge to get access to that data in a format that is usable across all those systems. When you add the need for security on top of that, it takes a lot of due diligence to make sure that the data is accurate and protected.
ExecutiveBiz: What progress have you seen in the commercialization of citizen experience? What more can be done there?
Tom Romeo: There has been a lot of activity in the federal government to improve the citizen journey. GSA, Veterans Affairs and 18F for example have all appointed leads who are focused on citizen experience and citizen journey. That focus on it is a great starting point.
The VA’s work around the veteran's experience shows a great effort to look at veterans’ interactions with the government and the design of the business processes behind them, while comparing it to the commercial experience customers have with a service like Amazon.
Agencies and their industry partners need to examine this all the way from the business process through the technology solutions and how that all integrates together to make the citizen's journey as productive and positive as possible.
ExecutiveBiz: How should agencies balance LPTA and best-value in their IT programs?
Tom Romeo: The key to striking the right balance between LPTA and value-based contracts is understanding the outcome you are looking for from the engagement and the types of resources that are required to get that outcome. LPTA by design says that technical competence is all that is needed here, that we have defined the scope and we understand the roles that need to be performed with contract down to the level where it is just about price.
But in most situations, you'll need to adjust the plan to meet the amount, the mission, the value and the outcomes, and in that case, LPTA is rarely going to be the best approach. If you are looking for an outcome that aligns with your mission and is priced that way, you have a lot more flexibility using an outcomes or value-based model to get there versus LPTA.
The pendulum is interesting right now; we see a lot of LPTA-type bids, but the administration has pushed towards more fixed price. That shows a recognition of the fact that getting increased value and better outcomes is more likely to happen under fixed price engagement.
ExecutiveBiz: What approaches should industry take as agencies evolve IT acquisitions?
Tom Romeo: It is critical to be involved in conversations very early with the agency in order to focus on the desired outcome of an acquisition and ask, “What is it that we are looking for from this particular project?“ If this is an agency that runs its own IT help desk and needs some staff to augment that, it makes sense to go LPTA.
But, if you have an IT help desk and we can do it better than we do it today ““ we have opportunities to create more efficiency; we can do more first-call resolution and have better user satisfaction ““ that is not a good fit for an LPTA acquisition. The key is to have that conversation with the program leadership and the procurement team at the agency early on to understand the objectives and the contract type that suits their needs.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you see the role of small businesses in GovCon evolving?
Tom Romeo: Small businesses play an extremely important role in the federal marketplace. The targets for the use of small businesses have been increasing and that has led to creative acquisition techniques that break down larger contracts into smaller components so that small businesses are able to bid on them and more apt to be able to deliver on them.
The flip side of that is it actually places the agency in the role of being the integrator. In the past they may have hired a large company to manage a program for them since it was a big effort and they would break down the components. Now, they may award some work to small contractors and some of it to large ones, and have the project delivered that way.
You can imagine the communication, the integration and the management of the integrated team across that scenario becomes a lot more complex. So with an increased focus on small business, agencies are realizing they will need to serve as the integrator on the oversight, or need to make sure that they have a competent vendor to manage that integration for them.