Federal Owners’ Forum proposes solutions to federal project delivery challenges

by Brianna Crandall — August 15, 2016 — The Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), the organization that defines, teaches and promotes best practices in design-build, and the Society for American Military Engineers (SAME), which works to lead collaborative efforts to identify and resolve national security infrastructure-related challenges, co-hosted an open discussion and brainstorming session between various leaders in federal project delivery earlier this summer. The organizations recently released a summary report detailing things that work well, challenges, and proposed solutions in federal project delivery from the perspective of the owners in attendance.

Lisa Washington, executive director and CEO of DBIA, explained:

While the forum was open to discussion as it relates to all project delivery, design-build project delivery immediately surfaced as something that works well when properly executed. The owners at the forum discussed early knowledge of costs and appropriate allocation of risk as the two main advantages of design-build. Furthermore, there was a large discussion on the critical role of procurement professionals — especially contracting officers — in unleashing innovation and creating better projects. For this reason, we will be hosting a similar forum in the near future featuring only contracting officers, in order to develop further recommendations.

SAME executive director, Brigadier General Joe Schroedel, P.E., F.SAME, USA (Ret.), further stated:

By bringing together leaders from 11 different federal agencies, the forum was able to provide a broad assessment of the issues that government, working with industry, faces in delivering projects that benefit the nation. From budget constraints to agency staff turnover to inconsistently defined requirements, neither government nor industry can solve these and other complex challenges alone. True industry-government collaboration focused on developing solutions, along with establishing the right tools, people and processes — as outlined in the Federal Owners’ Forum Summary Report — will be essential to successful project delivery in the federal marketplace.

The leaders’ discussion focused on three areas as the driving force behind effective projects / project delivery, regardless of the delivery method:

  • The Right Tools
  • The Right People
  • The Right Processes

The report summarizes the discussions related to each area, and describes various proposed solutions. In some instances, the solution lies with the federal agency. In most, however, the solution lies with collaborative change, says DBIA. It is these solutions that will drive the DBIA and SAME agendas in the coming year.

In summary, optimal conditions for success, described in detail in the summary report, regardless of the project delivery method selected, include:

  • Pick a partner — not an enemy;
  • Think “team first” to drive project quality;
  • Pre-select on qualifications;
  • Incentivize and align A/E and contractors;
  • Survey past performance in CPARS;
  • Pick the best team with the best proposal;
  • Issue life-cycle oriented, performance-focused RFPs; and
  • Ensure proper workforce development (in particular as it relates to the unique aspects of integrated design-build).

DBIA and SAME have made the Federal Owners’ Forum Summary Report available in hopes of fostering ongoing industry involvement in improving outcomes in project delivery.