New Acquisition Courses Help PMs Maximize Project Success
Acquisition management is a key aspect of project success. APPEL’s Acquisition Series features four courses that help project managers increase their effectiveness in this area.
APPEL collaborates with internal and external stakeholders to design courses that address the professional development needs of NASA’s technical workforce. Internally, the Academy partners with agency subject matter experts, technical leads, and practitioner communities to ensure the courses are NASA-centric and fully relevant to the needs of the agency’s project managers and systems engineers. Externally, the agency responds to guidance from organizations such as the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) to align the curriculum with current recommendations.
In 2008, a recommendation from the GAO led to the development of APPEL’s first procurement-focused course.
“Project Acquisition Workshop was the initial course in our Acquisition Series,” said Donna Wilson, APPEL Curriculum Manager. “It was created after the GAO identified a need for training around the NASA acquisition and procurement process across the complete project life cycle.”
The course, which is case study based, walks participants through the entire experience, from a review of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) all the way to project completion. “This approach helps project managers maximize their effectiveness in the acquisition process in order to enhance the success of their project,” Wilson added.
In the years since Project Acquisition Workshop was first introduced, APPEL has worked with the NASA Acquisition Career Manager, Yolande Harden, and others at the Office of Procurement at NASA Headquarters (HQ) to update the course several times, ensuring its content reflects the current acquisition environment.
More recently, that collaborative relationship led to the development of three new APPEL courses that emphasize acquisition management from a project management perspective: Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Overview, Types of Contracts, and Contract Management Principles and Practices for Project Managers.
“There are no prerequisites for the courses, so NASA practitioners don’t need to take the courses in sequence. The important thing is that together they provide a basic understanding of what it means to work acquisitions and give agency project managers a thorough understanding of their role in the acquisition process,” said Daniel Daly, APPEL Project Management Curriculum Lead.
Given APPEL’s focus on program and project management, the acquisition courses emphasize the information and skills needed by individuals managing projects to maximize their effectiveness in the acquisition process. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Overview serves as an introduction to the FAR as well as the NASA FAR Supplement, ensuring participants understand the underlying basis, structure, and content. In Types of Contracts, participants learn about the contracts utilized most frequently in federal contracting as well as the basic principles and limitations governing their use. The final course, Contract Management Principles and Practices for Project Managers, provides an overview of all phases of contracting, from requirements development to closeout, including how incentives can be leveraged to improve contract results.
“These courses are an important starting point,” said Harden. “They enable the project manager and procurement specialist to speak the same language so they can work together more efficiently.”
Cheryl Robertson, Procurement Career Development and Training Advisor, agreed. “The overarching goal is to provide participants with a level of familiarity and knowledge. They don’t need to become experts in procurement, but the courses give them the tools and information they need to contribute meaningfully to the process.”
Harden, Robertson, and others in the Office of Procurement served as subject matter experts in developing the content for each course by reviewing it to ensure consistency with the NASA procurement process.
“We also provided as much detailed, agency-specific information as possible because we know that our NASA folks get much more out of courses when the content relates to their immediate concerns,” said Harden.
“For instance, to ensure the FAR course was relevant to NASA practitioners, Yolande and her team came up with a great document full of cross references that link the FAR to the NASA FAR Supplement. This makes the course applicable to the immediate work of participants,” said Daly. “The discussion in the classroom revolves around examples that attendees are facing right now in their jobs.”
All three courses were piloted at Langley Research Center (LaRC) and Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). The content was then refined based on feedback from the pilot sessions before the courses were added to the permanent APPEL curriculum.
The Acquisition Series courses are open to project managers and others interested in expanding their skills and knowledge concerning the acquisition process. In addition, individuals involved in procurement are encouraged to attend in order to consider the process from the project management perspective.
“The courses are designed for a wide audience,” said Harden. “They create a common language to maximize efficiency and increase satisfaction with the process.”
Two of the new courses will be offered this summer: Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Overview at NASA HQ from August 7-8 and Types of Contracts at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) from August 29-31. Interested practitioners are encouraged to visit the APPEL Catalog for more details about each course or to register.
Practitioners interested in Contract Management Principles and Practices for Project Managers are invited to visit the course page in the APPEL Catalog to express interest. Those who would like to take Project Acquisition Workshop can express interest here.
Learn more about APPEL’s Acquisition Series: Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Overview, Types of Contracts, Contract Management Principles and Practices for Project Managers, and Project Acquisition Workshop.