CANDID FED COMMENTS SHOW LIMITS OF CATEGORY MANAGEMENT
“People will pay more to have autonomy” was the key quote of one government speaker at an industry event just last week discussing the limits of shared services and the Office of Management and Budget’s continuing push toward Category Management. While everyone likes to think that workers in various agencies will “do the right thing” and adopt shared services and acquisition methods, the reality is that these efforts are limited by agency culture and people. This is potentially significant information for government contractors. While acquisition policy people promote one way of doing business, officials closer to the front line know that the reality is different. Contractors, therefore, should continue to promote the acquisition approaches they see as the best fit for a specific situation. Similarly, customers will likely also want to customize solutions, even if they’re buying “standard” configurations. Two officials on the event panel openly agreed that specific offices like to tweak solutions to meet their own missions. Meeting the mission, whatever it is, is seen the highest priority. As such, directives on standard solutions and acquisition processes will only go so far. One take-away that does support Category Management, however, is the ability for agencies to conduct spend analysis. Contract programs that offer this feature may continue to have an edge from that perspective, regardless of whether they’re labeled “Best in Class” or whether individual offices configure solutions to meet their specific needs.