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Top Center GoalsProcurement and Finance: ‘A beautiful partnership’


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September 22, 2016

“We are stewards of the precious dollars that are entrusted to us to accomplish a very difficult mission,” said Johnson Space Center Deputy Director Mark Geyer at a recent all-hands meeting.
 
At JSC, that stewardship rests, in large part, in the Procurement and Financial offices. The Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO), organization code LA, is responsible for the full range of financial and budget services, while the Office of Procurement, organization code BA, handles a wide range of procurement activities, including the selection, award and administration of contracts for JSC.
 
As part of the JSC 2.016 tenet to improve work processes, increase teamwork and create efficiencies, JSC Director Dr. Ellen Ochoa had challenged the two offices to find ways to better collaborate. Senior leadership from each organization quickly realized the first part of that equation was to develop a mutual understanding of each other’s work. Those leaders, known as the BA/LA Collaboration Team, developed a Venn diagram showing their specific areas of responsibility.

BA-LA Venn diagram showing responsibilities and overlap.
BA/LA Venn diagram showing responsibilities and overlap.

What they found were several fundamental areas of overlap, such as policy interpretation and application; contract management and administration; and ensuring compliance with financial and procurement laws.
 
Out of that overlap, they identified activities where they could work together, such as training and end-of-year (EOY) financial closeout. A high priority for both offices was to improve the EOY processing of purchase requests (PRs).
 
Prior to this effort, each organization would run its own report on outstanding PRs and process them according to their business protocols. They would then notify the other office of outstanding actions via email. However, as each fiscal year (FY) grew to a close on Sept. 30, certain PRs would be postponed until the next FY. This often resulted in confusion and frustration, as one would continue working from an outdated list and expending energy on a postponed PR. It created a situation where valuable JSC dollars were left on contracts unnecessarily.
 
One of their first collaborative efforts was to work EOY PRs as a team. They ran a list of outstanding PRs and put them on a joint SharePoint page each office could access. The list could be updated as frequently as needed, and everyone could see exactly which PRs were still outstanding. Both offices agree that the new process provides straightforward communication about what has to be done, and when.
 
“Taking a solution-based approach and by making real-time decisions together, we have cut down on the number of transactions going back and forth between the organizations, significantly decreasing administrative overhead,” said Billy Autry, associate director of the Office of Procurement. “It also cuts down on frustration on a personal level within both organizations. Now we can use JSC’s funding more effectively and strategically. We can shift funds between contracts as needed to accomplish critical work.”
 
Adele Leighton, chief of the Integration Management Division in the OCFO, agreed. “The biggest success is the common PR list published to the collaboration SharePoint. This eliminated the considerable confusion, erroneous communication and time spent by both LA and BA with the previous process.”
 
To celebrate the successes of their partnership and making it through the EOY crunch, BA and LA held joint social events that ended up serving a significant purpose. Early discoveries illustrated little interaction between the offices, in spite of their complementary duties. The social activities helped people connect on a more meaningful level, rather than just as email recipients.
 
“It’s much easier to call and get things done quickly with someone when they know each other,” Autry said.
 
Learning pods are another accomplishment that came of the partnering. Learning pods are groups of employees from both organizations working together to identify an issue, an area of improvement or something they want the other team to know more about. They have contributed to better mutual understanding on a wide range of issues common to both organizations.
 
“They have been very successful,” Leighton said, emphasizing that the ultimate goal is for collaboration to become ingrained in their culture.
 
Autry agreed, “It’s a beautiful partnership.”
 
 
 
Michelle Fraser-Page
NASA Johnson Space Center