Government Contract Management Software: Avoiding a Square Peg in a Round Hole

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Kevin Brancato
January 30, 2023 | 7 min read

In my role as TechnoMile’s SVP of Product Strategy, I spend a great deal of my time talking with GovCon and Aerospace & Defense businesses about their needs and challenges when managing the end-to-end lifecycle of a government contract. These conversations are, of course, focused on how technology can bring improved automation, collaboration, and data intelligence to bear on the entire federal contracting process, from opportunity identification through contract closeout.

In my conversations with Contracts organizations, I’m often asked how TechnoMile’s contract lifecycle management (CLM) solution compares to CLM products that are commonly used in the commercial contracting world and may be highlighted in reports from Gartner, Forrester, and the like. They ask, “why choose a government contracting-specific CLM solution over other, well-regarded software options used for commercial-to-commercial transactions?” Well, in a nutshell, these commercial solutions constitute “putting a square peg in a round hole” when it comes to supporting the unique CLM needs of a federal contractor.

Below are five ways that a government CLM solution outshines commercially-oriented CLMs when it comes to federal contract management.

1. It Natively Speaks Your Team’s Language

A government CLM solution natively “speaks your team’s language” without requiring significant software customization. From the data fields it’s ready to track, to the screen layouts and how contract details are organized, to the data relationships (e.g., prime/subKs, contract vehicle/delivery or task orders, contract/mods, etc.) and workflows the system supports – all the ingredients needed to effectively manage federal contracts are provided out-of-the-box and presented in a way that feels familiar to the way contracts professionals in the federal market work. This strengthens user adoption, helps mitigate the change management challenges that can come with introducing a new system, and accelerates the time-to-value of your CLM investment.

2. Accelerated Time-to-Value

In contrast, a traditional, commercially-oriented CLM is designed to facilitate B2B – not B2G – transactions. As such, companies in the federal space find that the customization work required to tailor a commercial CLM to satisfy your requirements quickly drives up the solution’s total cost of ownership and extends its implementation timeline. Most federal contractors find that investing in a CLM that’s designed around the way the government does business results in much more rapid achievement of time-to-value.  

This is a fundamental reason that use of vertical-specific software solutions is on the rise. Gartner has noted that it “increasingly finds that its clients look for systems that are immediately relevant to their selling context. They want out-of-the-box applications that offer business processes and application functions that reflect the best practices of their industry.” One crucial way that a government CLM solution reflects industry best practices is the cradle-to-grave support it provides throughout the entire lifecycle of a federal contract.

3. Cradle-to-Grave Lifecycle Support

In the commercial world, the contract lifecycle typically begins with the act of requesting or authoring a contract. In the federal market, involvement is truly “cradle to grave” and begins well before a contract award ever comes to fruition. The NCMA’s Contract Management StandardTM, seen below at a high level, paints a picture of the many and varied roles of a contracts professional during the Pre-Award, Award, and Post-Award phases of federal contracting.

NCMA Contract Management Standard
Source: ANSI/NCMA ASD 1-2019 (R2022)

It follows, then, that your CLM solution should provide a similar breadth of support – and that’s exactly what you’ll get with a government CLM that’s designed to tightly align to the federal contracting lifecycle. For example, with a best-in-class solution:

  • Pre-Award: Capabilities are included such as the ability to “shred” an RFP to rapidly identify and analyze key solicitation requirements, workflow automation around the OCI review process, tools to streamline partner planning and the establishment of NDAs/TAs, and integration with your Growth team’s CRM to support efficient collaboration.
  • Award: Features are provided to streamline contract setup in the CLM system, such as the ability to scan standard award documents to extract critical contract details for review and validation (e.g., clauses, CLINs/SLINs), minimizing data entry for your contracts professionals and shaving hours off the setup process.
  • Post-Award: Post-award functionality should let contracts professionals focus on delivering value instead of paperwork. Explore capabilities to track contract funding and value. What automation is provided to track and keep on top of deliverables? How are clauses and required flow-downs managed? What capabilities are provided to establish and manage subKs? How are modifications handled throughout the contract lifecycle? Are performance evaluations and management of CPARS responses tracked in the CLM? Is workflow automation provided to manage both prime and subK closeout processes?

In addition to mirroring the cradle-to-grave support that your Contracts team provides during the federal contract lifecycle, government CLM solutions also differentiate themselves by providing robust functionality to support obligation and risk management.  

4. Robust Obligation & Risk Management

What’s the most discriminating factor that sets apart federal contracts from those in the commercial world? They’re embedded with FAR, DFARS, and/or a multitude of agency-specific clauses that create a highly complex web of rules and regulations with which your company must comply to do business with the U.S. government. With this in mind, government CLM solutions are designed to enable easy identification and tight compliance with the myriad of obligations buried within your federal contracts.

Some best-in-class capabilities to look for include:

  • The ability to machine-extract deliverables, CDRLs, and other obligations from standard award documents and schedule/assign related tasks
  • The ability to machine-extract clauses from standard award documents and report on risky clauses and other T&Cs that matter to your business
  • A clause library with pre-populated federal regulatory content (including all agency supplements relevant to your business); automated library updates when regulatory changes occur
  • Default clause flow-downs; the ability to manage your buy-side agreements on the same CLM platform to maintain a tight connection between sell-side and buy-side obligations
  • Automated alerts that call attention to any action your Contracts team must take to ensure your company remains compliant throughout the contract lifecycle (e.g., PoP ending, need to initiate Limitation of Funds action)
  • Out-of-the-box workflows that support compliance in areas such as OCI review, small business planning, CPARS responses, and contract closeout

Beyond the types of compliance and risk considerations noted above, the ability to support your organization’s compliance with highly stringent cloud security requirements is another area where government CLM solutions excel.    

5. Support for FedRAMP, CMMC, and Other Cloud Security Requirements

The ability to comply with cloud security standards like FedRAMP and/or CMMC may be included in the performance criteria of an agency’s contract awards. So, depending upon the type of work you perform, which agencies you serve, and the sensitivity of the data you’re handling, you should consider whether you’ll need a FedRAMP authorized CLM solution to serve as your centralized contracts repository. Which FedRAMP impact level should you require of your CLM vendor? To answer this question, you’ll want to understand the obligations contained in your government contracts as well as seek guidance from your company’s CIO, General Counsel/Chief Compliance Officer, and other C-suite members.

Now, how does this relate back to commercial CLM vendors? Well, as I write this article, only one of the “leaders” among commercial CLM vendors has achieved FedRAMP authorization at the Moderate impact level, and none are authorized at the High impact level. If FedRAMP compliance is part of your CLM buying criteria (particularly at the High impact level), you’re likely best served by a government CLM vendor that has significant experience supporting federal contractors’ compliance with FedRAMP and other cloud security requirements. I recommend this article for more on the subject of FedRAMP considerations when evaluating CLM providers.

Nail Your CLM Initiative with a Government CLM Solution

As you can see, a government CLM solution that’s purpose-built for managing the complexities of federal contracting offers numerous benefits, allowing you to “nail” your organization’s CLM initiative without requiring costly, time-consuming software customization efforts to try to fit a square peg into a round hole (apologies for the rampant puns!). For more insight into the most critical government CLM software features and functionality that you should consider, I encourage you to check out this comprehensive list of more than 150 requirements to use to effectively evaluate CLM software based on the unique needs of federal contractors.

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