News: Customer engagement in Susquehanna Valley
YORK, Pa. - “Customer engagement is the bedrock of our relationships,” explained Army Lt. Col. Dexter Daniel, Defense Contract Management Agency New Cumberland commander. Daniel and his team have leveraged their contract administration work to build relationships and educate leaders about the acquisition process.
Nestled in hills of green Pennsylvania farmland – not far from Gettysburg, site of the bloodiest battle in American history – DCMA New Cumberland is a geographic contract management office under DCMA Philadelphia. Many of the CMO’s employees work in support of the Army’s Armored Brigade Combat Team portfolio of tracked vehicles. This group resides onsite at a contractor facility that produces the Paladin howitzer, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and the M88 Hercules recovery vehicle.
These programs provide many lessons on program management, contract management and application of lean processes and procedures. The learning opportunities here have been strong enough to attract a number of Department of Defense senior executive-level educational institutions, and New Cumberland routinely supports visits as part of DOD acquisition courses, benefiting the greater acquisition workforce and advancing DCMA Philadelphia’s strategic engagement plan.
In 2013, visits included the U.S. Army War College, Senior Service College, Eisenhower School (formally Industrial College of the Armed Forces) and the Depot and Arsenal Leadership Program. More than 90 civilian and military commanders, program managers and directors for various organizations within DOD have visited recently. DCMA New Cumberland leaders have leveraged these visits by incorporating them into a robust customer engagement strategy, strengthening customer relationships and improving DOD partnering on contract oversight.
Daniel said DCMA New Cumberland deliberately formulates its plan by tying each engagement with desirable outcomes according to program importance and priorities. This requires working with the host contractor, where points of contact are established and inquiries are made as to any pertinent subjects that should be presented or discussed.
“It starts with our executive management meeting,” said Daniel, “a monthly forum where key leaders from DCMA, the Defense Contract Audit Agency and the contractor gather to proactively discuss issues of concern and, most conveniently, issues of opportunity.”
“We leverage our relationship with the contractor to establish briefing times during visit day agendas,” said Bill Edwards, DCMA New Cumberland deputy. “It is essential we reach out before the visits to ensure our standard distinguished visitor presentation is tailored to the specific audience.”
Daniel said specific needs and interests of each visiting group are solicited early in the process. “It was essential we had strong buy-in from these programs from the very beginning,” he explained. “I wanted them to want to understand ‘the DCMA story’ as well as gain the benefits on value we provide to the warfighter. So there is a menu of sorts from which they may choose discussion topics.”
After an initial email explaining the DCMA mission and relationship with the contractor, CMO personnel discuss specific topics with each institution over the phone. “Armed with these pre-negotiated topics, we are able to tailor our presentation around a key functional area like quality or engineering and then involve our talent,” said Edwards.
DCMA briefers could see the results of this planning immediately with the first visit by the Depot and Arsenal Executive Leadership Program. “These were future and existing Army depot commanders, and some didn’t know DCMA existed,” said Terry Kerr, Engineering and Manufacturing Team leader. “One of the students was surprised to learn there was a DCMA contract management office located a few miles from the depot he commanded. In that instance we facilitated a new relationship.”
DCMA New Cumberland remains committed to continually educating the DOD enterprise. “It’s a great example of partnering with industry and building solid relationships within the government,” said Daniel, “especially when we’re able to shed light on a preconceived notion, and truly explain to leaders the contract oversight capability inherent in our daily operations.”