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News | Oct. 1, 2016

West Coast creators earn best-in-class recognition

By Thomas Perry DCMA Public Affairs

Two years ago Stephanie Rocha and Alvaro Matos built the foundation of something extraordinary.

“This is the best class experience I have witnessed in my seven-plus years with the Defense Contract Management Agency,” said John Ellis, the Engineering and Analysis Software Engineering and Acquisition Management Center director, after attending Rocha’s and Matos’ course — the Software Professional Development Program 300, known as SPDP 300.

“Seeing a class with actual teammates from across a program support team, using actual data, discussing real issues, put an emphasis on the learning objectives rarely achieved with typical classroom ‘notional’ materials,” explained Ellis, who is the former commander of the agency’s Central Region. “The realism of the content brought out a level of interaction among the students that was amazing to behold. The learning and sharing were phenomenal.”

The best innovations are often the result of collective efforts, and this was no exception. Rocha and Matos are quick to credit the cadre of acquisition professionals who contributed, and continue to contribute, to the course’s development. But in the beginning, it was simply two co-located team members who decided to make a difference.

Rocha, EA’s SEAM West Region lead, began receiving questions from Space and Missile Sector integrators regarding software issues toward the end of fiscal year 2014. One of those asking questions was Matos, who prior to his current Operations Directorate integrator role, was a software professional.

“Mr. Matos knew there were software issues within his portfolio, but could not get enough information from the program integrators to express the issues and risks to be quantified in the Program Assessment Reports in order to inform key acquisition officials on the assessments of their programs,” said Rocha.

Hoping to identify and address the challenges functional specialists were facing, Matos conducted a “deep-dive” process review, identifying a group of multi-functional subject matter experts to help address program support team surveillance and analysis issues.

Building on the group’s input, the pair broadened the scope of communications to allow end users to articulate their issues ensuring they fully understood the systematic impacts of DCMA’S assessments and reports.
“Finally, one afternoon, Mr. Matos and I created what later became our ‘pyramid of success,’ along with the vision for a workshop to teach program integrators, software professionals, engineers and earned-value specialists the ‘how-to’ in analyzing data,” Rocha said. “Our goal was to produce functional inputs and assessments that can be interpreted by program integrators and support DCMA’s mission of providing actionable acquisition insight to key decision-makers.”

Based on the consistent feedback from course attendees, Rocha and Matos have accomplished their goal. In addition to Ellis’ praise, the majority of students have provided high ratings on the end-of-course survey and said they learned more than expected. One of the course’s consistently appreciated aspects is the use of real-world data.

“The key is using actual programmatic data to have the PST functional specialists produce independent functional assessments that feed into the PAR,” Rocha said. “To give you a comparison, a typical class will provide generic data that a student may not understand or know how to use when they leave the class. With our course, the PST leaves the workshop with a rough draft functional PAR input/assessment for their program.”

Rocha explained the “our” in “our course” truly represents collaborative success. She identified DCMA team members Keven Davis, Space and Missile Sector integrator; Robert Tobin, SEAM East Region hub lead; Steve Blessing, SEAM Central Region hub lead; Kimberly Taylor, Operations EA; Christina Payette, EA Engineering Systems and Process Compliance Division; Alberto Ornelas, Central Region engineering lead; have all played crucial roles in the course’s success. “This was a team effort, and these men and women deserve recognition,” Rocha said.

That recognition may soon come in the form of shaping the agency’s future software efforts as Ellis plans to adopt SPDP 300 as the capstone event within the Software Professional Development Program.

“I see this particular class as a culmination type event to apply previous classes in a real world setting with the teammates who help manage their programs,” Ellis said. “Real people, real programs, real solutions, and you get the added bonus of learning from other team members and how they work through issues in their programs and contracts. Lots of win-win-win opportunities here.”

Rocha said it was rewarding to know something her team developed will significantly impact the agency’s software surveillance mission move forward by delivering meaningful acquisition insight to acquisition leadership.

“I never thought my first discussion with Mr. Matos would turn into a workshop and be so successful,” Rocha said. “This team works very hard to make every moment at the workshop worthwhile to each student. At the end of every workshop, we discuss ways to improve our material and execution for the next workshop. We raise the bar a little higher each time.”