Work Location

Some of the staff on our contract works on site at the customer's location. The rest of our work in our company loctions. Turns out we bill more when we work on the company grounds. That makes sense. The company needs to pay for the building, and the staff to support the off site location. To me it is better to work at our company's site. There are less security hassles. Plus I get more resources at my company building.

Our contract also requires that a certain percentage of folks work on site at the client site. Some of the big boys on the contract work on site with the client. That makes sense for the client facing folks who need to be in meetings all day at the client site. But for a developer like myself, it is a distraction to have to travel to the customer site.

Customer site parking for contractors is limited. So is seating. There are limited resouces for contractors there as well. Why go through all the hassle? Somehow I got pegged to work at the client site. I worked out a deal where I just work from home. This saves me a lot of travel time, as well as some travel money. The customer is good because they get billed the cheaper rate. Win win anyone?

Incumbents Win

Well we won the recompete on our project. That means our project is safe for a few more years. It is standard fare. There is one base year plus two option years. The option years will most likely be exercised unless we totally fail.

This is a maintenance contract. We are to keep the lights on in the system. That means fixing crucial bugs, and adding the minimal new set of features to keep the system going. However I find we are doing a little more than just maintenance.

There is another team working on the replacement system for ours. They are using a host of new technologies. We on the maintenance side are spending a lot of time integrating one of the new technologies into the old system. I guess we are putting our best foot forward. Who knows? We might get into work on the new replacement system.

Contract Recompete

Our project at work is at a critical juncture. We are in the last option year of the contract. That means that there will be a recompete of the contract. When things go well, you would expect that an incumbent like us would have a good chance of winning the rebid. However nothing is certain. Our company won the contract when the prior subcontractor lost the recompete.

The twist is that our contract is a maintenance one on the current system. The customer plans to replace the system in the near future. That work will be performed under a separate contract. Some tasks on that other contract have already been awarded. We would like to win that development work. Once again you would think we would been a reasonable choice, since we know how the current system works.

Here is hoping for the best of outcomes. But what happens if my company loses both bids, both for the existing maintenance and the development of the new system. Should I roll off onto another contract that my company has? Or should I jump ship and stay with the project? I have chosen option two a number of times for this project. If the past is any indicator, I will have to make that jump.

The Rise of Open Source

The Department of Defense put out a memo last month that changed its stance on the use of open source software. Now it looks like the government is realizing some of the benefits of open source. For example, it can lead to better security and reliability.

Another benefit from using open source is that ability to not rely on a single vendor. That reduces risk. This guidance comes with some warnings. The government recommends you choose open source products which have a company which stands behind the open source product. That limits the playing field significantly.

Recently we wanted to do some massive changes to the reporting that is done in our system. We considered many technologies. One such choice was to use Adobe PDFs. We found some cool open source code to generate PDFs easily. But there was just too much red tape to overcome to use the libraries. They were created by a single dude. The sounded too risky to our customer. The result was that we went with a Microsoft solution which incurred a lot of developer pain.

Computer Sciences Corporation

My company recently hired a developer who used to work at Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC). This guy had stellar credentials. He had a PhD in computer science. It just so happened that he worked for our customer before. He also had the security clearances we needed. So we snatched him up.

Today my boss told me I could interview another candidate that worked at CSC before. So I was excited. We really need strong developers on our project. I work extra hours, and I still keep falling behind schedule on our contract. Unfortunately the guy I spoke with was a dud. Good thing I did a phone screen interview first.

The thing that caught my eye was that CSC seems to be on the losing end of contract recently. This is causing their work force to be chopped. Their loss is our gain, at least for the good workers. Another buddy of mine was worried that his contract was under recompete, and he feared CSC might not win the work this time around. Let me finish with a positive note for CSC. They just won a $50 contract to support the United States Air Force. The total contract has a base year, plus three option years. My company likes to crush its competitors. But I still hope CSC gets a few contracting crumbs to keep its employees, well, employed.

Cost Plus

I work on a medium sized government contract. Previously it was a five year contract. However the latest one is three or four years in duration. It is a maintenance contract. We fix software problems and add small new features to a big system.

My relationship with my company is that I am a full time salaried employee. I am supposed to work at least 40 hours a week. However I get paid the same amount of salary regardless of how many extra hours I work per week.

In the old days, I thought I would put in a little extra time each week. The project always had a lot of work for me to do. My thinking was that if my company billed me out at say $100 an hours, I would be making my company an extra $100 for each hour I worked past 40 per week.

Just this week I went to some training for my company. The course I took was an overview of the company I work for. We did not get into details for any of the subjects we covered. One such topic was working on government contracts. I am now under the assumption that most of our contracts are based on a cost plus profit billing.

What this means is that the company charges the customer (the government) the actual costs it incurs during the work, plus some percentage of profits. I mentioned earlier that I am salaried. My cost to the company is fixes regardless of how many hours I work. Therefore working extra hours does not make my company any more money.

Since I am salaried, I know working more hours reduces my effective dollars earned per hour. However it also reduces the hourly rate my company charges the client. This is just a metric however. The amount of profit the company makes is not changed by the number of extra hours I work each week.

The conclusion of this discovery is that I should not work more than 40 hours a week. If I can get my job done exactly within the first 40 hours of the week, then it would be best to then go home. Working extra hours will not generate any extra dollars for me or my company. It would be a waste unless we were behind schedule. How novel.

Contractor Identification

When a contractor is doing work for a government agency, the client is going to want to know who are the employees that shall perform the actual work. There are many levels of validating these employees. At my company they requires that contractor employees get fingerprinted. It seems this is the same as the author of the Software Maintenance blog.

In the past I had to go to the police station to get a set of current fingerprints. Then I would take this to the government agency that issued the contract to my company. This was a messy business, with the ink for my fingers. It was also a bit disturbing to go into the police station. I felt like I was getting fingerprinted next to all the criminals that were getting processed.

Luckily my government client handles all the fingerprinting. And they have modern machines that can take the print digitally. No more need for messy fingerprint ink. The digital fingerprint scanner does not always work on the first try. But it is a big improvement over the old technique.