Implement a New Event Management System to Reduce Procurement Costs by 50 Percent

NASA’s agency-wide resource for the professional development of its technical workforce, The Academy of Program/Project & Engineering Leadership (APPEL), provides more than 80 courses that draw extensively on the knowledge of NASA subject-matter experts to develop NASA-specific content. Its precursor, the Program and Project Management Initiative (PPMI) was founded in 1988 as part of NASA’s response to the space shuttle Challenger disaster.

"Communication between course coordinators and participants has been standardized, reducing ambiguity and streamlining logistics." 

"Communication between course coordinators and participants has been standardized, reducing ambiguity and streamlining logistics." 

The challenge to FedStar was threefold:

  1. Manage scheduling, registration, logistics, evaluation, and metrics reporting for course and knowledge sharing offerings across all 10 NASA Centers in a secure environment.
  2. Enhance the end-user experience for non-NASA participants from academia, and national and international organizations.
  3. Reduce redundancy in course management processes and increase contact and response metrics that allow greater responsiveness to training needs, both in single courses and across its curricula.

fedstar Solution:

FedStar conducted extensive market research on web-based event management systems, narrowed the selection, demonstrated required features and functionality, interoperability with the agencies learning management system, and our analysis and recommended solution. APPEL went with our recommendation, and FedStar assisted in the procurement of the selected application. Once the procurement was completed, we worked with the NASA Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) to vet the security of the system and obtain approval to operate and maintain the system’s annual security reporting requirements.

FedStar’s turnkey solution reduced procurement cost by 50 percent. The logistical communications process with course participants that previously was manually intensive was redesigned so that course location, directions, dress code, and pre-work requirements are now all in one consistent, template-controlled document with built-in confirmation reply capability and can be accessed from anywhere.

Through meetings with key stakeholders, FedStar assessed metrics and reporting requirements and designed a list of standardized questions based off of the Kirkpatrick Four-Level Evaluation Model to be surveyed across all APPEL offerings to provide cross-sectional reporting capabilities. In addition, FedStar developed key resources in support of APPEL’s new event management system, including an Administrators’ Guide, Job Aids, and a set of Business Rules to reduce the learning curve and provide course coordinators with support.

Services Provided:

  • Acquisition Management
  • Project Management
  • Business Process Engineering

Results:

By implementing a comprehensive system redesign, manual data entry of participant demographic information has been virtually eliminated. This lowered both labor cost and error rate. Communication between course coordinators and participants has been standardized, reducing ambiguity and streamlining logistics. Non-NASA participant data may now be easily collected and reported. More important, designated NASA management has built-in report-generation capability; there is no need to engage an external contractor to provide metrics and reports, saving the Agency both time and money. APPEL now has the capability to access "real-time" data and report on metrics across the entire APPEL portfolio.

Provide A Defined architecture that IMPLEMENTS a strategic direction to meet division goals and objectives

FedStar was tasked to design and implement a program management office during APPEL’s expansion, including a governance model to implement its strategic investments, customized life cycles, and oversight.

fedstar Solution:

In collaboration with key stakeholders, FedStar defined a structure of components, their relationships, and the principles and guidelines governing their design. Aligned programs and projects to customized life cycles that are similar to NASA's Procedural Requirements (NPR) 7120. 5D, NASA Space Flight Program and Project Management Requirements.

The scope includes program/project authorization, operational concepts that respond to and satisfy requirements, integrated cost and schedule and alignment with planned budgets, risk identification and mitigation, and life cycle review process to ensure a credible, objective independent assessment. Other components included a communications strategy to assure stakeholder buy-in, as well as evaluation criteria to score projects and provide program oversight across all projects for transparency and accountability.

Services provided:

PMO Implementation services that Included:

  • Business Process Engineering
  • Project Management

Results:

All authorized projects now include resource allocation, cost analysis, and weekly web-based monitoring of project implementation and life cycle management that captures pertinent data and makes it available to designated program/project managers. The development of a customized PMO has made it possible for APPEL to manage its strategic investments in a consistent way to balance scarce resources and meet strategic objectives.

Support Cross-Functional Project Requests and Ensure Project Delivery On-time and on budget

Laden with federal budget reductions and the increasing demand for new initiatives that require collaboration, innovation and the use of new technologies, our client needed to implement a system that would effectively manage multiple projects while balancing resources in order to to meet strategic objectives.

fedstar Solution:

After conducting an assessment of existing levels of project management maturity and competency, the FedStar team converted their findings into actionable tasks designed to manage supply, demand and output. We customized a project management methodology to match our client’s culture that is comprised of both traditional project management and agile project management methodologies. This included the development and implementation of a standard process to document and collect project initiatives across all lines of business. Innovative web-based tools were created to:

  • Capture New Standardized Concept Documentation
  • Apply a Resource Matrix Scorecard for Each Project
  • Enable Project Summary Reporting

This provided Release Management Summary Reporting for Senior Management consumption.

Services Provided:

  • Business Process Engineering
  • Project Management

results:

FedStar delivered a Release Management Process that included the implementation of standards to document and store development initiatives across all lines of business and capture comprehensive project requirements and cost-benefit analysis through the use of templates and innovative technologies. The process allows for improved resource utilization, ability to communicate project initiatives, deliver on-time projects and forecast available resources. The organization now promotes scheduled releases driving predictability and fiscal responsibility. 

Agency leadership Program that Fast-Tracks Development of its Future Leaders

As organizations transform, they confront the challenge of maintaining a trained and knowledgeable workforce to effect the change the organization requires. Beginning with the 2008-09 fiscal year, our NASA established a developmental program for systems engineers in order to mature those skills necessary for its brightest and most talented systems engineers to lead complex teams and projects.

Each year, a competitive selection process places Agency leaders in developmental assignments away from their home centers. These assignments, in conjunction with leadership workshops, hand-on assignments, specialized coaching, and group interaction expose participants to opportunities and experiences designed to develop leadership skills.

Fedstar Solution:

By collaborating with NASA key stakeholders, we delivered a leadership program focused on rapidly developing the Agency’s future leaders and applied our proven business process management solutions to meet the client’s strategic objectives. This included providing management and logistics support for the selection of program candidates, developmental assignment identification, workshops, industry and government benchmarking events, leadership workshops and financial controls. As a result, FedStar helped APPEL create and maintain an accelerated approach to leadership development aimed at filling its leadership pipeline with exceptional, talented personnel who are prepared to be NASA's future leaders.

SERVICES PROVIDED:

  • Business Process Engineering
  • Program/Project Management
  • Event & Training Support
  • Federal Acquisition Management Support

results:

Our client has experienced great success with the NASA APPEL Systems Engineering Leadership Development Program (SELDP), with more than 90% of participants transitioning to more complex, difficult positions upon returning to their home organizations. Alumni leaders exceed more than 83 systems engineers and are representative of each of the Agency’s ten Centers. Based on FedStar’s continued partnership and work to improve the program (e.g. awareness campaign) Executive Management has a deeper understanding of the value of the program and continues to allocate funding in support of the program each year.

 

DEVELOPment of a Cost-Effective virtual Communication tool

The Office of Human Capital Management (OHCM) provides strategies, solutions and services that support the achievement of NASA’s mission, by planning for and providing the right talent, at the right time to ensure mission success. OHCM provides a wide range of services to the Agency’s 3,000+ civil service employees located in 10 NASA Centers and other remote locations across the country.

Beginning in 2012, OHCM began implementation of a new government-wide Senior Executive Service (SES) performance appraisal system (PAS). Major changes were made to the end-of-year closeout process and the way in which executive performance summary ratings were derived. NASA OHCM’s challenge: to communicate the SES PAS changes to a wide audience of executives distributed across the Agency, in a way that was engaging, efficient and cost-effective.

fedstar Solution:

To address OHCM’s need, FedStar identified and recommended a cost effective virtual platform that was both secure and easy to use. Working within a tight timeline, we developed training plans and created event storyboards for each training module. This gave OHCM trainers in-depth, hands on exposure on how to deliver high-impact, engaging and interactive virtual learning experiences. FedStar provided project management oversight including logistics support, technology coordination, content development and communication plans to ensure a successful event delivery.

Services Provided:

  • Business Process Engineering
  • Project Management
  • Event & Training Support
  • Federal Acquisition Management Support

Results:

As a result of the virtual delivery, OHCM saved thousands of dollars in avoided travel costs and lost productivity from executive travel time. The success of this new format has since stimulated the delivery of several other virtual events to audiences at NASA Centers located around the country. The reduced costs attributed to virtual training will enable OHCM to address priority developmental programs while still continuing to provide just-in-time topical learning to practitioners. With FedStar’s support, OHCM is now seen as a leader in virtual collaboration within the Agency and serve as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to other NASA organizations on the topic.

Provide TRANSPARENCY, increase accountability and Improve the overall customer experience  

After an extensive transition and implementation of a new Event Management System (EMS), FedStar re-engineered a course registration life-cycle process designed on an operational framework comprised of key performance indicators (KPIs) that addressed the quality of work performed and measured the satisfaction of practitioners and key stakeholders. FedStar’s challenge was to provide transparency and increased accountability, while providing a focus on the customer experience and the ability to measure the impact to key stakeholder groups.

fedstar solution:

FedStar analyzed and mapped the clients’ goals, culture and course delivery process (16-weeks) to a set of key performance indicators that defined and measured quantifiable progress towards organizational goals. KPI’s were then aligned to key customer service attributes like completeness, timeliness, accuracy and attentiveness to address a positive customer experience. Quality control evaluations (monthly and quarterly) were implemented along with a rewards and recognition program designed to reinforce positive behaviors and the client’s culture, accountability and continuous process improvement.

To obtain, measure, and report timely stakeholder feedback, a series of automated customer satisfaction survey’s targeting three key stakeholder segments (e.g., practitioners, instructors, and client training points of contact) were established. The surveys collect and measure satisfaction ratings on a 5-point Likert scale based on the overall experience. They also provided a forum for customer requests to improve the overall experience. Providing an integrated solution allowed FedStar to implement real-time changes so that stakeholders experience immediate improvements. Leveraging the clients existing Event Management System kept project costs and minor impacts to a minimum, while providing a positive customer experience.

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Services Provided:

  • Business Process Engineering
  • Project Management
  • Event and Training Support

results:

Ranked Best Academy in the World by the Project Management Institute (PMI). FedStar’s support has made a significant contribution in the client’s culture and winning attitude—“what can I do for you?” The overall customer satisfaction rating has remained above the client’s KPI threshold, resulting in quantifiable improvements, a focused customer satisfaction culture, and improved customer experiences.

For its dedication and contributions to client success, FedStar won the 2016 International Service Excellence Award for a small business by the Customer Service Institute of America (CSIA). The CSIA is the body delegated by International Council of Customer Service Organizations (ICCSO) to manage the International Service Excellence Awards. These awards are recognized as the premier service awards around the globe.

Create a Suborbital Flight Project for early entry employees

Provide a cooperative workforce development program for a team of early-entry employees to propose, design, develop, build, and launch a suborbital flight project over the course of 18 months. The purpose of the program is to enable practitioners in the early years of their careers to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to manage future flight projects for NASA.

fedstar Solution:

In collaboration with other organizations, the team developed a proposal for NASA centers to respond to that met two client priorities:

  1. Provide a hands-on training opportunity for a dedicated team of early career employees that results in a flight project that launches 18 months from the start of the project.
  2. Program has science merit that is valuable for our partner organizations and our client as a whole.

FedStar co-authored the evaluation and selection criteria and developed selection team process and procedures. The procedures explain to participating bidders and other interested parties on how the evaluation team will conduct itself during the proposal evaluation. Key activities included developing clear requirements that enabled formal and just-in-time training opportunities, established mentoring and coaching arrangements, ensured that an individual development plan for each team member was included for each bidding team, developed tools to track competency development and established clear rules of engagement for project life cycle reviews.

Services Provided:

  • Project Management
  • Professional Development
  • Federal Acquisition Management Support

results:

For five years running, FedStar has supported NASA's Chief Engineers Office (OCE) and the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in supporting the selection of Project HOPE opportunities. Training teams have been exposed to exciting science missions that have successfully enabled project teams to conceptualize, design, develop and launch projects that have proved to advance knowledge transfer and science merit for the Agency. To date, more than 100 early career hires have participated in Project HOPE, each taking on increased roles and responsibilities and accepting more advanced positions.

Establish a Strategic Communications Team to Manage the Academy’s Goals, Vision, and Its Values and Beliefs in Support of NASA’s Technical Workforce

Recognizing the need to communicate the Academy’s products and services, the value the organization provides to NASA’s mission, and address the needs of key stakeholders, FedStar set up a cross functional team of APPEL contractors to propose, design, develop, build, and launch products, services and various communications that supports the APPEL Academy’s technical workforce needs.

FedStar Solution:

In collaboration with multiple contractors supporting the Academy, FedStar established a cross functional team that
includes a curriculum lead, technical writer/editor, training support specialist, a representative from the program management office and a project manager to work together to successfully address the Academy’s communication goals that include:

  • Developing and implementing communications plans for enhanced visibility
  • Increasing awareness and involvement of specific, targeted groups of individuals
  • Educating the Agency on the Academy’s capabilities and successes
  • Generating support from practitioners, the public, and internal clients

FedStar established key performance indicators that enable the academy to visualize measurable goals, know when they have been achieved and to gauge progress along the way. Trends and analysis are reported monthly and offer opportunities for continued process improvement.


The Academy’s mission statement is the cornerstone of the communications plan developed for the Academy that drive the overall direction of all communications activities. In addition to the mission statement, FedStar identified five critical elements the Academy needs to drive strategy:

  • An understanding of the target audience and how to reach it
  • Messages to be delivered
  • Materials to be produced
  • Financial resources from which staff and equipment will be drawn
  • A written work plan

Services Provided

  • Project Management
  • Business Process Engineering
  • Federal Acquisition Management Support

Results


FedStar delivered a communication plan, and established a diverse team of talented professionals designed to represent the multiple business lines that support the Academy's ability to meet the needs of NASA’s technical workforce. As a result, the Strategic Communications team has been instrumental in the design, development and delivery of the Academy’s website (appel.nasa.gov), an all new online course catalog (inclusive of course descriptions, instructor biographies, and introduction videos) and development framework. In addition, the team identifies, writes and delivers articles and newsworthy information shared on the Academy’s carousel located on the website homepage and distributes an online newsletter to more than 85,000 subscribers. Built-in evaluation components allow the team to check accountability and make improvements over time. Evaluation activities help the academy refine its products and services to address shifts in target audience, policy changes, organizational participation and public opinion.