From National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Suzanne Honeycutt shares her past experiences with the GSA SmartPay transition process, best practices and lessons learned.
Agency Purchase Card Lead
NASA Shared Services Center (NSSC)
11 Years with NASA
Describe some of your responsibilities related to past GSA SmartPay transitions:
I serve as the Agency Lead A/OPC for the Purchase Card Program and the NASA Task Order Contracting Officer. I have previously served as the Contracting Officer on the SP2 Source Selection Committee; SP2 Task Order Contracting Officer; and, SP2 Transition Program Manager. I have served as the Lead A/OPC for NASA’s Purchase Card Program for the last 9 years.
In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of transition?
Being prepared, following up, staying on schedule, and issuing effective communications not only to your team but also to cardholders regarding the forthcoming transition to Bank X (and advise that new cards will be mailed in the ‘Y’ timeframe, etc.). And don’t forget to engage your Agency’s Call Center, Customer Contact Center, etc. on the fact that employees will be receiving new purchase and travel cards. Along that same line, notify your Fleet POCs that they will receive new Fleet Cards for the vehicles.
Describe some of the things that went well during transition?
- Establishing an effective transition team who developed the project schedule and stayed on track to meet the various milestones
- Creating a Training Plan
- Developing a Communication Plan
- Team work
What was the biggest challenge you faced during the transition from SP1 to SP2 and how are you preparing to address it this time?
Two issues come to mind:
- Ensuring that cardholder information, e.g. home address (for travel cards) and office address (for purchase and fleet cards), email address, phone number, etc. was accurate in the bank’s electronic access system (EAS) in order to compile the master data file prior to providing it to the SP2 bank. We are taking steps now to update all cardholder information in our current bank contractor’s EAS. We will also continue to conduct periodic checks on the data and make corrections/updates on a regular basis;
- Contractually closing the SP1 task order and resolving payment differences between the SP1 bank and our Agency. We discovered that we had inconsistencies in the various payments we made in which the SP1 bank did not agree. Some payments had been posted to the incorrect account over the years and therefore, it appeared we had a good number of delinquencies. We had to work extremely hard to resolve the payment differences and get all accounts to a zero balance in order to close the task order. This took several months to complete. To prevent that from occurring with the SP2 bank, we implemented a new process upon go-live for the Purchase Card Program. This process takes place after reconciliation each month and prior to submitting the payment request to our Accounts Payable Department. The A/OPCs are required to check the SP2 bank’s EAS to ensure that the prior month’s payment was received and posted to the correct account. This confirms that we are balanced and have no delinquencies on any Purchase Centrally Billed Accounts.
What are some of the lessons learned based on your past experience with the GSA SmartPay transition?
I recommend to agencies that if they have any system interfaces or transferring of transactional data with the SmartPay 3 bank, that they allow several months lead time to test the interface functions, etc. by awarding their task order as early as possible. Identify your technical or systems POCs early in the pre-award process and ask for their estimated number of hours or their required timeframe to allow sufficient time for all testing and interfacing activities. This is a crucial task in order to go-live and begin transactions with your SP3 bank.
What support can the banks best provide?
A solid transition plan and a responsive Customer Relationship Manager who works closely with you and understands your program are critical. Also, the bank should provide a knowledgeable and adequately staffed Customer Service Center who provides accurate information to you, your other A/OPCs and to your cardholders. This ensures prompt customer service.
When should an agency begin scrubbing its master file?
The sooner, the better. And continue to ensure that cardholder addresses, email addresses and phone numbers are accurate in the electronic access system so that the master data file can be created with ease.
What advice do you have for new A/OPCs who are going through their first transition?
Hang tough and know that you will get through this. Select team members to assist you who are dedicated and responsive workers. An effective team who works well together and communicates effectively will make all the difference! You must be aggressive to achieve a successful transition. Be sure to engage all the key stakeholders within your Agency or organization. Transitioning any program can be difficult, e.g. developing new ways of doing things; learning new EAS’; creating new reports, etc., but at the same time, realize you will have several lessons learned and encounter growing pains.
Any other comments that you would like to share?
We are still trying to determine exactly which security identifiers we will use for our Purchase cardholders. These are usually two different sets of personal data that the cardholder will have to provide the bank when calling the bank’s Customer Service Department. These identifiers assist the bank representatives in confirming the identity of the caller prior to assisting them. The Purchase Card Program does not have access to social security numbers, mother’s maiden name, etc., so we are researching other data elements we can use that are not necessarily PII but will enable cardholders to phone the bank and easily obtain the assistance they need without any issues. If other Agencies have reached a solution, please feel free to share with GSA.