Eight effective practices of successful human service contract managers

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


Modern governments often rely on private, nonprofit, and other non-governmental entities for delivery of services. Specifically, state and local governments increasingly contract for social services. This dissertation identifies eight effective practices that successful human service contract managers use in the negotiating and contracting process. It compares practices of successful contract managers with those of less successful contract managers in the Massachusetts' Department of Social Services. Success was based on informed judgment of how managers conducted thE~ contracting process. Another measure was the number of debriefing sessions that did or did not lead to appeals. Interviews were held with managers. Questions were both open-ended and loosely structured. Data from interviews was processed and formatted for use in a computer-assisted analysis program. Interpretation and analysis of the interviews identified eight effective practices that successful managers use in the contracting process.

Hence, contemporary government demands that public managers understand and master both technical and relationship aspects of the negotiating and contracting process in order to be successful. Managers emphasize prebid planning activities and multiple needs assessment methods to accurately reflect service needs for the area. They monitor waiting lists and utilization of services regularly to determine who use and need services. Managers rely on a large number of participants to review proposals and they use a standard tool to rate them to insure fairness and competitiveness in the proposal evaluation step. They conduct debriefings as mediation sessions and encourage bidders to become more capable to participate in future bidding. They negotiate rates based on pricing ranges not line-item details, and they assist providers with budget and program support. Also, they rely on experience and technical competence to be successful. within the eight effective practices, managers confirm that contracting is more successful when they have early, ongoing interaction and cooperative working relationships as well as providing competent technical services. Cooperative relationships and interaction especially are important as new and diverse service providers enter the contracting arena.



social services