The execution of a contract (signing by both parties) is a key benchmark in government contracting. It triggers several events such as the start of the period of performance and the delivery schedule time period. Execution begins a billing period start date, and contractual obligations by the government and the contractor.
Establish an internal document to your company that contains the pertinent data for the contract and assigns it a unique contract identifier in your business system. This is necessary for billing and cost collection purposes as well as government audits.
Astute government contractors do not allow effort to proceed or cost to be incurred on a particular contract until such a document is generated, signed, approved and distributed by a company official assigned the duty of releasing the contract for performance.
Such documents are commonly called "Work Authorizations", "Release Orders" "Production Release Orders" or a similar term to benchmark the new business and begin performance, accounting, and time and materials accumulation on the contract.
Any cost or supplier commitments prior to a signed contract are considered pre-contract costs by the government under FAR and require special authorization by the PCO under the contract. They cannot be billed until the contract is signed. Incurring pre-contract costs without authorization is high risk for the contractor.
Any work or supplier commitments outside the scope of the current contract documentation are also high risk without a negotiated contract amendment adding the scope of work to the contract or government authorization for the use of designated management reserve.
Sarbanes Oxley regulations and other recent government laws regarding corporate responsibility have made control of work authorization and record keeping important factors. Keep in mind that a small business past performance record begins when a contract is signed. This record is maintained by the government and is updated as deliveries and performance occur.
You should begin your internal project management record on each contract by attaching all the necessary information for your performing organizations and support functions to begin doing their jobs.
A copy of the contract should accompany the internal release to key functions in your enterprise. The master should be filed in your central files. Some companies perform work authorization electronically. The government is moving in the direction of electronic record keeping as well.