Ever win an agency requirement that you helped develop from the very beginning? I mean you were literally there when the customer realized they had a need, and you were involved in shaping the technical approach and the ultimate deliverable, and then you and your team brought it home.
Have you ever lost one just like that over a senseless oversight that had nothing to do with price, capability, past performance or reputation? I have.
Track the budget. Identify the program of record. Know the stakeholders. Understand the mission. Develop the win strategy.
These are some of the actions required of any business focused on securing contracts with federal agencies, or even with one another. As a community, government contractors have been conditioned to focus on certain aspects of the procurement process that often revolve around who is funding the buy, making the buy and using the delivered goods, services and solutions.
All of that is critically important.
If we go just below the surface of those activities, there are a number of actions occurring to produce and validate this information, in the form of market research and business development. Many times, torrents of information and relationships are leveraged to build up the opportunity-related confidence of companies pursuing agency requirements, all to reduce the cost and risk associated with upcoming solicitations, and to ensure the maximum return on investment made over the life of the pursuit.
So what is it many companies overlook when it comes to fully understanding how the government is going to make a buy?
A lot of times it can be as as simple as knowing the 'award type' most often attributed to the agency, a funding organization or contracting office, based on what they are buying. Why? For one reason, how do you know if a customer can or will buy from you based on how they can "reach you" from a procurement standpoint? I would not depend on what someone tells you, even if they are the contracting officer, because situation's can change.
A recent example comes from a company I spoke with who provided a quote to a customer who said they planned to do a streamlined procurement using a purchase order. The buy ended up being competed amongst companies with a blanket purchase agreement issued by the agency. Needless to say, the company I spoke with did not have that contract vehicle, so they were out.
Another one has to do with a company on GSA STARS II who was pursuing a requirement with an agency who cited their plan to either do an 8(a) competitive buy or sole-source using STARS II. Despite the inherent ease of use afforded agencies under this streamlined contract vehicle, that buy was ultimately issued using a stand-alone contract versus a task order against the GWAC. Unfortunately and especially for GSA STARS II, this has been the trend more times than not. In fact, when it comes to buys from 8(a) companies under the NAICS Codes 541511/12/13 and 19 (the four functional areas of GSA STARS II) $300M more in 8(a) competed and sole source buys were made away from STARS II during FY13 where definitive contracts and purchase orders were used. When you add in all of the other stand-alone contract buys made to small and other than small companies for the same NAICS Codes, the difference is in the billions.
Another factor that can come into play based on what award type is most often leveraged by a funding organization versus the contracting organization is, who will be making the buy.
Consider this, the General Services Administration is the primary organization (but not the only one) who has contract vehicles and contracting organizations that can be used by agencies other than their own. The GSA Assisted Acquisitions Service (AAS) makes a living doing procurements for pretty much any agency that will engage them. So the Air Force requirement in Texas you've been working on for two years you thought was going through the base contracting office, was actually sent to the GSA AAS contracting office in Boston, whom you don't have knowledge of, or a relationship with.
Here is the bottom line. If you don't know the difference between a delivery order, definitive contract or BPA call, and the ramifications to your company (and your opportunity) that can result based on which award type an agency chooses to leverage, your situational awareness of an opportunity and the customer is incomplete.
Without fail it is important to follow the money and know what matters to the customer. If you have not done your homework to ensure you know what instrument of award is most relevant to the type and size of your offer for that particular customer, you stand a chance of winding up on the outside of the deal when all is said and done. By the way, in case you are one of those who believe pretty much everything the government buys comes from a delivery order/task order contract like the GSA Schedule, BPA, GWAC, IDIQ, etc., think again.
For the record, YTD obligations to standalone contracts for FY14 are way ahead of buys to delivery order/task order contracts, too.
Peace.The Chief Visionary
"The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it."