What comes next after you bid? A look at how the evaluation process works and the factors that could influence who will win the award. If your business is awarded the contract, we provide some pointers on what to do immediately upon receiving a contract.
You have completed the work, gone through the steps and submitted your first bid for a government contract. Basically, once you are finished with your part of the process, it is time for the government buyer to take over and do its part. Once all of the bids are in, the buyer will begin evaluating all of the offers. Several factors influence which business will land the contract, and it's important that you understand how the evaluation process works. Ultimately the buyer will make a final decision on which company will be awarded the contract. Hopefully, that will be you!
And what if your company is the one that is awarded the contract? Then you can make use of some pointers on what to do immediately upon receiving a contract.
Bid evaluation and award
Once the government buyer receives all the bids, the evaluation and award process begins. Here is an outline of what happens.
Non-Negotiated Bids (IFBs): If the solicitation is an Invitation for Bid (IFB)—a non-negotiated, sealed bid situation where best valued bidder wins—the bid is opened and the information is recorded on what is referred to as a "bid abstract." This will be used as the bid history database. The abstract contains, in order of opening, the names of the bidding companies, the items being bid, the prices quoted, and any other information that the bidding officer deems relevant.
This is important information that could prove to be very useful to you, whether you get the bid or not. And since the information contained in the bid abstract is considered public information, you can get it just by asking. The government buying office will send you a copy of the abstract if you enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope along with your bid. You should also include a letter stating that you are requesting the bid abstract under the Freedom of Information Act. (See now, isn't the government helpful? You probably won't be able to get similar information from the private business sector at any time in the near future.)
Tools to use
Among the Business Tools are Sample Information Requests from Government Officials.
With this information in hand, you can see where you stand in the bidding process. If your price quote is in the upper third of the price ranking, you are outside the competitive range. If you find yourself in the middle third, you're getting there. If you are in the lower third, you are in the right place.
Remember that you will not win all bids. Figure that after you become an old hand at bidding, your rate will be, on average, about three out of ten. Take a look at the investment in time and money you put in going after a commercial contract. It's the same plan of action with the government.
Negotiated bids (RFPs or RFQs): If the solicitation is negotiated, in other words, if it is a Request for Proposal or Request for Quote, the information on bidding companies, pricing, etc. is not public information. When the award is made, the name of the successful bidder and the contract price become public information.
Factors affecting the bid outcome
Which factors do government buyers consider in looking at your bid and finally awarding the contract? Here are some of the most important:
Does your bid meet all essential requirements? One of the first things that government buyers will do is make sure that your bid conforms to all essential requirements of the solicitation. Does your proposal meet the evaluation factors? Check them carefully. Remember, it's not what you want; it's what they want. This includes exact conformance to all the specifications, drawings, descriptions, and standards specified in the contract solicitation, as well as materials, delivery dates, packaging and marking requirements, past performance history, etc. Often, these factors are referred to as "Best Value."
Are you capable? Buyers will also consider whether you are capable of performing and delivering on the contract. Just because you know in your heart that you can do the work is not enough for buyers. They will be looking at your technical capability and trying to make sure that you have the experience and know-how to do the work. Do you have the production capability? If the contract calls for 100,000 widgets and you have one drill press and a milling machine and a part-time retired guy . . . well, they might see a problem and you probably won't get the contract. Do you have a real place of operation? If you are manufacturing items out of your garage, then that could also be a handicap in getting a contract. Here's a major consideration: financial capability. For some reason, reasonable business people think that if they are in financial trouble, a government contract will be able to fix the situation and get them financially healthy again. Sorry, but if your business is in trouble, the last thing you want is a contract where the margins are tight and you might have trouble getting financial help to do the work. The government buying offices are not in the business of starting and financing a private company!
What's your performance record? Another important consideration for buyers is your past performance record. If you didn't meet a deadline on your first contract or if you have a history of late deliveries on contracts, the government will not want to work with you. The government operates on strict schedules and when you don't meet one, the government tends to get very upset and never forget. Even in cases where price is a deciding factor, the government now factors in past performance in figuring out the real cost for an item.
You now can check your company's delivery status by going to the Business Partner Network (www.bpn.gov) website—the single source for vendor data for the federal government. The BPN search mechanism provides unprecedented access into several key databases across federal agencies (see Chapter 19, "Help from the Government" for more complete coverage on BPN). When you go to the BPN site, check out your past performance record.
The Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS) contains report cards assessing a vendor's past performance in doing business with the government. It is made available to government source selection officials who use the information as one of several factors in determining which company should be awarded a new contract. Contractors are encouraged to validate their own past performance information and to refer to records in PPIRS when preparing proposals.
To access PPIRS, the contractor must register a past performance point of contact in the Central Contractor Registration profile and generate a Marketing Partner Identification Number (MPIN). Your CCR POC is the only person with access to your company's active registration, therefore you need to contact your CCR POC to establish the MPIN. Contractors may then log onto PPIRS using their DUNS number as a user ID and their MPIN number as a password. It takes about a week to update PPIRS with newly activated MPIN numbers. New information is made available every Thursday morning.
Contractors who have successfully obtained an MPIN may find that there are no records available on them in PPIRS. This is either because the contractor has no contracts meeting the thresholds for report cards (in DoD, $1 million for services and information technology and $5 million for systems and operations support; $100,000 for federal agencies) or because the reports have not yet been written. Contractors are encouraged to contact their buyers to ensure that the reports are written.
Do you have adequate quality control? Government buyers want assurance that you will provide a quality product. You may not need to go all out and get certified under strict international quality standards, but you should have a good, well-documented quality control program that tells all of your customers, including the government, how you guarantee that you will provide quality products and services.
Computer-based awards Here's a little secret for you: You know that "good ol' boy network" you hear about so much? Well, for many buying agencies, there's no such thing because new technologies allow for more buying decisions to be made automatically by computer software. For example, some 85 percent of the procurement at the Defense Supply Center Columbus is done without human input.
The DLA-BSM Internet Bid Board System (DIBBS) is a web-based application that allows you to:
- view and submit quotes
- view Request for Proposals (RFPs)
- view long-Term contracts & EMALL opportunities
- access award information
- view provisions, clauses and packaging specs
- view price history
- view technical data
- access Acquisition Forecasts
- access the Automated Best Value System (ABVS), your Performance Score used in award decisions
- access DoD Procurement Gateway at https://www.dla.mil/webgateway/
- access award information
- view provisions
The Business Clearance Memorandum (BCM) is the Contracting Officers tool by which he or she demonstrates the fulfillment of statutory and regulatory responsibilities and sets forth business decisions for approval. (FAR 1.602-1(b). BCMs provide an audit trail for post award review and service as key evidence to support the contracting officers decisions in the case of disputes or reviews.