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So our IT guys have set up an “incubation lab”.  This will allow them to play with potential tools already available commercially, and see what breaks (of their stuff or ours) and what we like.  Or to consider whether we can justify building it ourselves, as opposed to buying it.    Now they want to do something like this—

 

Release a single solicitation

 

Make (basically) identical awards to, say, 4 companies.  With option years. and 3 stages.  Potential XXX gazillion dollars for each award.

 

Initial period, for EVALUATION IN OUR ENVIRONMENT  (XXX thousand dollars, a few months)

 

Follow on for FURTHER DEMONSTRATION OF FURTHER CAPABILITIES  (significantly more money. More months)

 

And then IMPLEMENTATION  (Potential XXX gazillion dollars for each award, up to 4 additional years.)

 

 Fleshed out a bit--

Initial period, for EVALUATION IN OUR ENVIRONMENT    Each company will come in and show off, and let us play with their toys for a few months.  We will pay for their expenses. 

 

Follow on for DEMONSTRATION OF FURTHER CAPABILITIES  If we like Company A and B, we can exercise an option to have JUST THOSE companies come in for more playtime.  Again, paid, but more money, and a longer time.   BUT the same options for companies  C&D are NOT exercised. But these are options, so those companies cannot object.  (as opposed to a new award)  After whatever time it takes, we decide we like company A more, because it is “friendlier”  (note: not a defensible argument for sole source, but often what I am given)

 

For IMPLEMENTATION we exercise options with COMPANY A only.  And company B cannot object, because those are OPTIONS. 

 

Have you come across anything like this?

 

Any pros or cons leap out? 

  

NOTE: 

We do NOT have any of those special OTHER TRANSACTIONAL AUTHORITIES that some other agencies have been given.  Just vanilla civilian agency FAR.

 

NOTE:  We have looked at and rejected  the USDS 8(a) Digital Service Initiative for “Select the Tech”, https://techfarhub.cio.gov/initiatives/8a/.  While this may be a great thing for smaller agencies, our guys want to do the eval themselves.

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Guest Vern Edwards
55 minutes ago, quango said:

Have you come across anything like this?

Any pros or cons leap out?

Yes, similar "downselect" procedures have been used many times. I did one for a DOD project that involved two major defense contractors. Such procedures are legal, but they must be done in compliance with existing regulations unless you obtain approval to deviate from the FAR. Unfortunately, the existing regulations do not address it.

PROs: It's a good way to reduce risk. "Fly before you buy."

CONs: It can be costly. In deciding whether to do it you have to trade off risk reduction against increased cost.

You have to think it through and plan very carefully in order to do it well and without too much trouble. You have to have a good understanding of the applicable FAR requirements and a good sense of what is contractually feasible and sound.

Unfortunately, there is not much (if any) guidance with regard to the source selection and contractual process, and very little if any detailed documentation about how other organizations have done it. You'll have to start pretty much from scratch. I don't know of anyone providing reliable consulting services to government agencies planning to use such a process. You might be able to get advice from the Defense Systems Management College within the Defense Acquisition University. They have people who know about and provide advice for such things within DOD. But you'll have to pay for it.

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2 hours ago, quango said:

So our IT guys have set up an “incubation lab”.  This will allow them to play with potential tools already available commercially, and see what breaks (of their stuff or ours) and what we like.  Or to consider whether we can justify building it ourselves, as opposed to buying it

 

Any pros or cons leap out? 

How are you managing IP rights? Is the plan to have the contractors share the source code, then to steal it for re-engineering, and then tell the contractors "no thanks, we'll do it ourselves"? Because if that's the plan I'm not liking it. I don't think the contractors' lawyers will like it either.

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Guest Vern Edwards

We can't go on together
With suspicious minds
And we can't build our dreams
On suspicious minds

😈

 

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4 minutes ago, Vern Edwards said:

We can't go on together
With suspicious minds
And we can't build our dreams
On suspicious minds

😈

 

Thank you, Elvis.

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replying to here_2_help

Heavens no.  We are not at all interested in stealing anything.  IP rights are an entirely different set of questions/bear traps. 

 

The MAKE OR BUY thing for us would help determine ---

1) Is something close to what we want already there, and can we eventually make it work in our universe?

2) Are we trying to weld a big tractor to a little red wagon, which CAN be done, but is not really something commercial ventures have declared worth pursuing? In which case, build is a "reasonable" decision.

3) are we asking for an underwater toaster, which we thought was a really good idea at 2am, but, when we talk to other people the next day, turns out to be a bad idea. Maybe we should step back.

The techies are getting grief for a perceived bias to build instead of buy (OMB?  OFPP?  SBA? Someone like that) .  Maybe if we do this, it can provide some argument for them, along the lines of "see, we really DID give the commercial people a chance, and tried hard to find something, but we are just to weird for anyone to be able to help with an existing product"

My questions are if anyone has tried anything similar to what I described... or thought about it while stuck in traffic...and what leapt out at your as a good or bad thing about it.

 

 

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