Jump to content
The Wifcon Forums and Blogs
General.Zhukov

We Cannot Explain Our Requirements

Recommended Posts

1102 here.  Not sure if *right place to post this. 

Situation: My agency has a system that has been developed and supported by a contractor for >5 Years.  Up for 're-compete.'' It seems the Program Office has been *heavily* reliant on the contractor all this time, and lacks the technical competence to explain what this system does, or what they would like it to do  The Program Office provided to me a wildly incoherent Statement of Work (Sample: It mysteriously included a years-old version of 52.212-3 in full text as an attachment to their SOW, no other clauses or Section I, just that one provision).  The Program Office has received feedback on the SOW from me, industry, other internal stakeholders, and several other Contracting folks and they have incrementally improved it over several months.  I would say it has improved from an "F-" to a "D+." It at least covers the known requirements and has all the parts (such as deliverables).  The clock is ticking and at some point very soon we need to move on.

P.S. This is a highly technical requirement (lots of buzz-words...unstructured data, machine learning, containers, PaaS, hybrid cloud, etc.).  Its not a common-sense type thing you can just eye-ball and figure out.  

P.P.S.  I am fairly certain the incumbent contractor's team could easily write a clean, coherent and generally pretty good PWS in a day.   I am also fairly certain any consultant in the relevant field could, with access to all our information,  write a clean, coherent and generally pretty good PWS in a week.  

Questions:

Whose responsibility is it to sufficiently define the the requirement? 

Who makes the decision about when its 'good enough?'

What is the responsibility of the Contracting Officer with regards to requirements that they do not and could not reasonably be expected to fully understand? 

What to do?  General advice welcome.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

General - Sounds like an opportunity for a Statement of Objectives approach.  Has such an idea been considered?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, General.Zhukov said:

P.P.S.  I am fairly certain the incumbent contractor's team could easily write a clean, coherent and generally pretty good PWS in a day.   I am also fairly certain any consultant in the relevant field could, with access to all our information,  write a clean, coherent and generally pretty good PWS in a week.  

If you're considering having a contractor draft a PWS, make sure you review FAR 9.505-2 first.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Vern Edwards
2 hours ago, General.Zhukov said:

Whose responsibility is it to sufficiently define the the requirement? 

See the definitions of acquisition and contracting in FAR 2.101. Determination of requirements is part of acquisition, but is expressly excluded from the definition of contracting. So the responsibility to define requirements rests with the "requiring activity". It is not the responsibility of the contracting officer.

2 hours ago, General.Zhukov said:

Who makes the decision about when its 'good enough?'

What do you mean by "it"? If you're asking who decides when the statement of work is good enough to be used in contracting, I would say it is the contracting officer.

2 hours ago, General.Zhukov said:

What is the responsibility of the Contracting Officer with regards to requirements that they do not and could not reasonably be expected to fully understand? 

I'd say that if the contracting officer decides that the statement of work is not good enough to be used in contracting his or her responsibility is to reject it.

2 hours ago, General.Zhukov said:

What to do? General advice welcome.

I have no suggestions. I know what I would do, but you're not me, so I won't bore you with my ideas.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If the in-house using activity doesn’t have the expertise to write the performance work statement and you think that a consultant could write a clean, coherentt and pretty good PWS in a week, what are you waiting for? You have an answer, so the team should move out ASAP and hire a consultant, who won’t be interested in competing for the resultant contract. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You might also consider whether or not to use the consultant as a technical advisor during the source selection process.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Vern Edwards
8 hours ago, General.Zhukov said:

I am fairly certain the incumbent contractor's team could easily write a clean, coherent and generally pretty good PWS in a day.   I am also fairly certain any consultant in the relevant field could, with access to all our information,  write a clean, coherent and generally pretty good PWS in a week.  

Emphasis added.

The words of someone who has never written a PWS.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

General:

  1. What is the expected dollar value of the procurement?
  2. How long to expiration of the current contract?

Just for laughs,

  1. Who approves the contractor's invoices?
  2. Was this item truly developed by the contractor, and if claimed so by the program, how do they know?
  3. Who evaluates the contractor's performance?  

Edit:  I added #3 about 30 minutes after I wrote the original text.  I won't look at this topic again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, bob7947 said:

General:

  1. What is the expected dollar value of the procurement?
  2. How long to expiration of the current contract?

Just for laughs,

  1. Who approves the contractor's invoices?
  2. Was this item truly developed by the contractor, and if claimed so by the program, how do they know?
  3. Who evaluates the contractor's performance?  

Edit:  I added #3 about 30 minutes after I wrote the original text.  I won't look at this topic again.

General:

1: Between 1 to 5 $MM per year.

2: September (!), but there is wiggle room there.

Fun:

1: COR and, since its currently being administrated by a different Department,  that other Department's minimally involved CO.

2:  Its an IT system the contractor maintains and uses to do stuff for us.  Its like a kitchen.   Government owns all the tools, all the ingredients, and the recipes are open-source. The contractor is the chef.  We can fire the chef and hire a new one, but we may not like their cooking.   

3: The same dynamic duo as question 1.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, Vern Edwards said:

Emphasis added.

The words of someone who has never written a PWS.

 

I have not.  In this specific case, what we do is very similar to what a lot of other people do, and we've been doing it for years, so its not starting from scratch.  Hence the short times.  But the point is taken.  Its very difficult to write a PWS at all, and more so to write it well.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Only time I've run into a situation like this, the agency ended up hiring a consultant to reverse-engineer the existing effort.  Suffice to say, multiple bridge contracts were awarded.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, joel hoffman said:

If the in-house using activity doesn’t have the expertise to write the performance work statement and you think that a consultant could write a clean, coherentt and pretty good PWS in a week, what are you waiting for? You have an answer, so the team should move out ASAP and hire a consultant, who won’t be interested in competing for the resultant contract. 

Yeah, I've already pitched 'use your P-Card to hire a technical consultant from FSS 70 for a week, who is willing to agree to the OCI/Non-Disclosures/Non-competes.'  But our cultural is very conservative, and that's isn't' happening.  Our in-house consultants have helped though, but we don't have a deep bench for this domain.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Vern Edwards
37 minutes ago, General.Zhukov said:

Yeah, I've already pitched 'use your P-Card to hire a technical consultant from FSS 70 for a week, who is willing to agree to the OCI/Non-Disclosures/Non-competes.'  But our cultural is very conservative, and that's isn't' happening.  Our in-house consultants have helped though, but we don't have a deep bench for this domain.

Keep in mind that Joel said: "If the in-house using activity doesn’t have the expertise to write the performance work statement and you think that a consultant could write a clean, coherent and pretty good PWS in a week, what are you waiting for?" Note the emphasis.

I am very experienced and very good at writing SOWs, and I will say that no consultant with his or her head screwed on properly is going to agree to a performance deadline until he or she has spent some time figuring out the nature and scope of the requirement to be specified, identified the people who will have to be interviewed, and determined the client's review process. I would insist on a level of effort contract. And you would not able to buy the service from me at a "P" card price.

The customer in this case is clearly in disarray, and I would not trust them to be capable or reasonable when it comes to inspecting my work product.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It sounds like everyone is focused on the process, not the output.

Try defining the output that you want, and the input you will provide, and leave the process to the offerors.

 

Input -> Process -> Output.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×