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Identical Proposals (not cost)

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With the numerous Proposal Templates being offered by on-line "proposal" companies, the odds of an evaluator reading very similar if not identical content increases.  I am seeing these "proposal" companies offering $$ for proposal material.  Not just boiler plate management plans, but technical solutions, etc, etc.

Libraries of proposals are being offered that defeat the purpose of a technical evaluation.  The Government may not be evaluating a companies' management and/or technical capabilities; instead it is evaluating the purchased creative writing of an unknown source.

Question:

1) What should occur when evaluators receive strikingly similar technical and/or management volumes?  Are they scored equally or is there a mechanism to address the obvious issue.

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If canned proposals are evaluated highly, the government isn’t developing good source selection approaches.  Just about every requirement has some uniqueness to it, particularly when the government seeks a competition of solutions in addition to price/cost.  The evaluation should differentiate based upon who’s offering the best solution.  

So if this occurs, the government may not be describing their need adequately (not the SOW but the actual need that is to be met) and the selection criteria which needs tailored to identify the best.  For example technical approach, management plan, staffing, etc. solicitation criteria are all boilerplate if proposals look very similar.

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10 minutes ago, formerfed said:

If canned proposals are evaluated highly, the government isn’t developing good source selection approaches.  Just about every requirement has some uniqueness to it, particularly when the government seeks a competition of solutions in addition to price/cost.  The evaluation should differentiate based upon who’s offering the best solution.  

So if this occurs, the government may not be describing their need adequately (not the SOW but the actual need that is to be met) and the selection criteria which needs tailored to identify the best.  For example technical approach, management plan, staffing, etc. are all boilerplate if proposals look very similar.

"Proposal" companies are requesting and reselling solutions, not just templates.  These solutions may be technical, H/R, staffing, Q/C, etc.  Companies can now easily purchase boilerplate sections as well as specific solutions.  In essence, slap the name of your company on the tech/management volume and you're done.

My question remains:  What should occur when evaluators receive strikingly similar technical and/or management volumes?  Are they scored equally or is there a mechanism to address the obvious issue.

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Evaluations must be based upon the solicitation criteria.  They are done individually and can’t be compared against each other.  So if proposals read the same, they need evaluated the same.  If the respective merits are the same, the selection gets down to price.

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28 minutes ago, Contractor said:

My question remains:  What should occur when evaluators receive strikingly similar technical and/or management volumes?  Are they scored equally or is there a mechanism to address the obvious issue.

There is no rule that addresses your question, if that's what your asking for. The Government encourages the type of behavior that you describe by reducing source selections to essay-writing contests. The Government should stop doing this.

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How about oral presentations in lieu of paper technical proposals?  See FAR 15.102 for helpful guidance -- even though this guidance is in FAR part 15, it can also be helpful to acquisitions not covered by FAR part 15 (such as orders against schedule contracts (FAR subpart 8.4) and orders against IDIQ contracts (FAR 16.505(b)(1)).  Problem avoided, and better results obtained.

Too many offerors?  Do a down-select — maybe evaluate experience and technical concept on paper for all offerors, and invite a small subset to participate in oral presentations an submit price proposals.

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3 hours ago, formerfed said:

Evaluations must be based upon the solicitation criteria.  They are done individually and can’t be compared against each other.  

This is a concept appropriate to FAR subpart 15.3, Source Selection

However, when one is not using procedures of FAR subpart 15.3, Source Selection, (such as when ordering against a schedule contract or a multiple-award IDIQ contract, or when using simplified procedures), offer-to-offer (or quote-to-quote) comparisons are fine.

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15 hours ago, Contractor said:

1) What should occur when evaluators receive strikingly similar technical and/or management volumes?  Are they scored equally or is there a mechanism to address the obvious issue.

If equal, "score" equal. The mechanism to address this problem is to change the source selection process. There is no mechanism to address this problem if the source selection process allows it to happen.

PepeTheFrog agrees with Don Manfield's critique and seconds ji20874's suggestion of oral presentations (which can be like structured "interviews" of the offerors, depending on how you devise them).  

Another suggestion is to pivot to evaluation factors that cannot be gamed with canned essays, such as past performance.

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Yes.  Even though creative writing might allow similar evaluation results, that shouldn’t be all.  For example offerors likely differ in experience and past performance.   Those affect likelihood of delivering a successful solution, which should be an inherit part of a selection decision.  Of course I’m saying that without knowing what the solicitation says.  

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Contractor, if you are really concerned about this, why not ask offerors to identify all outside consultants who assisted in the preparation of the proposal?

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This is getting off topic but something I wanted to say.  Most companies contemplating responding to a solicitation carefully weight the cost and chances of winning before committing.  Generally a rule is 1 out of 3 chances before moving forward.  If they seek outside proposal consultant help, it’s expensive but usually worth it if they win.  I suspect buying proposal templates from online sources is a waste of money and that’s not how good consultant companies operate - just about everything is tailored including what everyone knows about the government agency that’s not written n the solicitation. 

Edit:  I should add my comments apply mostly to professional services and sophisticated things such as what integrators provide.

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Companies use internal templates all the time. They also copy  old proposals, sometimes not even bothering to change the name of the soliciting agency.  Whether proposal templates are bought or recycled seems irrelevant.  My understanding is that the only real restriction is on contingent fees.

The government is also guilty of templating and using recycled RFQs and contracts, so there's that...

Nothing you can 'do' about it, really.  Short of actual conspiracy among offerors, I don't know how you could reject an otherwise acceptable proposal because you think it might have been based on a 3rd party template. 

The oral presentation idea is a good one, but it also begs the question of "do you wait and look at the proposals before you decide to require oral presentations, or do you do it on everything as SOP?" As mentioned previously, it can be used on pretty much anything regardless of whether part 15 applies or not.

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19 minutes ago, REA'n Maker said:

Companies use internal templates all the time. They also copy  old proposals, sometimes not even bothering to change the name of the soliciting agency.  Whether proposal templates are bought or recycled seems irrelevant.  My understanding is that the only real restriction is on contingent fees.

The government is also guilty of templating and using recycled RFQs and contracts, so there's that...

Nothing you can 'do' about it, really, as the responsibility for performance after award is unaffected by the proposal.  Short of actual conspiracy among offerors, I don't know how you could reject an otherwise acceptable proposal because you think it might have been based on a 3rd party template.

Agreed.  But my question wasn't about "templates" or the purchase of materials.

My question was, what happens when an evaluator reads two identical or practically identical proposals.  It appears the answer is - they both would receive the same score.  End of story.  No one questions if the proposal is a true representation of "the company" or if the proposal was simply purchased and delivered by the company.

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1 hour ago, Contractor said:

Agreed.  But my question wasn't about "templates" or the purchase of materials.

My question was, what happens when an evaluator reads two identical or practically identical proposals.  It appears the answer is - they both would receive the same score.  End of story.  No one questions if the proposal is a true representation of "the company" or if the proposal was simply purchased and delivered by the company.

This is exactly one reason why the government should conduct discussions.  The company gets questioned about issues and forced to justify their claims.  As I said earlier it’s very difficult for companies to have identical qualifications, experience, and past performance as well.

If i were the CO, PM, or whoever,  I would ask companies to elaborate and provide details.  

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I’m suggesting discussions and not oral presentations.  Orals are fine too but agencies usually have the option to hold discussions in a negotiated procurement.  They can conduct them to improve proposals. 

Orals are a great way to streamline and improve chances of a sound selection.  The same applies with discussions but too many people don’t understand the processes, are reluctant to do it, and lack experience to do it right.

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1 hour ago, formerfed said:

I’m suggesting discussions and not oral presentations.  Orals are fine too but agencies usually have the option to hold discussions in a negotiated procurement.  They can conduct them to improve proposals. 

Orals are a great way to streamline and improve chances of a sound selection.  The same applies with discussions but too many people don’t understand the processes, are reluctant to do it, and lack experience to do it right.

You’re right about both.

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3 hours ago, Contractor said:

My question was, what happens when an evaluator reads two identical or practically identical proposals.  It appears the answer is - they both would receive the same score.  End of story. 

Yes, they both receive the same score (or rating), but that shouldn't be the end of the story.  That the two proposals are identical might call into question the accuracy, reliability, and legitimacy of the information, and I would inform the selecting official of this concern. 

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