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When Do You Begin the Information Gathering Process for Possible Future Procurements?

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In the discussion topic that I posted, Formerfed wrote:

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A little off topic but my eyes really got opened once I left the government and got involved in consulting.  I took training in business development and proposal writing.  Some examples - the notion that all sources except maybe incumbents start out on equal footing is just wrong.  A study from a few years ago on companies winning large DoD contracts found over 60% of B&P costs were incurred before the solicitation was issued.  So companies that win start early on gathering data.  Winning companies attend do a lot to gain information and insights of what agencies want.  Another is if a company knows nothing about a procurement until they see FBO, the chances of winning are so slim proposal writing experts say don’t bother.  One more thing is a large share of questions are “ghost questions” to highlight competitor weaknesses.  So there’s really no such thing as a trulely level playing field. 

My question to anyone is:

  • do you think that your methods for information gathering are too much of a competitive advantage that you cannot share them here.
  • if you wish to share them, when do you start the information gathering process and what do you gather for a possible future procurement.  Hint:  I wouldn't wait until the FBO.  Hint 2:  I rewrote my question several times.
  • is the information gathering process done in-house or through a service provider.

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Since no one responded so far, I’ll break the ice.  Most of my comments are based upon things I heard in classes and from proposal writing consultants.

Start with Google. Search for information about the agency and any specific programs.  This includes IG, GAO, and Congressional reports and hearings.  Read their strategic plans and budget submissions.  Read background for any proposed or recent legislation affecting the upcoming acquisition.  Often many new acquisitions are a reaction from Congressional direction.  Often there’s publicized criticism which ultimately brought about need for new acquisitions. 

Find out who key officials are in the program and search by their names.  Often those people make presentations in seminars, industry forums, and trade shows.  Those same people also may discuss new procurements supporting major program changes.  Small business people like to make both large and small sources aware of plans. 

If there are incumbents, find out who they are and how well they are performing.  Many means exists for that.

I think most companies service providers for information.  Many of these companies just charge on a subscription basis and some have additional charges for providing more detail.  But just about everybody i’m aware of relies on in-house staff to supplement the service.

 

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It's been asserted -- and I have no reason to dispute the assertion -- that if you are not influencing the draft RFP, then you're not a serious player in the upcoming procurement.

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As far as when, I think that need started early enough to give time to thoroughly understand agency needs and preferences.  Some of that requires lots of analysis too because views may be different depending on agency sources.

Often companies take for granted everything in the RFP covers the stated need well.  That often isn’t the case.  People writing the RFP may not understand 100% of the issues or aren’t articulating it correctly.  Same with the evaluation plan.  So when evaluators see proposals that say “we understand your situation and know how to make things better and here’s how”, it resonates.  The proposal might say things really meaningful or provide familiar thoughts previously unspoken or unwritten to the government. It may include things the evaluators or drafters hadn’t thought of.   On the other hand, proposals that just restates RFP language may not.  So it’s vitally important for companies to gather as much information as practical and early in order to propose something hitting the mark.

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On ‎9‎/‎8‎/‎2019 at 9:15 AM, here_2_help said:

It's been asserted -- and I have no reason to dispute the assertion -- that if you are not influencing the draft RFP, then you're not a serious player in the upcoming procurement.

Great statement.

And to add about resources, often forgotten is the annual procurement plans prepared and posted by agencies.   Also consider NEPA and EIS documents that get released publically.

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It's on a bit of a tangent,  but I'd want know when deciding the extent of market research...it might be a game changer worth considering on occasion, that for commercial item solicitations which contain the standard language of clause 52.212-1 (see paragraph (e)), the government encourages an offeror to submit multiple offers and will evaluate them separately. 

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