OP ED: Death of the War Room as We Know It

COVID-19 is changing our world and changing us.

Very quickly we’re learning new ways to do … pretty much everything. As the argument about when to ‘get back to normal’ percolates, perhaps there’s one tenet we can agree on: ‘normal’ will likely look a lot different.

For federal contractors preparing bids and proposals, the new normal may turn out to be an even better way of winning business.

    • Large and small businesses are working remotely now, holding virtual kick-offs, solutioning sessions, and color reviews via Zoom, MS Teams, and other virtual collaboration tools.
    • They’re developing new policies, procedures, and best practices.
    • They’re adeptly working through technology, managerial, and logistical glitches that were barriers to remote collaboration pre-pandemic.

As they navigate this new reality, learning from and rapidly correcting hiccups inevitable in any new process, federal contractors are getting more productive every day. Leadership is beginning to rethink pre-conceived imperatives of in-person collaboration. With the right technology, remote meetings, design work, solutioning, and writing are possible – and cost-effective.

    • Re-locating staff and consultants to a Proposal War Room for months on end is not necessary; physically meeting at key times is often more impactful.
    • Less office infrastructure is needed; smaller, flexible office space acquired via short-term leases may be feasible.
    • Travel costs, both direct expenses and the associated unproductive time, will decrease.

Together these and other changes will save federal contractors significant overhead and B&P dollars, which could translate into greater productivity and more efficient pursuit of new business. With the right guidance and policies – from virtual collaboration tool training to strong messages from leadership that reinforce the value of the team, wherever they are – employees will ultimately benefit from less stress associated with commuting and more time with their families.

Many of these adjustments were underway, albeit at a slower pace, prior to the pandemic. COVID-19 just forced our hand. Take advantage of this time now to learn and adapt so we can smoothly transition to a smarter, safer new normal when restrictions lift.

Too much time on my hands…

Styx fans will recognize the refrain and perhaps everyone can appreciate the challenge associated with our forced downtime. If your Government contract business slowed, or even idled because your Government clients are impacted by COVID-19, it can seem like there’s nothing to do now except wait it out.

But it doesn’t have to be that way …. and you don’t need to sign up for and watch a free webinar to figure this out.

There are many Business Development (BD) tasks that routinely get sidelined because you are busy chasing leads, writing proposals, and frankly just executing your daily business. Now is a great time to put resources to work catching up on deferred marketing, prospecting, positioning, and even proposal preparation.

All it requires is some old-fashioned brainstorming to generate ideas on what you can be doing now to get ahead of the wave when the federal Government finally emerges from this COVID-19 induced hibernation. And they will emerge – with lots of backlog to work through.

Here’s a quick, short list of value-added activities you can be taking now to be ready:

  • Refresh your website – update your photos, add project descriptions, revise team bios, enhance service offerings, etc. Your clients go to your website to conduct market research – be sure it contains current and relevant material
  • Update your Past Performance and Experience Library – chances are that your content library is out of date, disorganized, or perhaps non-existent; so, get it updated with recent and relevant projects that you can use for responding to new opportunities
  • Organize your graphics library – too often we generate new graphics for proposals and then promptly forget about them; review recent proposal submissions and identify graphics which lend themselves to re-use – such as your corporate organization chart, quality approach, and / or your task order management process
  • Create standard proposal content – if you’ve never done this, get to it! Some of your proposal content can be recycled for nearly every proposal. Review your company history, organization structure, general pricing narrative, quality system, etc. All can be used with little or no customization in most proposals
  • Reach out to your prospects – keeping your name in front of potential clients is always critical, and even more so during downtimes. Reach out to your prospects and make inquiries about program status before they issue their next RFI or RFP. Or write one of those White Papers you’ve been thinking about which has a creative solution idea and send it along. Let your prospects know that you are still thinking about their challenges and working on solutions
  • Dig into Agency Forecasts – Most agencies still publish future contracting forecasts; time to dig through them and compare to the President’s budget. See if you think spending priorities are still the same, or if you think they might need to change due to current national demands

COVID-19 Guidance and Relief Programs for Federal Contractors

Businesses and economies around the world have been rocked in an unprecedented way by COVID-19 — the Federal Contractor marketplace is no exception.

ClientView is committed to keeping you informed. We have created a list of informational websites specifically tailored to Federal Contractors, which may be helpful.

Economic relief programs are available for small businesses:

  • SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) – working capital for temporary loss of revenue; a $10,000 immediate advance upon successful application, which will not have to be repaid
  • Paycheck Protection Loan Program – direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll
  • Unemployment Insurance is being expanded to include self-employed and part-time workers that have lost work due to COVID-19 in addition to traditional employees; this program is administered at the state level, so contact your state for more information

Watch for our upcoming blogs on topics like the effective use of downtime and how to prepare for potential changes in the Federal contracting landscape.

Stay safe, healthy, and engaged. We will get through this.

URGENT COVID-19 ACTION for GOVERNMENT CONTRACTORS

Our nation is facing a health and economic challenge unseen since the early 20th Century – far exceeding the problems caused by the SARS epidemic only a few years ago.

State and local governments are closing businesses in their individual jurisdictions in response to the COVID-19 virus and preventing defense and aerospace contractors from performing work vital to both our national interest and our economic security.

Yesterday, ten major industrial associations jointly signed a Joint Letter to the U.S. Senate and House leadership seeking Congressional action to exempt federal government contractors working in the defense intelligence, aerospace, and manufacturing sectors from local closure directives.

This exemption is essential to continue research, development, and production of critical national security related activity, and will bring much needed economic relief to working families and local communities.

Shutting down defense contractors, who are capable of effectively managing operations under this health crisis, makes no sense and only leads to further economic damage for the country – which we cannot afford.

Federally exempting businesses in this sector would resolve the confusion and allow us to keep working for the benefit of our nations defense and economic security.

The Joint Letter, dated 19 March 2020, can be found on the NDIA’s website.

https://www.ndia.org/-/media/sites/press-media/arwg-letter-to-hill-on-equitable-adjustments-final-with-logos_19march.ashx?la=en

It outlines the challenges facing the defense, intelligence, and aerospace industry – as well as suggesting language for Congress to consider including in upcoming legislation to address the COVID-19 crisis.

Please consider sending along your own letter, along with a copy of the Joint Letter, and push for immediate legislation to help exempt many Government Contractors from State and Local closures.

DUNS® is DONE: The Federal Government is Phasing Out the DUNS Number – and what it means to you.

The current process for registering a business to work with the Federal Government is changing.  In the past, registering a business was a two-step process.  First, register your company with Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) to get a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS®) number assigned. The DUNS is used to identify your company and verify/validate that your company is a federal contractor. Basic information such as the business name, address, and other information were first registered with D&B. The second step was to register your company with the System for Award Management (SAM) database, which allows access to conduct business with the Federal Government.

Since D&B is a commercial enterprise and the DUNS is a proprietary system, issues of licensing and competitiveness can arise. Rather than having two distinct organizations involved in the process, the Government chose to consolidate both registration and validation control under one organization — SAM. Business entities will soon go directly to SAM to accomplish all registration and validation requirements.

SAM is introducing a new Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) to replace the DUNS number. The new UEI is a 12-character, alpha-numeric value that will be used within the Government databases to identify all business entities. SAM is rolling out a transition process to accomplish this, gradually phasing out the DUNS number and replacing it with the new UEI.

This transition is currently underway.  The General Services Administration (GSA) opened the UEI management contract to competitive bids and announced last year that a new vendor, Ernst & Young, will take over the entity validation system under a one-year base period, with four one-year options.

What does this mean for you?

Existing businesses that are already registered in SAM will be assigned a new UEI automatically by SAM.gov. Next time you access your SAM Profile, you may see your UEI has been already assigned. Business data currently stored in SAM will not need to be re-entered in order to obtain a UEI and the DUNS number will still be retained for reference.

New businesses that are not already registered in SAM will go directly to SAM to register the business and receive a UEI. The DUNS will no longer be needed.

For details on the transition, see the following link to the GSA UEI update webpage:

https://www.gsa.gov/about-us/organization/federal-acquisition-service/office-of-systems-management/integrated-award-environment-iae/iae-information-kit/unique-entity-identifier-update

Help for Your FY 2020 Pipeline

Deltek recently released its Top 20 Unrestricted Federal Opportunities list for 2020 and ClientView is tracking. More than $265B is up for grabs in just the Top 20 – $100B more than in FY19 – in these industries:

  • Environment and Conservation Services
  • Health Services
  • Information Technology
  • Professional Services (four opportunities)
  • Operations & Maintenance
  • Defense & Aerospace
  • Architecture Engineering and Construction

Follow-on opportunities account for 80% of the Top 20 total contract value. Leading the way are the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Saving Performance Contract (ESPC) Gen 4 – estimated at $60B with an RFP release date of April 2020 – followed closely by the Department of Defense’s (DOD) TRICARE Managed Support Services (T-5) – estimated at $57.2B with an RFP release date of May 2020. Six opportunities from the FY19 list make a reappearance with a combined value of $51B.

For more information on these and other opportunities, give us a call.

Sam I Am (No Longer)

For fbo.gov Users, BetaSAM is Here and We Can’t Hide Any Longer

If you are a frequent user of the Government’s System for Award Management (www.SAM.gov) you are probably aware of the initiative begun in 2014 to consolidate many of the Government’s online management tools into a single system.  Ultimately, SAM will absorb the functionality of 10 separate government web sites with the relaunch of a new SAM site including enhanced search and security functions.  However, if you don’t often use these web sites, it may come as a surprise that sites such as fbo.gov are shutting down soon – very soon for fbo.gov – which will be completely phased out and shut down in November 2019.

The Government has established a web site called BetaSAM (beta.sam.gov).  When fbo.gov and the other 9 web sites are migrated, you will find those functions on BetaSAM which is already up and running now and available for user sign-in.

For frequent users of fbo.gov, it is important to note that your fbo sign-in information will not migrate automatically.  Moreover, many of the terms and categories of information will change.  For example:

FBO TermBecomes SAM Term
Fbo.govBeta.sam.gov
WatchlistFollow
Search AgentSaved Search
ArchivedInactive

Beta Sam also promises enhanced capabilities, including:

  • The ability to search for opportunities by number, keyword, or location
  • The option to access previous versions of opportunity notices with one click
  • The ability to easily set up notices that will inform you when frequently used contract opportunities are updated
  • The ability to manage alerts easily through a new user workspace (frequency, turn on/off)
  • Shared login, search, workspace, data services, reports, and a design that will allow you to leverage other IAE system data easily

Note the last bullet…it means that your old fbo.gov log-in will no longer be valid once the site is decommissioned. BetaSAM will require that you use entity-based login.gov account information to access BetaSam.  The good news is that if you already have a current SAM account you can use that log-in information to access BetaSAM.  If you are an established entity (i.e., have a DUNS number or CAGE code), you will be able to easily access BetaSAM using that information.

Once the SAM system has been completely migrated into BetaSAM, the old SAM site will be decommissioned and BetaSAM will be renamed SAM.  This process is ongoing now and for a limited time period SAM and BetaSAM are both operational — providing you the opportunity now to get familiar with the new system while still accessing the familiar one.

What’s a Picture Worth to Your Proposal?

A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the saying goes, but not if the image doesn’t convey your meaning. How do you ensure your artwork is impactful and memorable to the evaluator?

To start, give your Graphic Artists the critical information they need to generate artwork that conveys the meaning you intend.

Graphic Artists are rarely included in proposal solution planning meetings yet expected to create wiz-bang imagery that conveys an entire complex project approach. Often, they can support an entire proposal without the faintest idea of the proposal’s basic thrust. At times – seemingly basic information such as color pallets, font style and size requirements, page size limitations, and other essential parameters are often not conveyed up front to the artist.

Why does this matter?

Because Graphic Artists live in a visual world, they need to have some basic understanding of the entire situation to convey ideas through imagery. This includes knowing who the customer is (to present perspective), what is the problem that we are trying to solve (to provide context), and what is our proposed solution (to provide clarity).

Graphics make a huge difference in proposal effectiveness. Some reviewers have told me that they get first impressions only from the pictures, charts, and graphics, scattered among the proposal pages. If that’s true, then not providing your Graphic Artist with the essential information they need to do their best for you is working against your own interests.

There is another reason to convey critical info to your artist – it’s more cost effective.

Frequently, artwork is revised multiple times because ‘the artist didn’t get the point across’. But the Artist isn’t a mind reader and they can’t convey your intent if you don’t provide the information that they need up front.

So, spend the time necessary to make sure your Graphic Artist has all the info needed to do their best for your team. It will pay off in increased efficiency for your Graphic Artist and in more effective graphics for your proposal.

Can We Talk?

It likely will be worded differently (and with less humor) but contractors submitting proposals to the Government, should expect to hear this signature line from the late Joan Rivers. And, naturally, you should be prepared to respond, “Yes.”

While Government Request for Proposals state their intention to award without discussion, they also reserve the right to enter into discussions if necessary. The Government’s decision to engage in discussions may be based on factors such as concerns over the:

  • impact of the scope of work or performance work statement’s complexity
  • length of the proposed period of performance
  • locations where work will be performed (multiple locations with varying tasks/pricing)
  • number of offers received
  • whether or not sample task orders are required
  • Government’s desire to establish a competitive range

Discussions, if successful, will result in a request for you to submit a Best and Final Offer (BAFO).

Submitting a proposal without planning for discussions would be like completing a job application without preparing to be interviewed. You should expect to back up the written document with open dialog. Recognize the potential for discussions when planning and writing a proposal — do not wait until the requirement arises.

Discussion requires preparation well in advance.

A bid decision needs to include a plan for discussions, even if the buying activity has rarely exercised the option. Research the buying activity’s history and circumstances of requiring discussions, as well as its use of BAFOs. While many buying activities avoid discussions, every solicitation is a new effort and often circumstances drive different outcomes. Assessing the proposal’s Evaluation Guidance and Criteria will provide an early indication of the Government’s approach to discussions and may bring insight into the factors that may cause the Government to ultimately enter discussions.

Even though the intensity of writing, applying graphics, ensuring volume consistency, establishing pricing, and conducting reviews take priority in your proposal preparation, remember that each element of your proposal could prompt the Government to ask for further examination via discussions. This audience with Government representatives is an opportunity to be welcomed and utilized to your firm’s advantage — a chance to pitch your superior proposal in person.

The DoD Is Putting Their Money Where Their Mouth Is About Using Non-Traditional Contractors

The Federal Government has spoken about using non-traditional sources for their products for some time. The idea behind this shift in thinking is that technology is progressing at a rapid rate and smaller, more nimble commercial companies (think Silicon Valley) are more adept at staying on the leading edge of technological advances.  Rightly or wrongly, traditional military contractors are perceived as large, slow-moving behemoths that cannot react to changing technology trends as quickly as smaller, more agile venture-backed companies. Continue reading “The DoD Is Putting Their Money Where Their Mouth Is About Using Non-Traditional Contractors” »