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” »

Sources Sought Notices: Don’t Just Answer the Mail…treat them like a proposal, or you just might close the door on a business opportunity.

The Government routinely conducts Market Research (MR) on their industrial base; it’s good business for the Government to understand its suppliers and their capabilities for current and future needs.  However, did you know that MR is required by the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) prior to conducting a procurement?  Government MR approaches range from passive (no industry involvement) to active (high industry involvement). Passive methods include government personnel conducting keyword searches on the internet or seeking potential vendors using the System for Award Management. Active methods involve sending surveys to their known vendor base, making pre-solicitation announcements via FedBizOps, holding Industry Days, or directly contacting and visiting potential vendors. Continue reading “Sources Sought Notices: Don’t Just Answer the Mail…treat them like a proposal, or you just might close the door on a business opportunity.” »

Crunch Time is No Time for Reflection – How Effective is Your Proposal Process?

Not just your win/loss record, but how well does your process support proposal creation and production? Proposal best practices and lessons learned are important enterprise assets that you should be capturing – and leveraging. After all, proposals offer hard and sometimes expensive lessons – and you should benefit from them every time.

Reviewing your internal proposal performance is one step to increasing your win probability. Ask yourself: how well did you handle team mobilization, task assignment, color team output, completion, and submission, etc.?

These are among the key focus areas for what did, and did not, go well.

Continue reading “Crunch Time is No Time for Reflection – How Effective is Your Proposal Process?” »

Be a Student of Your Customer

by Steve Anderson

Last May I wrote about the importance of understanding your customer’s organization in a potential service relationship, i.e., how will your customer interface with your organization as you perform work? It’s not only important to get this right to be an effective contractor, it’s essential to winning the work initially. Continue reading “Be a Student of Your Customer” »

Take a Fresh Look – This is Not Your Grandfather’s OTA

Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there (Will Rogers)
By Ed Harrington

Other Transaction Agreements (OTAs) have morphed over time since their inception to create opportunities that did not once exist for Government contractors. Originally intended to access “nontraditional” contractors, foster increased technology innovation, and expand the Defense industrial base, OTAs continue to evolve in their utility and application to US Government (USG) contracting. Continue reading “Take a Fresh Look – This is Not Your Grandfather’s OTA” »

Take a Critical Assessment of the Opportunity

Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity. Except, of course, pursuing the WRONG opportunity – that is a far costlier mistake.

Recognizing which opportunities to pass on is as important a skill as any in your business development (BD) approach. Unfortunately, it is common practice to sift through opportunity announcements looking for requirement descriptions that most closely align with organizational capabilities. I say “unfortunate” because this path usually leads to writing many proposals pursuing opportunities with a low probability of win (Pwin). Without a proper assessment, Pwin is unknown (at best) AND often falsely assumed to be high based solely on the alignment of organizational ability with the published requirements. Ability to meet the job requirements is where many assessments start, but it’s much more important to know IF you can win. Continue reading “Take a Critical Assessment of the Opportunity” »

“We’ll Worry About That Later If We Win”

We have all felt the intense pressure of a proposal deadline, when we will do just about anything to get a proposal submitted on time. Every requirement and statement of work item outlined in the RFP must be met for the proposal to be acceptable to the customer. During these times of high stress, it is tempting to say, “Just tell them we can do it – we’ll worry about that later if we win,” even if you have no capability or experience in a critical area. Trying to develop a new capability while under contract to deliver it is much like building an airplane in the air — risky business! Continue reading ““We’ll Worry About That Later If We Win”” »