Pre-proposal activities is the first of a three part series offering suggestions to companies which have never had a DoD contract, those that have had DoD contracts but have lost their "corporate memory" and those that have current DoD contracts but want to expand their market share in DoD business.
There is a myth floating around the corporate world amongst companies wanting to do business with the DoD that "once the solicitation for a DoD procurement is published in FedBizOps it is too late to bid because a company has already locked it up." This couldn't be farther from the truth. The fact is that the company which has "done its apposite and diligent homework," with regards to pre-proposal actions, will have the best chance of winning the contract. Now what does this homework necessitate?
First of all
A company must determine if it has the resources, personnel and financial capabilities to satisfy the Request For Proposal (RFP) or a Request For Information (RFI). The most important question to answer at this time: is previous experience, either services or products, relevant to what the Government is requesting? This is the most opportune time to bring in a consulting firm experienced with DoD acquisition, processes and procedures onboard to help assess the company's capabilities and chances of winning the contract. Aa skilled consulting firm can usually help in obtaining cost histories of related equipment, operating information and even access to existing equipment. This action will save a business, downstream, a lot of grief and unnecessarily spent funds. Consider this step as a "go or no go" decision point.
Once the decision has been made to bid on the solicitation, the next step is to designate a Program Manager (PM) to assemble a team. A basic rule for companies venturing into the DoD arena for the first time to follow is "the more complex the Government's Statement of Work (SOW), the more a company will need a PM with previous DoD systems acquisition experience." Regardless of how many commercial contracts a company has had there is no substitute to having a consultant on the team with DoD contract administration experience to interpret the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FARS) and the Defense Federal (DFARS). A DoD experienced PM will be able to determine where a company falls short in resources which may be in the areas of: test and evaluation; structural analysis, technical order development, logistics provisioning, technical writing, ISO 9000, quality assurance, specialized engineering and design and software and hardware development. The Government respects businesses which are smart enough to reach out and bring in the best talent and experience they can afford.
End of the Beginning
Teaming and sub-contracting agreements required should be made based upon the lack of in-house capabilities identified in Step Two. A law firm, experienced with Government contracts, should be considered to develop the teaming agreement. Subcontract agreements are a lot less formal, but still form an integral part of the winning team. Identifying and assembling the team for meetings prior to the actual proposal preparation is vital and no time should be wasted. A company committing to bidding on a DoD procurement must remain dedicated to winning.
The steps described above are not designed to scare companies from bidding on DoD solicitations. On the contrary, they are meant to encourage companies that an experienced consulting firm can mentor them, show them how to develop a winning strategy and provide resources they may not have in-house in order to be successful.
The next article in this series will focus on proposal preparation: What to do to win and what will keep you from winning.