April 2014

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Why Past Performance is Important

When you submit a proposal to an agency you will generally be asked to include past performance history – references and examples of previous work you have performed. Agencies are often risk-averse, and wary of doing business with a company they know little about, so your excellent past performance could be a major factor in making them comfortable awarding that contract to you.

Don’t leave this until the last minute – try to prepare ahead of time, so that you can reply quickly to a proposal, or respond to a request for references following a meeting.

Talk to prospective references so they are ready for the agency’s call or email. Discuss the sort of questions they might be asked, so they can feel comfortable vouching for you and your company.

Build an in-house library of past performance references, making sure that contact details are kept up-to-date.

If you have no previous government contracts, you can use commercial references for work that closely matches the scope of work in the proposal.

You may be asked to include past performance history directly with your proposal. Sometimes the proposal contains a questionnaire that your references must complete and send directly to the contracting officer.

Make sure you comply with these requirements.

Your references will generally be asked to respond to questions such as:

Did your work meet or exceed the requirements of the contract?

Did you keep control of costs and budgets?

Were you able to keep to an agreed schedule?

Did you properly complete any administrative paperwork that was required?

Was the customer generally satisfied with the outcome?

Does your company have a good sense of business ethics?

What is… Ability One?

The Jarvits Wagner O’Day (JWOD) program, aka Ability One, provides employment for people who are blind or have severe disabilities.

Federal agencies are required to purchase certain products and services from the Ability One program, including certain janitorial and office products, medical supplies, janitorial and warehouse services, recycling services, food services, laundry and grounds maintenance services.

Agencies may still be able to purchase items from you, as long as they are not considered to be ‘essentially the same’ as the items on the Ability One list. For example, Ability One could provide a generic cleaning product, but your product may be more specialized, have better environmental qualities and so on.

Reverse Auctions Under Scrutiny

Reverse auctions are coming under some scrutiny, according to a recent article in the New York Times.

Agencies use reverse auctions to save money, but could the practice be encouraging businesses to submit unrealistically low bids, to ‘win’ at any price?

In FY 2013, federal agencies used FedBid to award about $1.8 billion in contracts.

A recent government study found that about 1/3 of all FedBid auctions involved a single bidder.

While FedBid could be a way for a small business to get a ‘foot in the door’ at agencies, some are wary of a system that favors price over experience.

Not all contracts are suitable for award via a reverse auction, especially more complex service requirements, and agencies may be using them when it is not appropriate.

How Social Media Could Help in an Emergency

The Presidential Innovation Fellows program is working to use technology and crowd-sourcing to make disaster response faster and more efficient, according to a recent article from Federal News Radio.

Lantern is a new a mobile application which provides information about power outages and functioning gas stations. It has set up a partnership with the Weather Channel and Weather.com to broadcast three Twitter hashtags during a natural disaster: #PowerLineDown, #GotFuel and #NoFuel. The data from Twitter will be pulled and filtered into the Lantern app.

GeoQ quickly pulls in images of damaged areas for first responders and emergency personnel, using images from the Civil Air Patrol, as well as photos posted on social media sites.

“The thought is to pull in feeds from Twitter, Instagram and Flickr, because a lot of those images are going to come in faster than an airline pilot can fly over a damaged area”.

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