Change is in the Wind; Are You Ready?

We have been keeping an eye on changes in the way the federal government conducts its procurement process. In 1994, Congress passed the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (FASA); the federal government wanted to cut its procurement costs. Among the big changes are 1) structuring RFPs that focus on a vendor’s past performance, rather than the technical approach to doing the work, and 2) allowing agencies to require oral proposals, in place of written proposals.

Basing selection on past performance means that agencies will score your proposal on how well your past experience matches the current project requirements. Have you done it before? Then you can probably do it again. How well have you done it before? To answer this, they will rely on references from past clients. This all means that you will have to tailor your past experience sections more tightly than ever to the client’s current needs.

The oral proposal requirement means big changes to the way a lot of companies present their proposals. Your technical folks will have to be able to deliver presentations that will last from four to sixteen hours (depending on the client and the size of the project). They will have to be able to take questions on the fly and answer them with ease and confidence. In short, they will have to be effective public speakers.

All of these changes are happening at the federal level. But experience tells us that sooner or later some of them will filter down to the state and local level, and—if they are seen to be effective in reducing the cost of procuring services—they will migrate to the private sector as well. So, this is a heads-up: change is in the wind; be ready for it.