By Whitaker Grannis, Senior Manager, Industry Special Services, BDO
Contract officers at government contracting firms of every size face an ever-growing mountain of information to manage and exploit to excel at their jobs. Luckily there are enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools and best practices available to address their needs.
Winning new government contracting work is stressful enough, the last thing firms need are compliance headaches or fire drills for data calls. If you are a government contractor still tracking opportunity information like conflicts of interest or subcontractor small business requirements in Microsoft® Excel, you’re undoubtedly feeling the pain of juggling siloed and stale information in disparate systems which lack versioning and access controls. Over the years, companies have addressed these needs with custom, home-grown solutions, like File Maker Pro, Microsoft Access, or third party applications that have the potential to be poorly integrated and prone to duplicate entry and data errors. The industry has sought integrated solutions to address these needs and automate as much of the contract lifecycle as possible.
Contract Managers Force Multiplier
Pre-Award Data Management Challenges
Documenting organizational conflicts of interest (OCI) and understanding the remediation plans are important. The Government Accountability Office has long held that a generic OCI plan will not suffice, and a contractor must identify and track all potential OCI, including potential subcontractor conflicts. The more subcontractors a firm works with, the more important it is a proposal considers any conflicts. Any last minute changes to a subcontractor lineup should be re-evaluated before submission. When using a Small Business Administration mentor-protégé subcontractor, remember to include an OCI check and plan. Are your checklists in Excel or an integrated workflow?
Request for Proposal (RFP) and Statement of Work (SOW) Changes
Every proposal manager has experienced a last-minute revision to a RFP SOW. A proposal has been in development for weeks and the final response is almost ready for submission, and now a review of what requirements changed is needed for the new version of the SOW. Traditionally, revisions include a change log to point those working on the proposal in the right direction for any changes, but you are responsible for the final version of the RFP, regardless of the change log. So last minute SOW changes can introduce significant stress and risk for a proposal. More and more, proposal writers are turning to technology to address this concern. Machine Learning solutions, like VisibleThread as an example, can use natural language algorithms to analyze requirements in a SOW, and automatically flag changes between different versions of a SOW or create compliance and responsibility matrices for a proposal manager.
Subcontractor Evaluation and Selection
Many proposal writers use a subcontractor questionnaire to assist in evaluation and selection. Without an integrated solution, these questionnaires just create additional data entry and analysis work for the proposal manager. And, if you miss an important change as a subcontractor, the entire proposal can be thrown out.
Subcontractor selection is a complex process. Weighing the experience a sub brings to a proposal against the contract requirements and the competitive landscape is necessary. What about the business set aside rules for the proposal? Which companies have the past performance and business set aside classifications to support a specific bid? Tracking North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) past performance requirements is an obvious metric of note for subcontractor management in an integrated solution. A subcontractor’s business systems shouldn’t regularly change, so that is an easy fact to track in a contract management system.
So, how do you find new partners? Hopefully, a bench of previous partners is at the ready to assist. Referrals from a trusted partner are also helpful. But, when someone completely new is needed, consider a resource portal with light social media capabilities, like Deltek’s GovWin IQ solution, that allows users to search for potential partners using criteria such as past performance and business set aside certifications.
Many companies have existing relationships with subcontracting partners, potentially giving a proposal manager a false sense of security about a subcontractor. What validation procedures should a company have in place before including a firm with an existing relationship on a proposal? Automated workflows can help ensure a compliance matrix is fully vetted before submittal.
A proposal manager should always double check the debarment status of any subcontractor before submitting a proposal. Certain solutions feature integrated feeds to check a subcontractor partner’s status for recent Debarment listings, saving proposal managers one more manual check.
Opportunity Reporting Challenges
Long gone are the days of a business development team living by a manager’s gut feeling on a proposal. Today, successful government contracting companies are leveraging all the data they collect, while at the same time optimizing the process to reduce data entry and maximize automation. Proposal managers should be focused on new opportunities, not “feeding the monster” by constantly updating reports to give management the transparency and insights they need. The goal is to eliminate duplicate data entry and focus on winning rather than data calls.
Congrats, your carefully chosen team won the RFP! Now comes the project setup for delivery within all of the business systems – budget upload, creation and execution of subcontractor contracts, hiring of new employees, and a million other tasks. If opportunity and contract management systems aren’t integrated, the proposal data is needed to setup all other systems. An integrated system should eliminate double entry and automate as much of the process as possible.
It’s best if a company’s business systems are an integrated force multiplier for internal and external teams, providing automated workflows, management transparency, and integrations with market intelligence and other business systems. If teams are wasting time with duplicate data entry, manual checks and hand-jammed reports, that’s time they aren’t spending winning new work. Contract management solutions allow firms to work smarter, not harder.
Want to learn more about cutting through the static and better connecting the contract lifecycle dots to achieve cleaner contract closeout? Join me for the webinar Contract Managers Force Multiplier as I cover key considerations for every contract phase.
About the Author
Whitaker Grannis is a senior manager in the Industry Specialty Services Group at Deltek partner BDO, with a focus on enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, technical innovation, business process optimization/automation and business intelligence solutions. Whitaker has more than 15 years of information technology experience in a variety of companies.
- Business Development
- Business Infrastructure
- Contract Management
- Cost Management
- Costs and Expenses
- Deltek Clarity
- Deltek Costpoint
- Deltek Insight
- Earned Value Management
- Financial Management
- Firm Management
- Government Contracting
- Human Capital Management
- KPIs and Analytics
- Project and Portfolio Management
- Project Management
- Project Manufacturing
- Resource Planning
- Risk Analysis
- Scheduling and Planning
- Talent Management
- Time and Expense Management