We’re back to bring forward yet more “deadly sins.” While these sins and examples might give us all a good hearty and exasperated groan, let’s learn from these errors so you can be a smarter bidder. This continues our series in win-loss trends.
Sin #7: Key personnel exceed basic requirements = strength?
No! There is a necessary distinction between the requirements vs. providing a person that appears to have more or better qualifications than required. Hold on here! Are we saying that if you propose a key person with let’s say 20 years of experience vs. the 10 years of experience required that does not necessarily yield a strength?
That is EXACTLY what we are stating. Why is this a problem?
Simply exceeding requirements does not mean anything is guaranteed to yield a strength. It means you just met the requirements unless you explicitly state and define the benefit to the agency why your key personnel candidate and their qualifications are advantageous to the government.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Technology Service Desk Operations
Protest Date: October 13, 2020
|Bidder||Staffing and Key Personnel||Price|
|Winning Bidder: Patriot, LLC||Superior||$45.5M|
|Losing Bidder: Candor Solutions, LLC||Good||$48.7M|
Candor argued that because it provided key personnel exceeding requirements, that yields a strength. CBP disagreed. The below excerpt from the protest says it all.
Under the staffing and key personnel factor, Candor asserts that it should have received a strength because its key personnel exceeded the solicitation’s requirements. Candor contends that its proposed operations manager/project manager II exceeded the requirement to have a minimum of three years of experience working in a service desk environment, preferably in a leadership role…The agency responds that while the candidate may exceed this requirement, Candor has not explained why or how this benefits the agency, and that therefore the decision not to assess a strength was reasonable.
What is the lesson learned?
Evaluators may assess a strength based on their interpretation of your proposed solution, but if you assume “they get it” you’re just foolish. Guide them to the conclusion you want them to realize.
Sin #8: Failure to understand pricing realism
How often have you heard (or said yourself) “there is no way they can perform at that price!”
The determination of pricing realism is a fickle animal. The government has wide latitude to determine what is a realistic price. Consider these examples of common pricing realism pitfalls and fallacies.
- Labor rates and related pay for employees is “unrealistically low.” Oh really? This may be defended through a number of methods including comparing salary surveys vs. proposed personnel pay. Because evaluators have wide latitude to determine realism, that can and has been used as a basis of realism.
- Proposed pricing falls “well below” the Independent Government Cost Estimate (IGCE). Using IGCE data can be enormously useful to develop a price, however, it is but a single data point and by itself does NOT determine realism.
- Even if an agency believes some pricing to be unrealistic, they may dismiss it as low risk. Realism is an assessment of pricing being low to the point of being risky. If there is some concern, it may not be enough to create any meaningful weakness. Evaluators have great latitude to determine the risk of realism…especially if the bidder gives them ample and well thought out justification.
U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), Global Solutions Management – Operations (GSM-O II)
Protest Date: December 23, 2019
|Bidder||Technical / Management||Past Performance||Small Business Participation||Price|
|Winning Bidder: Leidos||Outstanding||Acceptable||Outstanding||$1.67B|
|Losing Bidder: GDIT||Outstanding||Acceptable||Outstanding||$1.99B|
GDIT challenged realism of Leidos’ proposal. GDIT questioned realism of labor rates, estimated labor hours and Leidos’ profit rate. GDIT centered part of its argument on the IGCE provided and how significantly lower Leidos’ bid price was vs. the IGCE. Ultimately, Leidos provided significant justification for its much more aggressive proposal which enabled DISA to make the award even though DISA assessed some level of risk to Leidos’ proposal. It’s also important to note that Leidos is a long-time contractor for DISA and the incumbent. This longevity gave them the opportunity to “read the room” in terms of what DISA wants and how to appeal to their evaluators. GDIT did very well in their technical evaluation, but Leidos played the game of chicken in pricing and GDIT “blinked.”
What is the lesson learned?
Evaluators have enormous latitude in determining price realism. Those evaluations are enabled by thorough explanations from the bidder. Also, IGCEs are useful data points, but they may have very little to do with determining realism.
FedSavvy Strategies Takeaway
Avoiding these deadly sins can increase your chances to win. Beyond winning more than your fair share of U.S. Government contracts, you can avoid making protests that are simply going to lose which may serve only to increase your legal costs.
Are you interested to find out more about our analysis on trends in evaluations? Contact us today!
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