To win a recompete contract, many companies aim to bring innovation to improve program performance. However, doing so without having the proper risk mitigations in place can be a fatal flaw.
Read on through an example of an incumbent who failed to secure a recompete award because they introduced too much risk in our newest installment of our Deadly Sins series!
Sin #16: Failing to define and anticipate risk
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Protest Decision Date: January 16, 2020
This competition involved a call order under the Business and Program Solutions for Law Enforcement (BAPSLE) BPA for professional support services supporting call center operations to assist the Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Contact Center of Operations’ (ECCO) mission. This included telephonic and non-telephonic responsibilities.
This specific protest focuses on the incumbent, XL Associates (XLA), and the awardee, CapGemini Government Services. CapGemini’s non-cost scores blew the incumbent out of the water, with CapGemini scoring two adjectival ratings higher than XLA at only a 4% price premium. This was an example of a typical best value tradeoff decision in which the government customer sacrificed a price discount in favor of a higher rated non-cost solution.
The evaluation scores are noted in Table 1 below.
|Technical Approach||Some Confidence||High Confidence|
|Management Approach||Low Confidence||High Confidence|
|Past Performance||Substantial Confidence||Substantial Confidence|
Of interest within this protest are two weaknesses assigned to XLA’s Technical Approach for the implementation of a new server and processing enhancement tool. Under the Review Operations Support Task, the contractor was to provide staff to review all incoming complaints submitted to the Custody Programs Division and the ECCO, summarizing key points in each case, advising federal staff and tracking all cases. Also relevant here is the Work Activity Tracking Task, which required the contractor to track intake and responses to queries by nature of complaint, means of submission, alien, facility, victims, and topic and collect national statistics.
Within their quotation, XLA stated they were in the process of upgrading their reporting system to replace it with a robust SQL server to address the Review Operations Support Task. This referred to the relational database management system developed by Microsoft. With respect to the Work Activity Tracking Task, XLA noted they recently implemented a SQL server database environment which they are utilizing to eventually complete a migration of legacy databases. XLA also stated they are implementing a significant processing enhancement tool using patented technology to further assist with tracking intake and responses.
Although the use of a new server and processing enhancement tool earned XLA a technical strength, the technical evaluation panel (TEP) raised concerns about conflicting statements in XLA’s quotation:
“Specifically, the TEP was concerned that XLA’s approach relied on a ‘newly proposed separate SQL server environment and proprietary content processing system software’ that had not been approved or fully implemented. The TEP also noted that XLA’s quotation did not address how its proposed approach would be implemented.”
Because XLA did not explicitly explain their implementation approach of the server, they introduced a level of performance risk. The TEP’s concern continues:
“The TEP also found XLA’s lack of a ‘back-up’ solution for its new server presented a risk that the agency’s requirements would not be met.”
Even though the TEP was intrigued by the new technology offered, XLA did not account for or explain how it could mitigate risks in implementation. Even though the solution was interesting, it generated more anxiety for the TEP than excitement over possibilities.
What is the lesson learned?
As the incumbent, XLA was likely attempting to provide modest innovations that would offer improvements and take this program to the next level. However, familiarity with the customer environment on its own merit was not enough to convinced the customer that any risks in performance were both accounted for and mitigatable. We cannot assume that XLA was flying blind to risks as the incumbent (think a certain space faring rogue with a large hairy first mate and a knowing smile while saying to trust him), but it is possible. Meanwhile, we’re left with the moral of the story…
Innovations are welcome, but not when they create more unknown risks than theoretical benefits.
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