Can you name the five critical factors for contract awards?

As we dig deeper into our latest Washington Technology Insider report, we explore the critical factors government executives say they consider before making an award.

When we started to explore the critical factors in choosing a contractor as part of our latest Government IT Contracting Partnership study, we started with the assumption that five factors are most important:

  • Technical expertise
  • Teamwork
  • Customer knowledge
  • Industry perception
  • Process

The results of our survey of government executives confirmed our assumptions, with technical expertise being cited as valuable or highly valuable by 93 percent of the respondents. Teamwork was a close second with an 88 percent score.

Customer knowledge and industry perception also scored over 80 percent, with an 82 percent score for customer knowledge and 81 percent for industry perception.

Only process, which we defined as attributes such as invoicing, established process for decision making, human resources, ease of establishing contact and pricing, scored lower. Respondents put process in the valuable to highly valuable range only 63 percent of the time.

However, 28 percent describe process as somewhat valuable, and only 8 percent said that it was not valuable or not very valuable. So, it is still important, but perhaps not an overriding factor.

But we also knew that those five factors don’t encompass the whole of why government customers pick contractors, so we asked a couple open ended questions exploring this concept.

The responses to these questions gave us some great insights into what government executives value.

We asked the question: When price and technical evaluations are equal, what other factors, if any, do you consider when making a contract award?

Topping the list, by far, was experience, with 41 percent of the respondents citing it in their written comments.

Many of the verbatim comments used the words experience, past history, past experience, and other words to that effect.

“Past experience in what we are looking for and recommendations,” wrote one.

“Past performance listening to customer requirements,” wrote another.

Tied closely to experience and track record is reputation, ethics and integrity, which was mentioned by 16 percent.

From the written comments, it is obvious that government executives are asking for transparency and integrity from their contractors. They also want support, teamwork and value.

We also asked about critical attributes for proposals, and clarity -- at 33 percent -- and addressing the request for proposals with complete and appropriate detail -- at 28 percent -- were by far the most common responses.

Many people simply wrote in the word "clarity." Others mentioned how important is that the proposal respond to the RFP and be clear and precise.

The responses to this question pointed out to me how critical communication with the customer is. And you need to think of the proposal as the most important piece of communication you can carry out with your customer.

And that’s a great transition to a third, open-ended question we asked: What is the single most important thing a contactor could do to partner more effectively?

The most frequent response dealt with communication and transparency, which was cited 29 percent of the time.

Honesty and integrity were cited 17 percent of the time, followed by comments related to doing what you say you are going to do, which netted 15 percent of responses.

It may seem to be very basic advice – communicate clearly, be honest and do what you say you are going to do – but it is obvious that customers hold those things dear, and contractors need to focus on satisfying those needs.

The overarching need that this report throws a bright light on is that paying attention to the basics of good business, sound customer service and being honest and transparent are what carry the day with many customers.

It is excelling at those basics that can help one company stand out from another.

My hope is that this report will be a critical tool in discovering your strengths and weaknesses and uncovering the value that your customers are seeking.

Next week, I’ll be exploring more of the report, so stay tuned and let me know if there are insights you find particularly important, and I’ll be happy to look deeper into them.

If you haven't yet, I encourage you to look at the report, and let us know what you think.