New Year brings same old problems for Beta.Sam

Users of Beta.Sam.Gov continue to face problems with getting the data and features they need from the procurement system. Unfortunately, there isn't much relief in sight.

I thought by now the problems surrounding Beta.Sam.Gov would have faded away and there would be a fneed to write about it again.

But two weeks into 2020, the situation is much like how 2019 ended -- Beta.Sam.Gov is plagued with shortcomings and a clunky interface that continues to frustrate users across the market, myself included.

Executives continue to tell me about missing updates on procurements they are tracking because they didn’t get alerts from Beta.Sam. Others are having difficulty downloading files. What alerts there are often missing key information or so cumbersome, large amounts of time are being wasted. The help desk has not been helpful.

In one case, a company was told to just call the contracting officer directly. What kind of answer is that?

I’m following several procurements and I do get alerts on those. But when I drop in on my list of saved procurements on the Beta.Sam site, I get a worthless list because everything is listed by the “Notice ID,” a string of numbers with nothing that indicates what agency or what contract. The only way to determine what procurement is what is to open each item. If you just have a few, it’s no big deal. But what if you have scores of procurements that you are tracking?

I’ve heard this same complaint from several others as well.

All of these complaints have come in since Jan. 1.

One person emailed me and offered some perspective. These aren’t nuisances. These problems have profit and loss implications, particularly for small businesses.

Capable and responsible small contractors are almost certainly losing business because they aren’t getting the information they need in timely manner and in some cases they aren’t getting it all.

Large contractors have sales forces that small and mid-tier companies lack. “Small businesses need the services that FBO provided because they cannot afford to hang around agencies all day long to find out what projects may come out and when,” one person wrote.

Competition could suffer potential bidders can’t find solicitations in a timely manner. The U.S. Trade and Development Agency now offers a sign up to receive information on upcoming opportunities directly from the agency.

I’m also getting a sense of resignation. As one person told me, “It’s a hell that we have learned to live with.”

That’s a shame. This is way beyond users adjusted to a redesigned system. There is a real loss of capabilities and features with the transition from to Beta.Sam and companies are paying the price.

So what happens when more things get shifted to Beta.Sam, such as the Federal Procurement Data System?

Most likely, a disaster that just keeps on going.