Tracking the competition just got a lot easier for large and small information technology companies with a new service from a Rockville, Md., content provider.
Available through a World Wide Web site (http://www.govcon.com/), the program gives systems integrators, value-added resellers and manufacturers access to competitive intelligence found on a government bidding system called FACNET, the Federal Acquisitions Computer Network.
"Systems integrators bidding on contracts can determine who their competitors are. Manufacturers can use the system to see which products the [value-added resellers] are selling, how much they are selling and the competitive products they are selling," says Raj Khera, president of GovCon Inc., the firm offering the service. While Khera won't reveal how many users subscribe to the new service, which started in November 1996, he says he's satisfied with the response.
GovCon offers two services, one free and one for a fee, that let anyone see all bidding opportunities and contract awards reported by the federal government for FACNET. For example, data for October available for free on the Web site shows that 5,843 request for quotes were issued by government agencies and that 2,317, or 40 percent, received awards totaling $10.6 million. Not all federal agencies announce awards to FACNET, so the percentage could be higher.
No. 2 by volume in the top 20 Federal Stock Group codes, which are used to identify product types, was ADP Equipment Software, Supplies - with an announced award value of more than $707,000. In the top 20 contractors by award volume was Visions of Video, a Northridge, Calif., firm which garnered nearly $140,000 in the FSG for ADP Equipment Software, Supplies and Support.
"Our service answers the key question that many companies have: 'Is the government buying the kinds of products or services that I sell?' We see it simply as a logical extension of the FACNET service we now have online. We thought this type of market research would be valuable. After all, everyone wants this kind of information," says Khera.
One person who's satisfied with the service is Bob Ciampaglia, sales administrator in Motorola's Federal Government Markets Division, Baltimore. "We've had some awards through electronic commerce and at least one through GovCon. The service is very informative and keeps everyone up to date about what's going on. It's a good tool for sales because you can look up your own customers. It certainly gives you the choice not to miss anything."
Also, the National Association of Manufacturers just signed an exclusive agreement in December with GovCon to provide the data to its members.
Among the free services offered by GovCon are a monthly executive summary of FACNET activity, that is, all reported requests for quotes and awards of requests for quotes. Individuals and companies can also gather data on the top 20 Federal Stock Groups, the top 20 agencies making awards and the top 20 contractors who are winning awards. The subscription service, depending on the number and type of report requested, ranges from $50 to $300 per single report. The annual subscription ranges from $450 to $3,000.
Using the oft-maligned FACNET and working with Sidereal Corp., Springfield, Va., a so-called Value-Added Network or VAN, which is certified to carry Defense Department EDI traffic, Khera and his partners carved out a niche to serve the needs of companies seeking to do business with the federal government.
Sidereal Corp., one of about 30 DoD-certified VANs that are users of FACNET are required to subscribe to bid on government solicitations, is getting at least 20 sign-ups per month, according to the company's president, Mel Hall.
"After an initial meeting with Raj Khera several months ago, we came up with the idea that an ideal arrangement would be to offer FACNET subscriptions from the GovCon site," says Hall. "I think it's safe to say we are both quite satisfied with the results."
The Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 set up FACNET and required the government to move the process of solicitation from paper to electronic data interchange within five years of enactment. Among other things, FACNET was designed to inform the public about federal contracting opportunities, outline the details of government solicitations, permit electronic submission of bids and proposals, improve the quality of data available on the acquisition process and be accessible to anyone with a personal computer and modem.
Currently, FACNET is only for requests for quotes under $100,000. If a federal agency complies with FACNET, they are not required to announce their solicitation in the Commerce Business Daily, the traditional source of federal government solicitations, awards and other data.
GovCon, which stands for Government Contractor Resource Center, offers other services, including a listing of all Small Business Innovation Research solicitations, contract teaming opportunities, a list of 8(a) firms and free access to the Commerce Business Daily. Users can post teaming, subcontracting and job opportunities through a free "classified ad" section and can purchase products and services from GovCon's Marketplace. Currently, there are 45,000 registered users, and Khera says he is adding 1,000 to 1,200 each week. To access all its features, the site requires registration, which is free.
For those new to government contracting, GovCon offers a checklist of what's required to do business with the government, including the ability to search Standard Industrial Classification and Federal Stock Group and Class tables, as well as links to forms for subscribing to a VAN and getting a DUNS number (Data Universal Numbering System, a nine-character company number issued by Dun & Bradstreet Corp.)
The Competitive Analysis Monthly Report, for which customers pay a fee, answers such questions as what's your competition winning and how are they pricing to win? Specifically, GovCon sends out a detailed report each month of actual sales by Federal Stock Class, contractor, description of products sold, who bought it and at what price.
Where does Khera plan to take the service? "We want to offer more information and business opportunities online, as well as market research," he says. "Basically, we want to offer anything a government contractor needs to know to get more government business."
GovCon is sponsored through advertising by organizations in the government contracting community; it targets only firms who service the federal government.