Why not low-price, technically exceptional?
Government and contractors must demand affordable, but innovative solutions
- By Lisa Mascolo
- Oct 11, 2012
When I hear "acceptable," I think adequate, good enough, not great but okay. Who among us would choose an acceptable surgeon? Fly on an acceptable plane? So I sort of cringe each time I read or hear about the low price/technically acceptable (LPTA) procurement evaluation criteria.
No one disagrees that the government - and, more importantly, the taxpayer - needs affordable solutions. We also need innovative solutions that enable service delivery and mission fulfillment, that stand the test of time, and that drive return on the investment. Should we, as taxpayers -- and, in this discussion, as service providers in this market -- invest in and provide solutions deemed acceptable?
Acceptable really is the antithesis of innovative. LPTA is a hold-the-nose response to the economic climate. It doesn't challenge government or the service provider community to do anything other than define, expect and deliver adequate work -- and we need and deserve a lot more than adequate.
Exceptional solutions and services don't just address today's needs in an OK manner; they position for the future, they conserve resources both fiscal and human, and they get to the right answer quickly. Why shouldn't we demand exceptional - of ourselves and our government?
Because we think it's too expensive? Mediocrity is what's expensive. If the goal is acceptable, where is the incentive to define and provide anything beyond that which works fairly well and might last a while?
For those of us who serve the federal government, we can and should clear a bar higher than acceptable. I don’t think any of us wants to claim bragging rights for mediocrity. Technology is our lifeblood; we are equipped to design and deliver technically exceptional services and solutions that also are appropriately priced, even low-priced.
Technically exceptional needn’t mean high price. Just because we’re used to paying a lot for unexceptional results doesn’t mean we can’t change the paradigm, especially when it comes to buying IT services and solutions.
Yes, we're in business to drive revenue and make a profit. And smart pricing certainly should reflect today’s economic realities and accompanying budget challenges.
If your solutions are smaller, smarter and faster, they also can be cheaper.
Smaller – The days of big plans, big systems, big delays and big overruns must be over. Smaller, more agile, incremental approaches are needed to most efficiently spend taxpayer dollars.
Smarter – Companies that embrace open source, modular, commercial off-the-shelf solutions and development frameworks drive forward-thinking solutions built to last.
Faster - Taking years to plan, design, build and test a system that might not work -- and might not meet requirements -- is a thing of the past. Technology evolves, requirements change and missions morph too rapidly for a years-long design, build and implementation.
Cheaper, however, doesn’t mean free. My friend Stan Soloway, of the Professional Services Council, spoke about the “low-price limbo” in his Oct. 1 column. While he understands the government’s imperative to seek the best deal in terms of price, he cautions against bids becoming so low that it becomes impossible for contractors to bid and for the government to procure anything innovative, worthwhile and sustainable.
If you’re developing, implementing and maintaining smaller, smarter, faster, cheaper services and solutions, you’ll be much better positioned to score well on price and high on tech. Then, both government and taxpayers benefit from real value: low price and far beyond “technically acceptable” solutions. We need industry and government focused on low price/technically exceptional.
Lisa Mascolo is managing director of U.S. Public Service at IBM Global Business Services.