COVID 19: What can contractors do? Plenty.
The primary impact of the coronavirus is that everyone involved in federal procurement – acquisition professionals, federal contractors, and others – is busy rearranging personal affairs. Making sure you, those you love, and everyone in your community is safe should be the primary concern. But once the dust settles, the short- and long-term impacts on your business will become apparent.
Predictions and Best Guesses
While we can’t predict the full extent of the impact at this time, change is happening. Some best guesses:
- Procurement delays: Upcoming procurements are slipping to the right, whether that means RFP release or due dates. These delays are due to the government focusing on emergency acquisitions as well as the loss of productivity as employees work and/or recover from illness at home.
- Travel: Non-essential travel is banned as are large gatherings. The Government cannot host in-person industry days, site visits, information exchanges, orals, and technical challenges.
- Face-to face meetings: Business development and capture professionals cannot schedule on-site non-essential meetings.
- Procurement vehicles: Multiple award vehicles will continue to grow in popularity because they are the easiest path to procurement and award. Expect increased procurement activity on GSA Schedules; GWACs like Alliant, OASIS, CIOSP, SEWP; and other best in class (BIC) vehicles as well as existing single agency vehicles such as IDIQs and BPAs.
- Contract performance: The Government and employers are telling most on-site employees to work from home. Payment processing could also face delays if there are absences in the government workforce.
- Year-end Push: Expect a year-end selling to peak like never before given there will be a near-term slowdown that will push Federal spending to later in the year.
What Can Federal Contractors Do?
Once employees have settled into the new normal, Federal contractors must take advantage of delays and downtime. First, however, make sure teams have everything needed to work virtually, including home office space with good bandwidth, video-teleconferencing tools, computer headset, and the like. Second, when employees have downtime, encourage them to take advantage of free webinars as well as virtual training opportunities. Third, set up or reinforce existing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for virtual teams to work on capture, solutioning, proposal management, proposal writing and review, and lessons learned.
Some Federal contractors are already quite adept at virtual capture and proposal processes, while others are not. Those who typically work in-person will have a harder time adapting and need to move quickly to establish SOPs to avoid confusion and productivity loss.
Seize the Opportunity
These weeks or months of uncertainty are an opportunity. Get ahead of acquisitions and the end of federal fiscal year push by assessing capture readiness. Hold solutioning sessions focused on identifying discriminating Strengths. Begin to outline, detail and write to each opportunity’s value proposition; hold focused color team reviews and perform proposal recovery; and then, perhaps, put the proposal on the shelf for later.
The current moment is also the perfect opportunity to perfect proposal repositories. Update and improve past performance, resumes and boilerplate. Specifically focus now, while you have time, on improving future past performance ratings as they are very impactful in building wins. Gather and categorize proof points needed for substantiation of discriminating Strengths. Position your company to be more agile in responding to procurements.
Finally, hold those proposal post-mortems and lessons learned meetings that your company postponed in favor of putting out fires on live bids. Post-mortem reviews of both winning and losing bids can identify best approaches for future procurements. Lessons learned reviews can improve processes, tools, templates and repositories. Analysis of Government debriefs enhance proposal quality. Use downtime and delays to make your proposals great.
As long as your company has the virtual tools, SOPs, and workflows along with experienced facilitators (in-house or consultant), you can use this uncertain time to prepare for future wins. Set a positive tone by focusing on and communicating how to take advantage of delays and downtime. Stay healthy, stay home, and stay alert to opportunity.
Lisa Pafe is a capture strategy and proposal development consultant and is vice president of Lohfeld Consulting. She can be reached at LPafe@LohfeldConsulting.com