OFPP dispels 8 more agency, vendor communications myths

Monday - 5/7/2012, 5:52am EDT

Lesley Field, acting administrator and Joanie Newhart, associate administrator for acquisition workforce programs, OFPP

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The solution to many of the problems with federal procurement comes down to communication between industry and government. So it's to that end the Office of Federal Procurement Policy is taking a second turn at dispelling some of the most commonly held myths.

As Federal News Radio first reported, OFPP issued its Mythbusters 2 memo today detailing eight more fictional reasons why agencies and contractors can't talk, and the real truths about why they can communicate freely. The administration issued the first Mythbusters memo in February 2011 with the goal of breaking down barriers in how contracting officers and program managers talk to vendors.

Misconception #1 -"The best way to present my company's capabilities is by marketing directly to Contracting Officers and/or signing them up for my mailing list."

Fact: Contracting officers and program managers are often inundated with general marketing material that doesn't reach the right people at the right time. As an alternative, vendors can take advantage of the various outreach sessions that agencies hold for the purpose of connecting contracting officers and program managers with companies whose skills are needed.

Misconception #2 - "It is a good idea to bring only business development and marketing people to meetings with the agency's technical staff."

Fact: In meetings with government technical personnel, it's far more valuable for you to bring subject matter experts to the meeting rather than focusing on the sales pitch.*

"Mythbusters 2 continues that conversation, the difference is, these are misconceptions from industry's perspective," said Lesley Field, acting OFPP administrator, in an exclusive interview with Federal News Radio. "We are hoping to help industry use the time with government to be productive and engage in good conversations. We have a few myths and misconceptions with facts that follow up on good and productive ways to engage with government."

Field said OFPP developed these second round of myths from a series of meetings with industry, members of the Frontline Forum, senior procurement executives and others.

Vendors do have influence over market research

Joanie Newhart, OFPP's associate administrator for acquisition workforce programs, said in the interview one of the most commonly held misconceptions is vendors have little influence over potential solicitations in the pre-request for proposal or market research phases.

"That is not so. We are finding agencies are engaging because industry has the critical knowledge that could help shape the acquisition strategy and outcome," Newhart said. "So we are trying to bust that myth."

OFPP wrote in the memo that vendors can provide comments or suggestions during the formal requirements development phase without trigging organization conflict of interest as long as the vendor is not hired to develop the requirements.

Misconception #3 - "Attending industry days and outreach events is not valuable because the agency doesn't provide new information."

Fact: Industry days and outreach events can be a valuable source of information for potential vendors and are increasingly being used to leverage scarce staff resources.

Misconception #4 - "Agencies generally have already determined their requirements and acquisition approach so our impact during the pre-RFP phase is limited."

Fact: Early and specific industry input is valuable. Agencies generally spend a great deal of effort collecting and analyzing information about capabilities within the marketplace. The more specific you can be about what works, what doesn't and how it can be improved, the better.*

"Suggesting detailed solutions to your concerns is even more valuable," the memo states. "Additionally, FAR 15.201 encourages exchanges with all interested parties, beginning at the earliest identification of a requirement through receipt of proposals."

In the memo, OFPP also says another myth is that industry days and pre-solicitation conference aren't valuable, but that is not true as these widely attended meetings are good ways to understand what the agency's goals are.

"Many times, agencies hold sessions designed to help new vendors do business with them," the memo states. "In these sessions, agency personnel are on hand to answer any questions about how to do business with the agency. Gaining a better understanding of an agency will help you more effectively target your outreach, thereby saving valuable resources, and helping you respond to solicitations more effectively."

Newhart said another common one is that vendors don't need to tailor each proposal to the specific procurement and can just change a few words for similar solicitations.

She said that's absolutely not the case, and vendors should write the proposal so it meets the evaluation criteria laid out in the RFP.