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Negotiated procurement is a more sophisticated acquisition tool than sealed bidding. Unlike an IFB, RFPs solicit good ideas, and price alone need not determine who wins. RFPs' great advantage is flexibility, for both the private and public sectors. The disadvantage is that they often lead to a protracted and expensive engagement without certainty of consummation.
RFPs hit the street in a standard format with a lot of boilerplate written into them. Reading them start to finish is mind-numbing, and unnecessary.
The most important sections to look at first are:
* Section C: The requirements. If the statement of work (SOW) or statement of objectives (SOO) is lengthy, then the requirements will be an attachment. Section J lists all attachments.
* Section B: A listing of all supplies, data, and services or tasks the government wants to accomplish in support of what the SOW or SOO describes. The items listed in Section B are called contract line item numbers (CLINs). The government expects vendors to invoice according to CLIN.
* Section M: The evaluation criteria.
If you decide to proceed, make sure to follow the instructions in Section L, since if you don't structure your proposal according to them, your proposal may get tossed out as non-responsive.
Proposals are legally binding, unless formally withdrawn before award. If the government selects your proposal for contract award, you are now legally required to provide what you said you would at the prices you proposed in accordance with all the boilerplate terms of the RFP. The government won't consider company modifications to already submitted proposals unless the proposals are already "otherwise successful" and offer better terms to the government.
If you submit a proposal electronically, it's a good idea to do so by 5 p.m. one working day before the official deadline. Should your proposal somehow subsequently not make it to the correct hands by the deadline, having an early date and time stamp will prevent procurement staff from branding it as late.
This article was adapted and digested from the book "The Inside Guide to the Federal IT Market," published by Management Concepts Press. For more information, visit www.insideguidetofederalit.com.
Steve Charles is a co-founder of immixGroup, which helps technology companies do business with government. He is a frequent speaker and lecturer on technology and the federal procurement process. He can be reached at Steve_Charles@immixGroup.com.