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Mad Dash: Navigating A Maze Of End-Of-Fiscal-Year Federal Contracts

Federal IT solution providers discuss how they deal with the scramble of rushed contracts and a limited amount of time to do the necessary research.

Solution providers that focus on the federal IT space know how crazed the time of year at the end of the fiscal cycle can be. With government departments working to spend their budgets before the close of the fiscal year in September, deals are made rapidly and solution providers have to spring into action.

Jamie Wodetzki, co-founder of contract management and document assembly company Exari Systems, said this rush can lead to risky or even problematic contracts for solution providers, wasting time and resources on overall lower-quality projects.

Exari, with U.S. headquarters in Boston, offers contract management software helps improve life-cycle management strategies and the quality and efficiency of last-minute federal contracts, according to Wodetzki. The product automates drafting and ensures key language is accurate and standardized.

[RELATED: Brocade Says Doubling Down on Federal Market, Recruiting More Cisco Federal VARs]

When it comes to federal contracts, solution providers can get themselves into a tight spot when they agree to one and have a limited amount of time to conduct the necessary research.

"The problem is once they sign the contract, they've essentially locked themselves in," Wodetzki explained. "It's done in such a hurry, by the time you realize, it it's too late."

Wodetzki told CRN that this is not a new phenomenon.

"There are periodic disasters or projects that go horribly wrong that create outrage because it's the taxpayers' money that's being wasted. The problem [is created when] you spend like crazy at the end of the budget cycle. You're inevitably doing things in such a rush that you don't apply the same level of scrutiny."

CRN reached out to several solution providers in the federal space to get their perspective on the "mad dash" that comes every fall and on what they would change about the process.

Ed Blumenthal, CEO of S.O.M.A. Computer in Philadelphia, a federal IT contractor, said his company can serve as many contracts as 100 a day in September and, even though the dash can be intense, he said he's never thought about changing the system or improving upon it.

"We don't have the time to talk with each customer," Blumenthal said. "The orders come in so fast that we're doing all we can just to keep up with civil processing. We just make sure we get them all done."

Brian Edwards, CTO of Arlington, Va.-based Phacil, said a lack of requirements on the size of certain orders has the potential to hurt the company's business.

"Unless the government actually tells you some things about the actual task, it's difficult to actually size the work unless you call and get a hold of owners or the incumbents working with them," Edwards said. "The September, or fourth quarter, rush is problematic to get all of that done, but the delays and having to force companies to rebid and redo work they already did is costly."

Neil Cohen, director of business development for Defense Group in Vienna, Va., said one way to improve the contracting process would be to lower the high cost for requests for proposal, or RFPs.

"I was recently asked in the defense industry why are fewer and fewer people responding to RFPs, and small businesses in particular are no longer responding to federal RFPs," Cohen said. "My response is the RFPs we're responding to are extremely time-consuming. It's costly and it can cost from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars."


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