Improving Federal Market Research – Contracting Officer Perspective

CiscoI recently posted a discussion on LinkedIn about some frustrations that COs share about the lack of responses, or quality responses. from industry when posting RFIs (especially at VA with SDVOSBs/VOSBs)

Most of the great conversations were from industry, and I wanted to share that feedback for COs to help improve the communications and collaboration process for future market research efforts. Some of the common takeaways were:

1) Improve transparency – Many times when a firm does respond, there is little to no follow up with the CO. Was the response received? Was it helpful? Can I provide more information?

The RFI process should be one of many other market research tools, but the lack of engagement was seen as an issue for improvement. Can the market research report be published? What about other market research channels?

2) TMI RFI – Often times RFIs are used a RFPs, asking firms to provide significantly more information than is needed for market research. This troubling trend has increased dramatically, and many firms simply do not respond as they lack the time or desire to provide an RFP-like response. Further, the short-time frames for responding were also seen as an issue.

3) Increase engagement – Although related to #1, the overwhelming responses were about the “closed door” mentality that is regrettably common across the federal government. More opportunities for collaboration and communication would be welcome.

These comments were not criticism or negativity towards acquisition personnel, who continue to be under intense pressures in an often byzantine and overwhelmingly over-regulated and difficult bureaucratic process. Instead, it was an opportunity to improve relations.

On that note, what advice can COs provide to industry on improving communications, responses, and collaborating from the government’s perspective?

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