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March 28, 2002

Need more business? Call on Uncle Sam

By DAVE ALEXANDER
Lincoln Strategies LLC

In a down economy, federal agencies can be attractive and reliable clients.

After all, the federal government is one of the largest purchasers of architecture, engineering, construction, planning, and environmental consulting services in the world. And many federal agencies are not subject to the same forces that are taking their toll on many private-sector markets.

Companies with no federal experience can find the rules of the game to be complex, and the competition for most contracts is vigorous.

One part of the process, however, is relatively easy: identifying opportunities to compete. ZweigWhite’s “Guide to Winning Federal Government Contracts for A/E/C & Environmental Consulting Firms” details some basic steps firms should take to identify opportunities for working with Uncle Sam.

Here are those steps:

Check FedBizOpps every day. Federal Business Opportunities is a Web site ( www.fedbizopps.gov) maintained by the federal government. On a typical day, it includes hundreds of synopses of upcoming competitions for federal contracts, including most competitive procurements over $25,000. Each synopsis summarizes the scope of the contract being competed, lists the major evaluation criteria that the government will use to evaluate bids or proposals, indicates when the solicitation document is expected to be released, and describes how to obtain the solicitation document. In some cases, you will be directed to an agency Web site to register to receive these documents.

FedBizOpps, which as of Jan. 1 totally replaced Commerce Business Daily, provides easy-to-use search tools. You can search for announcements of upcoming competitions in a particular service category. Or you can narrow the search, for example, to synopses posted in the last week for construction projects in your geographic area and for selected federal agencies. You can also sign up to receive automatic notifications by e-mail for any solicitation of interest (e.g., notifications of modifications to a synopsis).

Obtain and review acquisition forecasts. Under federal law, agencies are required to publish and regularly update documents called “acquisition forecasts.” Often accessible on agency Web sites, these documents identify acquisitions that will be performed up to a year or more in the future, and for which the agency has not yet performed detailed planning. These documents can give you a heads up on potential new competitions long before you see a notice in FedBizOpps.

Look at active contracts lists. Many federal agencies maintain publicly available lists of active contracts. These lists can help you identify firms that currently hold contracts in your target markets. These firms could be potential competitors or teaming partners on new procurements. Reviewing an agency’s active contracts list may also help you make educated guesses about future procurements — for example, for follow-on contracts to existing contracts — even before the agency lists these procurements in its acquisition forecast.

Use the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS). Accessible at http://www.fpdc.gov, this system contains data on contract awards and other contract transactions. Approximately 65 federal agencies report this information to FPDS, primarily for transactions in excess of $25,000. FPDS can help you find out which federal agencies are significant purchasers of the services your company provides, what types of services are procured in your geographic areas of interest, and which companies are the major players in your federal markets of interest. The online version of the system has certain limitations, and for some types of reports you may have to request a special report, which is available for a fee.

Attend contractor forums sponsored by federal agencies. Many federal agencies offer forums, briefings, conferences and seminars on a variety of contracting topics. These meetings are open to all companies that are currently doing business with the agency and any company with an interest in doing so. They provide information about agencies’ contracting processes and sometimes provide information about upcoming competitions.

You’ll also have an opportunity to introduce yourself to agency procurement staff and to managers from other companies, including those with which you might want to form teaming relationships.

Network with other firms. Invest time in networking with other firms, especially major players in the parts of the federal market of interest to you. They typically have a wealth of up-to-date market intelligence that they obtain through day-to-day operations in performing their contracts. As you build a solid relationship, they may be willing to share information with you and, better yet, might invite you to join their team for an upcoming procurement. Also, they may provide you with opportunities to work as a subcontractor under one of their federal prime contracts.

There are many other steps companies should take to gather intelligence on procurement opportunities, such as visiting with staff members in agencies of interest to your company and placing your company on solicitation mailing lists. The “Guide to Winning Federal Contracts for A/E/C & Environmental Consulting Firms” contains complete information on these and other steps you can easily take to improve your tracking of federal business opportunities.


Dave Alexander is the principal of Lincoln Strategies LLC (www.LincStrat.com), helping firms create and sustain a competitive advantage in the federal market. He is the author of “Guide to Winning Federal Contracts for A/E/C & Environmental Consulting Firms,” published by ZweigWhite.



 


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