Why Does The Government Use No-Bid Contracts?

Why Does The Government Use No-Bid Contracts?

The US government has an extensive procurement process that has many moving parts and details that dictate how to win business for contractors. The government uses many types of contacts including no-bid contracts. There are many reasons why the government uses no-bid contracts. One reason for no-bid contracts is because it provides the government with a way to start new projects. It allows the government to implement new ideas and systems much easier than if they had to find a company that would be willing to do the job for free. No-bid contracts allow the government to save money. It saves the government the time and effort to go through the bidding process. Therefore, the government can take the first company that is willing to do the job at an acceptable price and start the project.

What Is A No-Bid Contract

A no-bid contract is a military or government contract that bypasses the process of bidding to directly enter into an agreement with a contractor. Most of the time it is used to quickly hire a vendor for a certain job and prevent favoritism or “grease the wheel” practices which often pervade the bidding process. However, many companies will not participate in a no bid contract because it might give other companies with less experience and resource an advantage over them. Sometimes, these companies that do get an advantage are friends with the government officials involved in the project leading to favoritism. No bid contracts are designed for businesses to avoid favoritism but also to quickly close on contracts that require specialization. No bidding contract forgoes the bidding procedures when it is understood that there is only one company that can do the job. This company might have specialized resources to handle the job for the government.

Factors

Other factors that make a no-bid contract favorable are times when it is simply not feasible to have a bidding process. For the government, this often happens in national emergencies or if the government needs special provisions for immediate use like during the COVID-19 pandemic. The no-bid contract can also be used as an incentive for companies to work harder on projects that are underway. For example, if the government knows that a certain company can do great work to fulfill an RFP, they may choose to use the no-bid contract as an incentive to encourage the company to produce even better work.

Conclusion

Many contractors know that is complicated to work with the federal government. There are lengthy and complex RFPs that need to be answered to bid on and win the business. A no-bid contract is one type of contract that the government enters when it needs specialized skills or to immediately choose one company for the project. This allows the government to start and finish new projects quickly which improves the economy on a micro and macro level and creates new jobs.

What Is A Wrap Rate in Government Contracting?

What Is A Wrap Rate in Government Contracting?

The US government is the largest purveyor of goods and services in the world. This fact makes winning new business in government contracting a lucrative proposition. Labor is a huge consideration when it comes to bidding on and fulfilling government contracts. It is important to learn the details of the contract process and how to charge prices to be successful. In federal contracting, a wrap rate is a billing rate that a contractor charges usually per hour. Most of the time, it is associated with labor categories such as Junior Analyst or Senior Engineer that correlate to a specific contract and job function. The wrap rate is based on average rates for such services.

What Determines The Wrap Rate?

There is direct labor which is the cost of the labor itself. On top of labor costs, there are indirect costs sometimes referred to as burdens that are support costs. These may include fringe benefits, overhead and general, and administrative (G&A) costs. The profit is also known as a fee. What distinguishes federal contracts from commercial contracts is that fee percentages are lower typically by 8-10%.

Given this calculation, a wrap rate is an amount that a contractor bills a client to recover:

– Cost of employee pay

– Fringe benefits

– Overhead to cost facilities and support costs

– Corporate expenses

– Fee or amount for profit

Wrap Rate Example 1

A good way to understand the wrap rate is to work through an example. Businesses have “rules of thumb” for pricing. For example, a clothing store has a “markup” which would be called a multiplier in the federal contracting industry. Given a multiplier or markup of 5, you can take the cost of the

item to multiply it by 5 to get to a price. This ensures that the price covers the cost of the item including the support costs and profit. Therefore, if you have a dress that is retailing for $500, the cost of the fabric and labor alone may be $100. The other $400 is charged to cover the rent of the store, the inventory, the employee salaries, the advertising, and the company management. Therefore a $100 dress retails for $500 given a multiplier of 5.

Wrap Rate Example 2

For businesses understanding how to calculate a “markup” or a “multiplier” is crucial for ensuring profitability. Businesses need to project costs for each fiscal year and come up with a multiplier. For federal contractors, figuring out an accurate multiplier is a way to figure out how to much to charge for services. The federal market is unique because contractors are constantly trying to fit services and products into the “wrap rate” model. For example, software development, whether in the commercial or federal sector has components of training and services which make it hard for businesses to calculate how to recover costs. Furthermore, in the federal contracting industry, it is expected for contractors to discount rates on a GSA schedule or present bids with minimal escalation. Therefore, it is important to understand the concept of “wrap rates” and apply it properly.

Government Solicitation Guide

Government Solicitation Guide

The US government has specific and definitive guidelines for doing business. Government solicitation is the process by which the government communicates to conduct business, such as the procurement of products and services. It is done through a variety of different channels depending on the type of contract used to do business.

Government solicitation is not the same as a B2B transaction because it is not conducted between private businesses. It may be similar to an intragovernmental transaction but that occurs when agencies within the same country are communicating with each other. A brief definitive guideline to government solicitation can help outline the scope of different type of contracts and how a business can be most effective in winning government business.

RFI

Typically, a Request for Information (RFI) is issued prior to releasing a formal Request for Proposal (RFP). The government follows this process so the procurement offer can determine interest and the potential qualifications of a vendor to provide a product and/or service. After reviewing responses to the RFI, the government has the information it needs to decide how to proceed either by issuing an RFP or RFQ. The RFI helps craft a more accurate and precise RFP or RFQ.

RFP

A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a project announcement posted publicly by the government that it is accepting bids on a project. RFPs are lengthy and detailed documents that specify provisions, scope and requirements of the project. In turn, businesses write responses in the form of proposals to the RFP. Typically, it is a lengthy manual process and one error can throw the proposal out of compliance for the RFP.

RFQ

Another type of document is the RFQ, Request for Quotation which is when the government is checking into the potential of acquiring a product or service. Therefore, a response to an RFQ is not considered an offer and cannot be used to make a binding contract. A contract is only made when a supplier accepts the offer. Sometimes, RFQ are used by the government to test if the vendor can fulfill the obligations.

Response Tips

For a contractor, whether responding to an RFI, RFP and RFQ it is important to be diligent and considerate of every term outlined in the document. The government prefers to work with contractors that have appropriate resources, knowledge, staff and operational ability. It looks for the contractor’s ability to adhere to the delivery and production schedule. It also checks the legal eligibility of a contractor and the performance and track record.

Being compliant with the format of the document and the requirements is the most important thing a contractor can do to win business. Another tip for better responses is to pick RFI, RFP and RFQs that are tailored to special skills or services offered by the contractor. The government wants the best possible execution of the project and the contractor must demonstrate their ability.

Conclusion

A brief guide to government solicitation shows the complexity of federal contracting. Whether responding to an RFI, RFP or RFQ a contractor increases chance for winning by using an automated proposal software such as the Proposal & Contract Suite for winning proposals.

What Is Constructive Change In Government Contracting

What Is Constructive Change In Government Contracting

Government contracting is about winning business and executing contracts that support new business opportunities. Traditionally, contractors get paid for additional goods and services specified in a government contract if there is a valid modification in the contract. The notion of “constructive change” exists in government contracting to serve as a modification to an existing contract that is not authorized by the terms of the contract. This is helpful because government contracts usually deal with long term projects that have a lot of moving parts and parties involved. For example, when making computers for the Navy certain requirements need to be met. The ability to modify a contact can make the difference between delivering equipment that is state of the art or obsolete for the Navy.

What Is A Constructive Change

Constructive change can apply to all legal contracts not just government contracting. However, the term “constructive change” does not necessarily just refer to changes, although it may in some instances. A better, more technical definition of a constructive change would be as follows: an unauthorized modification or alteration of contract terms, whether it is a change in fact or a change to the contractor’s proposal. This is because contracting officers have no authority under Federal contracts to authorize constructive change.

Constructive Change Example

If the amount of work on a fixed-price construction contract exceeds the amount authorized by its cost-plus provisions, that would normally be considered a constructive change. If an agency approves the additional cost and directs that it be paid from available appropriations before a claim is submitted for reimbursement, there might also be constructive changes in price and schedule—but they would not necessarily exist because of any discovery of previously unknown facts during performance. On the other

hand, if the contracting officer decides without authorization from higher authority to reduce the contract price by way of equitable adjustment for the contractor’s delay in completing the work, that would be constructive change.

Constructive Change Tips

The important thing for the successful execution of contracts is communication. A constructive change can result from a unilateral action taken by one party to a contract. However, constructive changes most often occur because of actions by contracting officers and their clients who fail to communicate. Inadequate communication about such things as:

– Claims adjustment based on changes in facts or law

– Equitable adjustments for delays caused by events or conditions beyond the control of either party

– Unforeseeable events affecting underruns or overruns

– Unexpected contract cost increases due to monetary effects of exchange rate fluctuations and other unforeseen cost drivers

– Labor problems

Conclusion

In government contracting, it is important to know about constructive change and how it can alter an existing contract. When contracts are time sensitive and full of details, clear and effective communication between both parties ensures successful execution. In the event that one party needs to make a change vigilant attention needs to be paid to changes in the contract so the government is not exposed to additional liability.

What Is A Software Platform?

What Is A Software Platform?

A software platform is a set of software tools designed to work together. These platforms allow for different applications and programs that are integrated seamlessly, without the need for any extra steps or additional downloads from your end-users’ computers.

The term “platform” is popularly used to refer to any technology system that runs applications or services. But the idea here is specifically and technically referring to an intentionally designed package of seamless applications.

Think of the metaphor “platform” itself. It is like a stage on which a magician stands to perform his tricks. A software platform is technically a designed stage upon which to perform certain designed tasks. 

What Software Platforms Are

A software platform may support a variety of programming languages, engines, and web services. It is important to have the right tools for your project in order to meet all requirements with ease.

A well-designed integrated system for software developers contains everything from necessities such as text editors (for coding), and compilers/linkers (to build executable files). It will also have debuggers that give insight into what is happening inside an application while it executes on various machines under different operating systems. Plus, it will have databases, etc.

Operating Systems (OS) are the middlemen between your hardware and all its other applications. They help keep everything running smoothly by providing a map for what needs to happen when and where, as well as how often it should be updated with new features or bugfixes.

An OS manages the running of its native applications (like Safari and Messages on macOS) but also runs other third-party software. The underlying software platform provides an environment for not only these apps to run, but those developed by Apple itself as well!

Software platforms are intended to run multiple programs and to scale, depending on business needs. This means that businesses who buy a software platform may also want to customize their purchase by adding development requirements on top of its existing framework.

What Software Platforms Are Not

A software platform is more than just an app. It is an entire system that provides the tools needed to manage projects, stay organized, and give feedback quickly –without needing pesky integrations with other programs. 

Software platforms are not suites—for example, Microsoft Office, a popular office productivity suite. It comes from one vendor, and it has the modules that serve their purpose of allowing integration with other applications. But no room is allowed for developers to build on top of this type of product. Suites limit what you can do as far as features go. Other notable examples include Adobe Creative Cloud, or Google Workspace (G Suite).

Platforms are not simply products. They are entire technology frameworks that must be able to expand and adjust in response market demand. A good software platform has been designed with flexibility at its core. This means it will always have the latest features available for use as needed by users or developers alike.

Conclusion

There is a lot of debate about what a software platform is, but it does not have to be complicated. You could look at products like G Suite or Zoom and still not consider them true platforms. They don’t allow for as much customization in terms of features and function that we typically think about with this term.

The Content Analytics Platform (CAP), developed by Scion Analytics, is a true platform designed with dynamic applications which are fully customizable. 

Best Practices To Win Government Contracts

Best Practices To Win Government Contracts

Government contracts are complex documents that require compliance and attention to detail to be successfully considered. As federal contractors manually navigate the proposal process, they may find it daunting. After all, an RFP contains many details which can be prone to human error in the response. Some proposal managers have learned to use automation tools like the Content Analytics Platform (CAP) to answer RFPs. Leveraging automation diminishes the learning curve for best practices to win government contracts. It enables the proposal manager to see the big picture and step out of the details. It also allows proposal managers to systemize and streamline the process which increases pWin rates.

Concise Contracts

One of the fundamental best practices to win government contracts is to submit concise contracts that do not waste any time for the government. For example, an RFP for the New York State Department of Health (DOH) specifies that it is “soliciting bids from qualified service provides to provide appointment scheduling services for individuals who call the New York State Smoker’s Quitline (1-866-NY-QUITS).” This is a good example of an improvement notice because it specifies that “the contractor shall obtain approval from DOH for all appointments in accordance with this contract”. As contractors prepare their response to this RFP, they should be specific in addressing requests made in the government contract and more detailed in their response. A company that produces a concise and accurate proposal that acknowledges that appointments will be made only with approval from DOH has a higher chance of winning than one that doesn’t specify that improvement.

State The Date

Another best practice to win government contracts is that contracts should state the date that the contract becomes effective. For example, the same RFP from the New York State Department of Health for appointment scheduling services states that “the contractor shall provide all services in accordance with the attached Standard Terms and Conditions dated 07/01/11” In the response, proposal managers should specify that contracts should state the date that the contract becomes effective. The public would benefit from this disclosure due to transparency since it allows for verifiable documentation of a contract being signed into action. This also applies to contracts where the effective date is not stated or unclear. The government is a public-facing entity that ensures the public safety and wellbeing. Therefore, best practices in winning government contracts dictate that the public needs to be made aware of the timeline of projects. A contractor that makes the effort to specify dates and timeline is not only following instructions but is also displaying commitment to being transparent.

Conclusion

There are many best practices to win government contracts that have been established with trial and error by contractors working with the government. Concise and timely contracts will always win at the end of the day. However, with the rise of automation new meaning is being given to best practices in government contracting. Automation takes care of the repetitive and mundane tasks of the contract process and allows contractors to focus on the things that truly matter.

Text Mining Future

Text Mining Future

What Is Text Mining

Text mining (also referred to as text analytics) is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology that uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) and information extraction. It transforms free-form unstructured documents into normalized structured data suitable for analysis. Text analytics uses Machine Learning (ML) algorithms in order make predictive propositions about future actions based on what has been recorded textually.

Future Of Text Mining

Text mining implementation was initially slow to gain traction. Originally, there were only loosely integrated and independent solutions available. In many cases, companies did not quickly see the true value behind sophisticated analytical solutions. We’ve seen text analytics adoption rates increase, and we expect this trend to continue. 

There is an uptick in free-form data. High technological advancements like automated text analytics can find value from this unstructured information much faster than humans could. 

Not every company will adopt technology to analyze unstructured data. There are many reasons why, including:

Structured data Is The Backbone Of Research

This means unstructured or semi-structured data will have a big impact on the field if it does not change with the times.

Unstructured Data Is Like Water

It is difficult to extract, measure, or analyze because it is found in many sources, such as social media or company web sites.

Not All Feedback Should Be Treated Equally

For example, capturing and analyzing unstructured social media posts from certain sources may present challenges for an organization’s code of conduct.  This is because they are not able to follow basic standards when collecting this type or information in a systematic way. 

Benefits Of Text Mining

The benefits of text-based communication are undeniable, but there can be no ignoring the increase in unstructured data that this represents. 

Some key benefits are:

Mining Text For People’s Thoughts

Text is often used to express thinking and feelings. It is how people convey ideas or reasoning from one person to another. Customers’ thoughts now have more value than ever before because they are using texting as their primary method of recording these thoughts and feelings.

Mining Text For Genuine Insights

The idea of being able to get genuine insight into what someone is thinking may sound too good to be true. Many argue that technology can never pick up on nuances like sarcasm, irony, and more with pinpoint accuracy. Certainly not as well as a real person does. But there are those who believe this tool has potential. Assessment of text analytics solutions is catching up with what experts have known these past few years: these are the future. They could be just as good or better than human analysts at interpreting data without any bias.

Mining Text for Relevant Categories

Organizations need tools that will allow them to mine the text data for relevant categories. Besides content, they can automatically determine sentiment by category, and correlate insights across all feedback channels.

Gain Insights from Both Positive and Negative Feedback

The use of text analytics solutions allow organizations to reach a whole new level of insight into what people are saying about them. These tools offer businesses several abilities. They can match sentiment from both positive and negative feedback, analyze social media conversations across categories, and receive timely alerts with social media updates.

Gain More Value with Deep Learning

Deep Learning techniques could help text analytics determine the meaning of words and their association with other ones, which would improve its adaptability. It can also automatically categorize sentences into topics as well as detect sentiment for that topic. These techniques can make it easier to use in different domains or languages.

Conclusion

Text Mining is like mining for gold for data-driven businesses. It is essential to extract structure from unstructured data using text analytics. The Content Analytics Platform (CAP), developed by Scion Analytics, can quickly analyze a textual document in any format, restructuring it for value.

Great Seeing Everyone At APMP

Great Seeing Everyone At APMP

Thank you APMP BPC for giving Scion Analytics the opportunity to attend the conference in Denver. We know the # RFP process can be complicated, with our Content Analytics Platform (CAP) we invite all who attended to “imagine what they can do” with proposals.

Scion Analytics Take-Aways from APMP BPC 2021: 

-Our team enjoyed saying hello to all the attendees and hosts that came by our booth. From new friendships to strategic partnerships, it was good to put a face to a name and share the story of Scion Analytics. From a bright spark of an idea to a flexible and dynamic Content Analytics Platform (CAP), we love meeting people who get excited by our vision.

-Scion Analytics enjoyed doing in-person demos, connecting, and collaborating with proposal managers.

-We appreciated partnering with APMP, a global organization that promotes best practices in the proposal management industry. Our relationship has only grown stronger during the pandemic, and we look forward to contributing to future APMP events.

-Scion Analytics recognizes the government contracting industry is progressing and we are ready to help you define the future of proposal management.

We’d like to stay in touch and continue the conversation. We look forward to navigating the possibilities of the future in government contracting with you. From the whole team, thank you for having us at APMP BPC this year!

Common Mistakes In Text Analytics

Common Mistakes In Text Analytics

There are common mistakes made when a data analyst performs text mining (or text analytics). Text analytics is the study of written text for information- mining purposes. This includes linguistic, statistical, and machine learning techniques that can model human language in order to extract insights from it. Text analytics is a powerful tool and can be transformational for businesses.

Not Asking Target Questions

In order to get the most out of your survey, you need an initial question. Even if it is a simple and straightforward “What do my guests think about these rooms?” or even something more complex like “How could I improve this lobby for future visitors?” Asking a targeted question will get the useful information that is desired.

Isolated Data

Last year, 25 guests complained about the bathrooms. Is this better or worse than your competition? Is this better or worse than last year? You need to make comparisons either across competitors or time (preferably both) in order for you to know if there is anything wrong and what needs redressing.

Acting Slowly On Individual Complaints

Along with getting a view of all discussions related to your brand, you can also use text analytics and sentiment analysis in order to throw an alert if someone has Tweeted that they’re having a poor experience. The first case (the tweet) is vital because oftentimes this type of feedback happens right now.

Acting Too Quickly On Broad Analysis

Don’t just do a surface-level analysis. Spend time analyzing the feedback and why it matters to you. Dig deeper if needed, but don’t forget that this is also an investment of your valuable marketing resources. Look at trends for the broad analysis. Evaluate the complaints against the competition and see if they demand immediate attention.

Assuming Clean Data

Data quality is always an issue and should not be assumed to be good quality. Even with the help of a review analysis system, it might be worth looking into the incoming data stream to make sure weird stuff is not making its way in.

Unrealistic Expectations Of The Text Analytics System

According to one university study, humans will disagree about at least one sentence out of five as to its sentiment classification. Is that statement’s mood to be seen as good, neutral, or bad? The accuracy of a text analytic system will be dependent on its fine-tuning. It is also dependent on the system’s inter-rate agreement. Resolve to have only 85% accuracy.

Not Appreciating Multiple Conversion Steps

Hand-written comments and speech-to-text conversions are not easy. If you want the most accurate data, make your own transcriptions. Use an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) system or convert from one type of file format to another with relative accuracy for each step.

Not Allocating Any Tuning Time

Time should be spent fine tuning the text mining system for details and itemized concerns, such as restaurant menu choices or the brand of furniture used in a hotel.

Thinking Too Small

After the initial question targeted question, mentioned above, there should be an expansion out of more questions. Mine the text for what people are saying about you and about your competitors.

Conclusion

Text mining is a valuable practice for any data-driven business. Text mining with the smart disciplines of asking the right questions, awareness of limitations, and fine tuning your mining habits will prove even more valuable.

RPA Adoption

RPA Adoption

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the use of programmable rule-based robots to replicate human efforts. It helps cut costs and improve productivity. It gives decision-makers control over their processes with enhanced visibility into operations that would otherwise be performed by humans but too expensive for many organizations.

Robotics has become an integral part in most manufacturing facilities. It can free up time previously spent performing repetitive tasks so they may focus on more complicated yet higher paying work.

There is a huge difference between Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Business Analytics. AI can learn how to do things on its own, but it’s not programmable like Business Intelligence (BI) tools. Business Analytics are designed for repetitive tasks in businesses so that human beings do not have too much work with numbers all day long.

Adopting RPA is not just about jumping on the bandwagon. There are many challenges that organizations face when trying to adopt this technology, including:  

  • No standard process 
  • Lack of secure IT support and security risks
  • Customer expectation mismatch
  • Lack of employee buying-in and training 

It is important to understand that not every process can be automated. Merely automating random business processes does not bring about enterprise-wide automation or positive change, and it will lead only to frustration for all involved. The aim of RPA should instead focus on solving a problem within your company’s specific industry. Providing an efficient solution that solves this dilemma being currently faced is the meaningful goal. It should not be used as simply another tool in our already overpopulated belt.

RPA has been proven time after time. RPA is able to efficiently run stable, structured, repetitive, rule-based, consistent tasks. It can use logic subroutines, analyzing where exactly these types of procedures belong within an organization before deciding whether they need some form of automation or not.

RPA Planning

In most organizations, RPA is used as a tool for implementation in short-term wins and small functional areas. This starts out with an opportunity to convince decision-makers of its cost benefits before expanding into other departments or company-wide use later.

The RPA Center of Excellence (CoE) is a team of skilled workers with knowledge and expertise on the subject matter. The group’s role lies in setting up an effective strategy for use within your business. The CoE will act as its go-to resource when it comes to implementing or adopting this new technology into their workflow processes. Focus should be kept on long term goals all the while.

Choose The Right Software

Automation starts with selecting the right RPA software. This means choosing something user-friendly. It means prioritizing your business needs for automation so that you can empower users. Do not make them feel like they need a special type of computer just to do their jobs.

Train the Workforce

RPA software can be a useful tool for streamlining business processes, but the risks are significant. In order to minimize these risks and maximize savings from automation you need your employees on board. They should understand what will happen in advance so that there isn’t any confusion or resistance when changes roll out across various departments. Well-designed training programs ensure everyone has buy-in. This will give understanding how this new technology is going help them achieve their objectives more efficiently while also protecting sensitive data at every step.

Production and Maintenance

As the RPA initiative enters its production phase, it is important that key stakeholders can monitor performance and quickly identify any outages. With successful integration into an existing architecture, all business units can be monitored as well through CoE collaboration between IT professionals and cybersecurity teams. These solutions will provide stability while also allowing accuracy checking throughout each process from start-to-finish. This ensures nothing gets left behind.

Future

The best RPA adoption format is non-invasive in nature, with organizations integrating RPA and their existing architecture. We need to think of it as a virtual assistant who will work alongside us executing successful automation programs for the betterment of all people involved. This can only happen when we make Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) possible by equipping them with AI or Machine Learning (ML) capabilities. This can give them new avenues of intelligence, such as Business Intelligence (BI), so they may perform at higher levels than ever before

Conclusion

A smooth and non-invasive integration of RPA adoption, if done with forethought, can be one of the most important changes any company can make. It can significantly improve the overall efficiency of an enterprise, with the unquestionable benefits of increased revenue, reduced costs, and improved employee happiness.

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