Try this: pick up your smartphone or tablet, point it at your colleague or yourself, hit record, and speak for 20 minutes or less about your company’s stellar experience. Upload to YouTube, send the link along to the federal contract officer, and you’re done.
Congratulations — you’ve officially submitted a bid proposal. Think of it as federal contracting for millennials.
Or think of it as one of the more recent efforts among government agencies to simplify the procurement process — one that ideally will offset the very real human resources problem facing many federal contracting shops, and in theory ease the burden placed upon companies bidding for work.
It’s a tactic,” said Tom Howder, assistant commissioner of assisted acquisition services at the General Services Administration, during a panel on procurement trends held Oct. 30 at the Vision Forecast 2019 conference. “The goal is to reduce costs.”
But one attendee of the conference indicated that’s easier said than done — calling the challenges associated with cost and approach for video proposals “not trivial.”
And a quick internet search would imply that video proposals are big business for those willing to pay: One company touts success in helping customers to win $6 billion in federal contracts to date, claiming that knowing what to expect from your videography team and studio “is a must when responding to federal acquisition RFPs with video requirements.” YouTube videos for DHS proposals and GSA FEDSIM proposals on Blu-ray are among the services the company provides. Other companies tout similar services.
“Ironically, you can make these slick and spend a lot of money,” Howder said. “But we don’t want slick. We want the information,” and to find a streamlined way of delivering that information.
He said that video proposals are not much different than oral proposals, but contracting officers can look at them over and over again. And the approach is not for all contract types — Howder pointed to services that are “not extra complex.”
In some cases, both approaches are used in conjunction with one another. A solicitation from the Department of Homeland Security a couple of years ago used a two-phased approach to acquire facilities and operations support services: first bidders provided video submissions, then they participated in oral presentations. Those that received low scores on the first phase were warned that their odds of winning the contract were low to none — but still given the opportunity to continue should they so choose.
There were no paper proposals requirements, aside from price and past performance (a couple pages or so total). The reduction of time to award, as well as burden on both contracting officers and industry, translated to an “evaluation that took days, rather than months,” according to a summary of the approach posted to the GSA’s Acquisition Gateway. The acquisition was conducted under the umbrella of the DHS Procurement Innovation Lab, or PIL, which experiments with new techniques for increasing efficiencies in procurement process and institutionalizing best practices.
“This is not for every innovative technology, or right for every situation,” said Paul Courtney, deputy chief procurement officer at DHS during the panel, which was moderated by Federal Times. He added: “If it becomes burdensome, let us know.”
Jill Aitoro was editor of Defense News. She was also executive editor of Sightline Media's Business-to-Government group, including Defense News, C4ISRNET, Federal Times and Fifth Domain. She brought over 15 years’ experience in editing and reporting on defense and federal programs, policy, procurement, and technology.