As promised, I wanted to take a second to talk about Requests for Information (RFI) from the government. In an effort to curb spending, the government may begin to use these gems a little more.
Normally, an RFI solicits input from the general public and contractors on certain things they are doing – like access to federally-funded research results. In these requests, there is little to gain for the government except feedback on what they are attempting to do and gain some guidance in planning how to implement a rule or project. Pretty mundane, but also very helpful for the government to use.
Then, there is the detailed RFI that wants to know about “Technical Exploitation Support“. For these items, an interested party (presumably a contractor) will put together what is tantamount to the Technical Volume of a proposal and submit it to the government. Then, the government can decide to move forward on a contract solicitation or to do it themselves. Technical Specifications = SOLVED. Program Management = Seeded. Internal Innovation = Begun.
This is not to say that an RFI is a sneaky way to get free technical advice. How often have you come across an RFP with technical specifications that you just scratch your head on? I have seen some strange conglomerations of services on IT-related solicitations that probably would have benefited from an RFI response or two to narrow down the specs. (Especially when you are expected to talk about all of the items in the RFP within 25 pages).
All of this being said, as with any government request to the contractor world, be sure you know what is out there and what you are up against and what the outcome could be. To this end, have you ever checked the competition on a solicitation only to find another company that you know has the resources to stomp all over your best efforts? Keep pushing, but push with knowledge