Requests for Information

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.

Cost cutting with clipping path

 

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
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About Marty Herbert

With 13 years of government contract administration, analysis, finance, and audit experience, I have established a firm baseline in ethics and a specialization in government contracts that has prepared me to become a subject matter expert in my field. I am currently working on enhancing government contracts management and compliance through workflow tools and product offerings - attempting to make the process proactive as opposed to reactive.
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2 Responses to Requests for Information

  1. Jaime Gracia says:

    RFIs are starting to be cumbersome and difficult to respond to, especially for small businesses. There seems to be a growing consensus amongst procurement personnel that RFIs should be used as a tool to solicit free consulting services by asking for information that belongs more in an RFP (i.e. technical volume, past performance, costs, etc.). This type of information is expensive, and overwhelmingly burdens small businesses.

    The real difficulty is poor execution when it comes to market research, as RFIs, Sources Sought Notices, and maybe an Industry Day (for larger IT buys) are the only tools that many buying organizations employ, as opposed to the myriad to methods and techniques not only outlined in FAR 10, but best business practices to shape better requirements (e.g. one-on-one sessions) to create affordable solution that will work.

    RFIs are a means to verify established requirements, substantiate an acquisition strategy if already developed, and a means to increase communications with industry to ensure competition and further announce needs. I would argue that RFIs are being improperly used by the government, and the information requests are going overboard.

  2. Sam Lopez says:

    RFI’s are used in my office to gauge interest in our proposed acquisition. In my RFIs I post my intent is to gain maximum competition. As you know, many contractors fail to submit bids because the contract type/ SOW/ clauses are too restrictive or not cost effective.

    Many contracting officers do not like doing one on one sessions or anything that may show even a hint of favoritism. COs are afraid if they invite one company for guidance, they are open for protest. So we get into a situation where both Government and Contractor are playing a legal game where requirement become more rigid and unecessarily restricting, but “protest-proof”.

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