In my last post, Let’s Get the B2G Conversation Started — Part 1, I talked about the need for contractors and Federal Government employees to focus on communications media to ensure we meet in the right places. And that even though communication implies multiple iterations of two parties exchanging the roles of Sender and Receiver and verification on each party’s part, that it can be often a one-way street.
An RFI, for instance, should be a platform for conversation, not an end in itself. The worst is when the Government fails to reply to RFI responses, effectively excising the opportunity to ensure both parties have a shared understanding of what’s been said. The same is true during contract performance when written requirements are furnished without opportunity to converse about them before delivery of product or results. The Government works really hard on the information and questions included in an RFI. The contractors work twice as hard on putting together their responses because they want the Government to seriously consider them for the work contemplated. When the contractor’s message is sent using only one channel which, after transmission, is shut down from the receiving end, never to be reopened until the RFP comes out, there is high probability that the Government is going to fail to learn something that would improve its desired outcome. The Government should at least publish a summary of the RFI results and, at best, enter into conversations about the contemplated work with any submitters who appear promising. When FAR talks about Market Research it is the policy writers’ hope that the Government will take the opportunity to learn more about how the industry delivers similar products or services in other arenas and what sort of terms and conditions in a contract will create a partnership that produces positive results. The point of an RFI is NOT to check a box.
It’s hard to imagine that there would be any reluctance to explore the possibilities for a project or product with others who have direct knowledge and expertise and yet, getting that conversation started seems to be the hardest part of doing business with the Government. We’ve had quite a bit of conversation on LinkedIn already on this topic, but if you have more to add or just haven’t done so already, please tell us your story.