More flexibility is needed in GovCon. Lots more. Some would say that the entire government contracting arena is built to keep small businesses out, and this is by definition, inflexible.
This isn't 100% the reality though, as we saw (and continue to see) large-scale transformations to purchasing in the US due to the COVID pandemic; around late March, agencies started loosening up on their prior mandates, we saw fewer bonding requirements, and fewer demands for physical submissions and onsite visits. There was a consideration for vendors outside of the typical pool of suppliers, vendors across the country who could service the contract remotely, and so forth.
Something like flexibility is subjective and determining a purchaser's perceived flexibility is not an exact science. Regardless, there are a few things that determine flexibility.
Markers of Flexibility
Bid-specific markers include:
The sheer number of mandates and must-haves, mixed with words like "continuously" and "standing"
Audited financials requests when a P&L snapshot or other documentation could be better and more reflective of immediate financials
Bonding and punitive language around performance
Whether creative pricing is welcomed
Whether innovative technology complements are welcomed
How much does price factor into the equation? At 20%, the purchaser may show some flexibility towards a "best value given the solution" vendor. At 70-90%, this is basically an ITB and the lowest responsible bidder will win
Agency-specific markers include:
Number of RFIs released in a year (this shows their openness to consultative nudges in certain directions, letting the market dictate some future scope elements)
Their mission and values as a purchasing entity
Whether they accept and welcome phone calls, emails, etc. If they designate a friendly person to interface with private industry, you can bet they care about being perceived as flexible
Public purchasers are incentivized by the pricing they receive - and the taxpayer savings they could bring - to be flexible. Their lack of informality could be due to the departmental culture, saturation in the marketplace, or some other factor. A million other things could play a role.
Why Does It Matter?
Flexible government at the pre-contract stage makes for a better, smoother contract and post-contract stage (when they're providing references for you).
It also sometimes affects the issuance-to-award timeline, even when you're paid and if a deposit can be included. Want to open an office near the purchaser's location in six months rather than two weeks? It helps to have a flexible partner signing off on the extension.
How We Use Flexibility
We make hundreds of recommendations based on the markers above, along with other considerations. Flexibility is in the top five, along with project expectations, budget, complexity, and contract value.
We usually consider flexibility throughout the capture phase and into the proposal development phase. It is especially useful for pricing strategy.
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