When responding to an RFP for a contract with the U.S. government, corporations have to submit written proposals that clearly show that they can deliver the best value at the lowest risk to the government. Proving that your corporation is the best value and lowest risk to the government requires detailed facts about your past performance. But how can you prove to the evaluation board that you have the “chops” to do the work, when referencing classified work?
How to Share Past Performances on Cleared Work When Submitting an RFP
This situation is neither unique nor new; cleared work is solicited and awarded every day. Commonplace as the above situation may be, it doesn’t make it less of a quandary to manage the information you want to use as reference for your bids. So here are two useful tips for your capture and proposal team to consider.
1. Keep a well documented and properly managed past performance database (PPDB).
Citing past performance is bragging, and you can’t brag about what you can’t recall (not talking here about “bar talk” and you claiming to have been “inverted”). Past performance has to be substantiated by facts; so collect them in an organized, methodical, and compliant manner. Think of it like a living document. Your PPDB becomes something that you update quarterly or semi-annually so you can capture the intricacies of the project in real time.
If you wish to keep your PPDB “unclassified” consider adopting the practice of sanitizing the database by using pseudonyms or “code words” for certain functions, clients, or projects. In the world of marketing we call this “writing it in the blind” – meaning that you are telling the story, without saying outright “who,” “what,” “when,” etc. The narrative you use is compelling and factual, and those who know, will know what you are talking about.
Additionally, part of your detailed documentation may include references to solicitations or other artifacts (CPARS) or databases that will hold facts in accordance with security regulations. This is a function of how you design your database, and you can do it more effectively if you follow the next tip.
2. Work closely with your FSO and have a liaison in your proposal team.
One of the easiest ways to avoid issues is to work closely with your facility security officer (FSO).
While the FSO and their office is usually kept in the capture and proposal information loop, their professional time is usually consumed by the operations team, so their active engagement in proposals is loose and based on “time available”.
Working closely with your FSO, and even having a designated liaison permanently assigned within the proposal team, may be something to consider and approve.
This liaison, in close collaboration with your FSO, may very well help to build and keep your PPDB in a way that it can be used as reference for both cleared and unclassified proposals. More importantly, and proactively, they may work to document the information in a way that will make it more readily available and useful for multiple projects.
In the most restrictive case, your FSO and liaison can proactively sort out what you can and cannot use for your past performance references, and how to get them to the solicitation evaluation board.
The Key to Winning Proposals
Proving past performance is part of the well-established solicitation process. With the two suggestions above and the guidance your team is surely to receive in order to answer the solicitation, you should be in a good position. Spend the time and effort to build your PPDB so that you can readily access all the facts that will help you prove that you can provide the best value and lowest risk to the government.
Even when you are already “inside the fence”, and some documentation requirements may be reduced or relaxed altogether, paperwork and documentation of some sort is always called for.
As a side benefit, the PPDB will be a great resource for those joining the team, and for those who may save the proposal team hours of write up by delivering perhaps an oral presentation in lieu of a written proposal.
Remember, it all starts with close collaboration between your FSO and the liaison you just designated (but maybe haven’t told yet), and the maintenance of a properly kept and maintained PPDB. Following these two tips will help your proposal team be ready to more easily prove your case, and not regret bidding the work, like Genghis Khan’s tomb builders.