Gaining An Edge: Do you know why RFPs are structured as they are? Many do not. Following is a brief introduction as it is essential to government contractors to be well versed in the structure of RFPs.
The first time I sat through a review of a federal government RFP I thought “What in the world?” I was wet behind the ears so I didn’t say anything, faking my understanding of the prescriptive nature of government RFPs. But damn it was odd. Folks were bouncing all over the place talking about B, C, L and M and other sections just like they had their own alphabet. Odd, they never got past M. I did the count, not even having to use my fingers, and there were exactly 13 letters after M not used. There were also exactly 13 letters from A to M. Is this relevant or just the way it worked out? Is this one of those numbering structures that leaves you befuddled? For those that know the Bible, there exists a very unique structure. Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible and Psalm 119 is the longest chapter and Psalm 118 is exactly in the center with 594 chapters before Psalm 118 and 594 chapters after Psalm 118, with the total of 594 and 594 equaling 1,188 or Psalm 118.8 which is the exact center of the Bible. Darn if I know if a unique scheme like this was intended for the FAR, but if it was, I’m sure going to pay more attention looking for other oddities. Perhaps if I read it backwards I would glean some useful insight?
Upon reviewing the RFP I thought to myself, “Who decided this?” No way was I going to ask. By continuing to listen, asking an innocuous question here and there, aided by some research (acquisition.gov/far/), I discovered a government handbook called the FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulation) that describes in detail how an RFP is to be structured. The exact chapter and verse is FAR 15.204-1 Uniform contract format. FAR 15.204-1 is also the descriptor of the resultant contract to the awardee.
FAR 15.204-1 presents four major parts of the government’s acquisition document: Part I Schedule; Part II Contract Clauses; Part III List of Documents, Exhibits and Other Attachments; and, Part IV Representations and Instructions. All four parts are required to be included in a solicitation, though only Parts I, II and III are included in the contract with Part IV saved in a contract file and incorporated by reference in the contract.
Each RFP section stands alone yet interfaces with other sections in an intricate manner, leaving the uninformed, or perhaps non-federally educated individual perplexed. How these and other sections are versed, and interpreted, can make a material difference in which company gets an award. Should you not clearly understand the makeup of an RFP, I would suggest you seek assistance through a consultant or other body. Reading Subpart 15.2 in entirety will be well worth your time.
Stay tuned for upcoming posts on each skill/attribute of a bonafide Business Development Director provided by Bob Lam. Bob is the principal and founder of Bob Lam Solutions and is affiliated with GovFlex.