Submitted Final Proposal Revisions (FPR) should present a revised offer that complies with the customer’s FPR instructions.
In other words, FPR actions are dictated by FPR instructions. There are three important differences between the initial proposal, the EN response and the FPR response:
- Compliance — RFP requirements, as amended, govern the response
- Cost/Price — Price should be adjusted to reflect revised approaches
- Incorporation — Evaluation Notice (EN) responses have already been vetted by management and submitted
Compliance is crucial and must be well-managed to ensure the customer’s FPR expectations are met. During the discussions phase of the procurement your company may solicit clarification of instructions for ENs and FPR submission. However, no verbal or written instructions alter the RFP except an official RFP amendment (on FAR-based procurements). To submit a FPR following informal instructions (counter to the RFP instructions) introduces a risk of non-compliance, and, when your company is selected, could be grounds for protest. Therefore, when the customer requests information counter to the RFP, the Capture Manager should identify the inconsistency to the customer. The customer may then issue an amendment to the RFP, or acknowledge that the RFP instructions continue to govern the FPR content and format.
Price is a major consideration in virtually every procurement. Generally, the importance of price increases in the FPR, particularly in best value and obviously in lowest-priced qualified bidder procurements. From the customer’s perspective, the FPR process is intended to improve the offers received. Therefore, all offerors in the competitive range are improving their technical ratings/scores, which has the effect of creating ratings parity among the bidders. Since Section M of the RPF usually explicitly states, “As the overall technical ratings become closer, the importance of cost/price will increase,” price has now become an increasingly large factor in source selection. In FAR-based procurements, the lowest, reasonably-priced bidder in the competitive range has already won half of the best value trade-off battle. Keep in mind that “the lowest price bidder wins a lot of procurements.”
In the FPR process, the pricing and technical proposal integration are of paramount importance because they drive one another. That is, a change in cost/price impacts the technical approach and visa versa. Therefore, the price-to-wim strategy should be reviewed soon after receiving of the FPR instructions. The result is a path forward for the technical proposal in areas affecting cost/price that is in lock-step with the Cost/Price Proposal.
Subpart 2.1 – Definitions
“Best value” means the expected outcome of an acquisition that, in the Government’s estimation, provides the greatest overall benefit in response to the requirement.
Subpart 15.1 – Source Selection Processes and Techniques
15.101 Best value continuum.
An agency can obtain best value in negotiated acquisitions by using any one or a combination of source selection approaches. In different types of acquisitions, the relative importance of cost or price may vary. For example, in acquisitions where the requirement is clearly definable and the risk of unsuccessful contract performance is minimal, cost or price may play a dominant role in source selection. The less definitive the requirement, the more development work required, or the greater the performance risk, the more technical or past performance considerations may play a dominant role in source selection.
15.101-1 Tradeoff process.
(a) A tradeoff process is appropriate when it may be in the best interest of the Government to consider award to other than the lowest priced offeror or other than the highest technically rated offeror.
(b) When using a tradeoff process, the following apply:
(1) All evaluation factors and significant subfactors that will affect contract award and their relative importance shall be clearly stated in the solicitation; and
(2) The solicitation shall state whether all evaluation factors other than cost or price, when combined, are significantly more important than, approximately equal to, or significantly less important than cost or price.
(c) This process permits tradeoffs among cost or price and non-cost factors and allows the Government to accept other than the lowest priced proposal. The perceived benefits of the higher priced proposal shall merit the additional cost, and the rationale for tradeoffs must be documented in the file in accordance with 15.406.
In the FPR stage, most of the revisions slated for incorporation into your proposal have been vetted by decision-makers. This reduces the need to assess the correctness of the resolution to customer issues. The FPR management process is focused more on selecting, refining and pricing revisions, for incorporation into the final proposal.
Flexibility is needed in the FPR process. The FPR instructions may require additional process steps. For example, the FPR may not provide relief from the original RFP page restriction, requiring the bidders to make room for new material. This requires a process step to identify proposal material to be removed to allow insertion of new material. The FPR may also present more ENs and weaknesses that require solutions and questions. Another potential issue in the FPR is face-to-face negotiations. Your company will have detailed notes from all face-to-face negotiations. The customer often requests information beyond that which is explicitly stated in the FPR instructions.
Final Proposal Revision
Informal instructions and information requests are, like RFP/FPR requirements, documented and tracked for compliance. However, you should not act upon verbal instructions counter to the RFP requirements as amended. The Capture Manager may ask the customer to resolve conflicts in verbal and documented instructions when clarification is to your company’s advantage.
The Capture and Proposal Manager develop the necessary revisions to the process and FPR schedule. The FPR plan should, to the greatest extent possible, list:
- Revisions to be made
- Proposal section/pages affected by the revision
- Party responsible for making the revision
The result is a compliance matrix-like planning document that maps proposal revisions to the ENs that prompted the change.
FPRs may not preclude the bidders from changing aspects of the proposal unrelated to EN/Qs or identified weaknesses — but they should. There is significant risk in revising proposal sections unrelated to the customer’s stated issues, including verbal issues expressed in negotiations. In FAR-based procurements, the customer must inform bidders of all major weaknesses in their proposals. Thus, your company knows all major weaknesses found in the original submittal. Therefore, proposal changes not directly addressing a known customer issue (EN and documented weakness) may diminish win potential by:
- Introducing new major weaknesses
- Irritating the customer
For this reason, it is good practice to limit changes to the proposal required to resolve known issues or reduce or correct costs. An exception to this axiom is changes made to reduce cost. The above change-related risks apply, but can be justified by the benefit derived from cost reduction.
Regardless of the driver, changes are planned and assigned to an accountable party for implementation. The FPR team should be small — as small as the Capture Proposal, Pricing, and Publishing Managers. However, SME’s are often needed to support revised pricing. The goal is to effectively integrate the technical and pricing proposal activities; achieved more easily by a small, dedicated FPR team.
The Capture Manager is responsible for leading the FPR price-to-win review. This is crucial to the FPR where customer evaluators are focusing on changes. That is, the technical revisions and pricing revisions are inextricably linked in the eyes of the evaluators. The FPR process likewise links these revision work scopes to ensure consistency, which supports a cost-realism determination.
The result of the FPR price-to-win determination is a final definition of the Why your company in those areas that affect cost and price, (i.e., most everything except experience and past performance), which could be described as your company’s “best and final offer design.” The offer design prioritizes FPR development in those areas that explain and justify Why your company in areas where we are proposing cost/price reductions —where the customer’s best value trade-off begins.
Developing the FPR
The drafting, review, revision and publishing steps are similar to, and are often scaled-down versions of, the activities performed for the original submittal. Reviews are focused on new solution communication and pricing. Remember that the solutions for most EN/Qs have already been submitted to the customer. Resolving identified weaknesses is paramount, so the review team should feel that these issues are completely and clearly corrected.
The Capture Manager arranges for the approval of FPR pricing in accordance with the your company approval authority procedures.
FPR publishing requirements also vary widely from procurement to procurement. When FPR instructions call for unusual format requirements, the Proposal and Publishing Managers should develop a publishing plan, including producing test pages as proof of concept. FPR document QC includes a RFP and FPR requirements compliance check. Remember to acknowledge receipt of the RFP amendments. The Proposal Manager may revise the publishing and delivery directives as needed.
– Melanie Baker & Mike Lisagor