Back on October 1, 2015, GSA launched its new Professional Services Schedule (PSS), which consolidates eight professional services contract schedules into one.
The eight schedules are:
#520 – Financial and Business Solutions (FABS)
#541 – Advertising and Integrated Marketing Services (AIMS)
#738II – Language Services
#871 – Professional Engineering Services (PES)
#874 – Mission Oriented Business Integrated Services (MOBIS)
#874V – Logistics Worldwide (LOGWORLD)
#899 – Environmental Services
#00CORP – Consolidated Services
This is important for everybody to understand because it means that the old MOBIS schedule that many of us had, the one that handles program management services, is now a part of this new schedule and has a lot more scope than before.
This creates a new opportunity for people who have a MOBIS schedule or one of these other schedules to now add all these different functions to their schedule and bid on more work.
In particular, there may be things that you didn’t feel like you were quite qualified for, but now all you have to do is add another SIN code (this is not any kind of moral judgment; it stands for Special Item Number) to your profile. GSA has detailed instructions for how to modify your information.
It’s very important to understand and follow GSA’s rules for how you stay on a schedule, because the whole reason for this change is that GSA is trying to reduce the number of vendors and the number of contracting staff they need, in order to hold their costs down.
As Tiffany Hixson writes on the GSA blog, “By reducing the number of contracts supporting the Professional Services category of spend, GSA will eliminate more than 700 contracts resulting in an estimated five year savings of $3.95 million, and sustained savings of $1.29 million annually thereafter.”
MOBIS was a big deal before, but this new combination of MOBIS with professional engineering and the other schedules makes it a really big deal. So as readers, you should really be up to date on what these schedules look like, what your obligations are to stay on GSA’s good list, and most importantly how to make use of this increased opportunity.
The key and universal truism linked to mission success is “Train as you Fight.” Realistic training is critical not only for mission success but for soldier survival.
The challenge is that live, realistic training is often expensive and time sensitive as the resources are finite and required by multiple units. To overcome the limitations of live training resources, the Army has developed and employed virtual, constructive, and gaming capabilities.
One such capability is the U.S. Army’s Synthetic Environment Core (SE Core), a Program of Record (POR) under the Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training & Instrumentation (PEO STRI). SE Core provides fully correlated, common, geospatial terrain databases; ultra-high resolution cultural and common moving visual models; Common Virtual Components (CVCs); and a common Computer Generated Forces (CGF) for Training Aids Devices Simulators and Simulations (TADSS).
SE Core is the Army’s central link for all common virtual environment requirements, helping to ensure that simulators and simulations correlate and interoperate across critical training platforms.
One critical aspect is the integration of new virtual terrain representations to align with current operational environments and missions. The Army has a requirement to quickly develop and integrate new and accurate digital terrain that corresponds with potential future missions. Fulfilling such a requirement is a fair amount of work and is very complex.
Mr. Thomas Kehr of PEO STRI and Mr. Trey Godwin of Strong Point Research, A Division of TAPE have investigated using Google Earth Pro to track and generate terrain representation requirements in order to produce higher-quality digital terrain products. Their paper, published in Army AL&T magazine, can be reached via the following link:
The best and brightest of your staff are the ones who will carry a company far into the future, and every time you promote someone, that act resonates through the entire organization.
This is one such of the “million stories in the Big City” – a Junior PM job opened up, and we promoted a billable supervisor to an overhead PM position. The following is a first-hand story about that transition, and what we as senior staff and managers can do to help the folks going through a similar transition.
Meet Ken Geary, retired Marine, and newest PM on the TAPE block.
What was the biggest change going from being a supervisor to being a project manager?
“I would have to say the scope of management. I went from directly supervising a relatively small team of five individuals performing a task that I was intimately familiar with, to managing a much larger group of people through delegation and direct communication.
Also management is no longer my sole responsibility. I work to not only provide exceptional service to our customers but also focus on business development, seeking to grow our current contracts as well as procure new ones.
I see this as a general trend, where business development is less one person’s specific role, and more rolled into all program management roles.”
A year later, what would you tell yourself when you were about to start?
“Keep better notes and to-do lists. When I first started in the program management role, I was assuming I could continue to just remember everything I needed to do, as I did when managing a smaller team and wasn’t being pulled in so many directions.
Now that I’m often switching from one project to another, I’ve found that writing everything down helps me to ensure that I complete all of my tasks. I can quickly see the current status and be reminded of the key points that are relevant when working with different contracts.”
What do you think are the most important traits of a good project manager?
“When I was in the Marine Corps we affectionately changed the slogan from semper fi (short for semper fidelis – Latin for “always faithful”) to semper gumby (“always flexible”) and I believe that holds true here.
As a program manager many things fall into your scope of work and you need to be ready to switch gears instantly, manage multiple things, and perform those tasks – proposal writing, performance reviews, and anything that comes along in day-to-day program management.”
What are the biggest benefits to having a project manager in place?
“One of the major benefits of putting a program manager in place is to provide a single point of contact for any issues. This is something that benefits our employees as well as the government points of contact by delivering to provide accurate information effectively and directly.
I can work with them to solve a problem directly, or find the answers for them without them having to get passed around. I know when I call up to get answers or solutions it can be frustrating to get passed around from one person to another.”
Is there anything else you would tell a new project manager?
“Ensure that you are asking questions daily. There is a lot of information to learn and if you don’t ask when you have questions people will assume that you know and understand the information and tasks that have been delegated to you.
If you’re not sure about acronyms or other shop talk, say so. Don’t be scared to ask questions, you need to make sure you understand everything.”
So there you have it – Ken’s story, a year later. Without blowing up his ego too much, he’s done a superb job. What he didn’t tell you is that several of our contracts were coming to a close and needed bridging, and his relationship skills with the customer saved TAPE a lot of problems that would or could have surfaced.
This is a guest post by Tonya Saunders of Mid-Tier Advocacy, Inc.
On September 14, 2015, the SBA published the final rule to establish the procedures whereby Federal agencies may award sole source contracts to WOSBs and EDWOSBs.
Under the rule, a contracting officer may award a sole source contract to a WOSB or EDWOSB where:
(1) the firm is a responsible contractor and the contracting officer does not have a reasonable expectation that two or more EDWOSBs or WOSBs (as the case may be) will submit offers;
(2) the anticipated award price of the contract (including options) will not exceed $6.5 million for manufacturing or $4 million for any other contract; and
(3) in the estimation of the contracting officer, award can be made at a fair and reasonable price.
This rule will become effective on October 14, 2015, 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register.
The final rule represents the next step in creating parity among the set-aside programs. WOSBs and EDWOSBs are now on equal footing with HUBZone and Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses eligible for sole source contracts.
In addition to putting the WOSB Program on a level playing field with other SBA government contracting programs with sole source authority, it provides an additional, needed tool for agencies to meet the statutorily mandated 5% prime contracting goal for WOSBs.
Congress, through the 2015 NDAA, made several changes/updates to the WOSB/EDWOSB majority-women-owned small business set-aside program. These changes included:
(1) Ending the self-certification option (self-certification has brought about a high level of ineligible firms receiving contracts intended for WOSB/EDWOSB firms) and requiring that firms be certified as a WOSB or EDWOSB by a federal agency, a state government, SBA, or a national certifying entity approved by the SBA.
(2) Adding sole source authority to the program (for contracts that do not exceed $4M/$6.5M for manufacturing contracts).
(3) Completing a study by January 2, 2016 to update eligible industries for the program.
Self-certification not addressed…yet
As explained in the proposed rule, SBA recognized that the new certification requirement for WOSBs would require a more prolonged rulemaking.
Because SBA did not want to delay the implementation of the WOSB sole source authority by combining it with the new certification requirement, SBA did not propose any changes to implement the certification requirement but rather indicated that it would do so through a separate future rulemaking.
Who will benefit?
SBA searched the Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) database and determined that there were approximately 34,000 firms listed as either WOSBs or EDWOSBs under the WOSB Program.
In addition, according to the fiscal year 2013 small business goal report, there were a little over 250,000 actions concerning women-owned small businesses and the total dollar value of those actions was approximately $15 billion.
An analysis of the Federal Procurement Data System from April 1, 2011 (the implementation date of the WOSB Program) through January 1, 2013, revealed that there were approximately 26,712 women-owned small business concerns, including 131 EDWOSBs and 388 WOSBs eligible under the WOSB program, that received Federal contract awards, task or delivery orders, and modifications to existing contracts.
SBA officials believe the WOSB Program will expand opportunities for women-owned firms in the industries determined by SBA to be substantially underrepresented by WOSB concerns.
Now that federal agencies have sole source authority, women-owned firms will have greater access to Federal contracting opportunities. It’s about time for the WOSB sole source.
About the author: For more than two decades, Tonya Saunders has worked on Capitol Hill, lobbied for client interests, and started her own businesses. As founder and director of Mid-Tier Advocacy, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit national coalition of small, emerging, and medium-sized businesses (primarily federal contractors), Tonya was instrumental in passing legislation that helped these engines of our economy grow and create jobs.
A couple of months ago I wrote about how small business federal contractors could use the results of the SBA’s 2014 Small Business Scorecard to target federal agencies looking to increase their set-aside numbers.
“I wish it were that easy,” was the response from one of my readers. They went on to describe what is unfortunately a common contracting experience. Their federal government agency customer had decided to insource some of the work the contractor’s company had been providing.
So what can you do when the government threatens to – or does – insource your best people?
Well, here’s what we did at TAPE back in the day, because it happened to us when we won our first big contract. We showed up at the kick-off meeting and the government contracting officer’s representative (COR) said they were going to insource 25% of the contract before we’d even start.
We did what we could – talked to the agency’s small business person, the SBA, and the contracting officer. However, the reality is that there really was no recourse.
What you have to do in this type of situation is plan for success. Anticipate the possibility that your employees are potentially going to become government employees someday.
If you’ve treated your employees well, then these folks are likely to be friends. Figure out how you’re going to take advantage of that friendship, in terms of new contacts, access to “nearest neighbors” (related departments or agencies that could potentially hire you), and increased awareness of your business’s good reputation.
In our case, while our agency customer was talking about 10 or more positions, they wound up insourcing five. What saved those five positions? The agency hadn’t considered the overhead it would cost to move all those positions in house. As well, it had crossed over into another budget year they didn’t get their required budget.
So five employees stayed our employees. And because we had treated them so well, each of the five who became government employees proved to be a valuable resource for us in the future.
So that’s my advice. Instead of fighting government insourcing, work with it. There’s really nothing much more that you can really do. Believe me, your customer will recognize the difference between resistance and supportive activity, and they will remember that the next time a job comes up.
As a follow-up to our recent post about targeting cybersecurity work in your contracting business, I sat down with TAPE’s cybersecurity program manager Stewart Wharton to give you a glimpse behind the scenes.
Stu, what does a typical day look like for the TAPE cybersecurity team? Is there any such thing?
It’s a very high visibility, fast-paced environment, working for one of the largest federal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. The team is involved with all aspects of analyzing threats and vulnerabilities.
We do a daily assessment of risk to the systems; we do a lot of reporting using a variety of dashboards. We can suggest fixes, and make sure those fixes are acceptable. We also follow up to ensure that the systems people have implemented them.
It’s a lot of analysis work – analyzing data to see if it’s a threat, a vulnerability, or a mitigation, and also determining the likelihood of the impact of the vulnerability to a system, and the overall risk to the system.
We just wrote in this blog about how government contractors can find cybersecurity work by approaching their existing customers. How has TAPE used this strategy?
Our customer base has grown twice in the year and a half that we’ve been here. And we continue to look at other entities within the agency that could use our BPA (blanket purchase agreement) – an existing contracting vehicle that any federal customer can funnel money to, as long as the scope of the BPA is within cybersecurity.
What is the most common misconception you hear about cybersecurity?
That cybersecurity is all about tools and technology, when really a lot of breaches are socially engineered and simple, such as a user opening an email or attachment they shouldn’t have. Yes, breaches in security can be highly technical, but it can also be amazingly simple.
What do you wish everyone knew about cybersecurity in the workplace?
No matter what job you’re doing, whether you’re at work or at home, everyone should be more aware of how simple it is to give away the keys to the kingdom, just by doing the wrong thing with your email.
- Don’t open an email if you don’t recognize who it’s from or it’s not from an official account in your workplace.
- Don’t open attachments if you don’t recognize who it’s from. Attachments are the easiest way to get a bug or virus into your system.
- Don’t share your password or write it on a sticky note and keep it on your laptop. When working remotely in an airport, you’d be amazed how easy it is for someone to look over your shoulder. They can find out a lot about you, and then pretend to be you.
What do you see going on in the cybersecurity industry right now?
There is a huge demand signal for people doing this kind of work, but at the same time, the quality of people able to do this work is increasing. A lot of graduates are hitting the streets with certifications or degrees that used to take somebody five or ten years of experience to get.
These young workers have all the right credentials but not a whole lot of experience. While this means the cybersecurity market has been flooded with talented individuals, what used to be a high value work area has been somewhat watered down.
What’s the most rewarding thing about your work in cybersecurity?
That at the end of the day, our team and I have helped national security across the United States. Cybersecurity is officially recognized as a domain where the enemy can wage war against you, so we need to be prepared on that same kind of footing.
In a previous post, I wrote about how to get started in cybersecurity. You can talk to your current customers, the ones with whom you already have relationships, and see if anybody needs help in this area. This could be even one or two people, or re-scoping or retitling somebody’s duties to include a cybersecurity component. You just need a place to start.
In the wake of the OPM breach where the personal information of millions of current, former, and prospective Federal employees and contractors was compromised, interest in cybersecurity is reaching even newer heights.
So what does this mean, and how can cybersecurity contractors take advantage of the current environment?
- We know that more money is going to come in.
- We know that cybersecurity jobs are going to come up.
- We know that agencies are looking to score high on their small business scorecard.
- While at the big business level cybersecurity work is often done at a data center or a security operations center, a lot of the day-to-day core work is done by small businesses.
So the critical factor is to follow through with your relationships. We talked in the last post about steering your current clients towards new cybersecurity work. Let’s talk now about another set of relationships.
Most small businesses have favorite prime contractors that they’re working with. Let’s say you’re in the IT support field, or another area that would allow a natural migration into cybersecurity.
Ask if your prime contractor has any job openings on existing cybersecurity contracts that their current subcontractors may not be able to fill, or any upcoming procurements they’re targeting.
They may be willing to consider people who have customer knowledge and a good name in an agency, even if they’re not necessarily functionally competent. They know the relationship carries weight in the evaluation of the proposal.
Your prime contractor is going to do most of the legwork in procuring these cybersecurity jobs, so in these cases you need to work on your relationship with that prime. This is a good opening for us to talk about how almost all large businesses have what they call a diversity person.
This person serves a similar role as the OSDBU, acting as a small business liaison to help small companies find and win opportunities within the company. Just like the government ODSBUs, these corporate representatives don’t necessarily have any work for you, but they can help you get on teams.
Also make sure to update your entry in that company’s supplier database, and include keywords related to cybersecurity. That will put you in front of the people who are already actively looking for help.
Targeting cybersecurity in your contracting business? Work your relationships. It all starts from there.
In a series of three blog posts, Judy Bradt of Summit Insight put together a list of things government contractors can do to prepare for the fiscal year end. Here is a snapshot of her points, along with my own thoughts that build on her recommendations.
- Revisit your forecasting
- Ask for referrals from your best customers
- Stay top-of-mind
Bill says: These points go back to what Judy and I have always been preaching – success in federal contracting is about building long-term relationships.
Revisit your forecasting – that’s the FOCUS – see who you can really touch and make a part of your business. Referrals are what I’ve been calling “nearest neighbors” – friends of your customers’ friends.
And finally, this is a continuing process, so stay with thsee folks. See them on drop-bys and wherever they are. For example, if you notice they’re speaking at event, show up – even if only to listen and say hello.
- Give the golden leave-behind: gratitude
- Plan multiple touches, tactics, channels
- Update and share your capability statement
Bill says: TAPE leaves behind little chocolates branded with our logo, but the key here is to make sure you express gratitude to your customers for their business. Build those relationships (see above) with the multiple touches of being where your customers are.
Maintain your currency by keeping up with your customers’ hot buttons. Does your one-pager (description of your company’s capabilities) hit those hot buttons?
- Refresh and maximize your online presence
- Leverage customer feedback and testimonials
- Expand thought leadership
- Be ready to sell the way they want to buy
Bill says: Maintaining and keeping your website fresh is critical. People look at that and if the visual picture doesn’t align with what you’ve told them, you can lose out. Include a prominent display of your CPARs (ratings in the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System) – especially the really good comments, and your kudos letters. Leverage these positive testimonials in call-out boxes on your website as well.
The best road to thought leadership? Blogging! You can always think of something to say about your industry, and the problems you solve for your customers, even if once a month. Feature your best staffers as bloggers also – they’ll love the publicity.
Always sell what your customers want to buy – your people, your best product ideas and innovations, and keep it up. Never forget what you’re selling, and what your focus is, that’s how you’ll succeed.
Lastly, remember to keep your certifications and small business status handy – sole sources and simplified purchase opportunities can be leveraged handsomely.
Thanks to Judy Bradt of Summit Insight for pulling together these crucial points!
This is a guest post by Staci Redmon of SAMS.
Note from Bill: When I saw Staci’s recent Redmon’s Rules post on LinkedIn, I asked if I could share her first seven rules here with you. Staci offers a wealth of knowledge and experience as the President and CEO of Strategy and Management Services, Inc (SAMS).
SAMS is a SBA 8(a) program participant, service-disabled veteran owned (SDVOSB), woman-owned (WOSB), small disadvantaged business (SDB) that provides a broad range of strategy, management and information technology services to the DOD, other Federal Government agencies, and commercial clients.
1st Rule: Communicating Your Vision
Actualizing a vision requires employers to communicate and set expectations for the outcome. Open lines of communication are key to employees understanding their purpose, performance expectations, and execution strategies.
To further accomplish this goal and achieve a supported vision, create an inclusive collaborative work environment conducive to employees having input.
How to reach the endpoint is tactical, but achieving the vision is strategic.
Note from Bill: What’s critical to getting employees to really buy in to your vision is to LISTEN when they have input!
2nd Rule: Leading a Multigenerational Workforce and Adjusting to the Arrival of Millennials
Changing the landscape of traditional corporate culture to adjust to the arrival of millennials starts by redirecting focus to attract and retain this workforce.
Recognizing longevity in a company isn’t the priority for millennials; they value transparency and meaningful interactions. This tech-savvy generation enters the workforce wanting to innovate and propel the company’s growth.
3rd Rule: Incorporating Community Involvement
An active presence in the community directly impacts the lives of community members and the reputation of your company. Social awareness plays an integral role in sustainability and corporate responsibility.
As we strive to affect change within our infrastructure, let’s not forget our community of strong advocates, championing our success because we directly affect them by giving back and providing resources to enhance their livelihood.
Note from Bill: Back to Rule 1 – Communicate to the employees about your involvement, and be authentic. At TAPE we continue to support many Wounded Warrior programs, including one started by a former employee of our subcontractor.
4th Rule: Building a Network
There’s a direct correlation between your network and net worth; as you broaden the former, the latter increases. A rich network is built by collaborating with individuals of diverse skill sets, cultures, and occupations; creating an ability to forge relationships and develop your network.
To spur growth, limit connecting with like-minded contacts. Participate in and leverage activities with individuals of uncommon interest at first glance. This spawns opportunities to meet new people and establish unforeseen connections.
How do you network?
Note from Bill: This is very important, and we’re seeing how all of these rules build on each other. For example, does your community work have a networking aspect? If so, that can really change the value and dynamic. Again, be authentic – your peers and subordinates are all watching.
5th Rule: Addressing and Communicating Your Weaknesses
A cohesive unit is developed during the discovery phase of analyzing strengths and weaknesses of your team. This phase births awareness and potential challenges; allowing an opportunity to eliminate single points of failure.
As a leader, communicating your weakness is a strength that reveals you are cognizant of your abilities, and focused on creating value by addressing incompetency and delivering solutions with the strengths of other personnel. Invest in resources about strength and leadership, such as the StrengthsFinder 2.0.
What other strengths and/or leadership books would you recommend?
6th Rule: Hiring Creative and Innovative Employees – Seeing Beyond the Resume
Contrary to popular belief, a resume doesn’t reveal everything needed to make a smart hiring decision.
To get a glimpse into the creativity and competency of a candidate you’re considering, test for ingenuity by allowing your prospect to solve a real problem. The results from the trial will allow you to look beyond the resume and accurately assess the prospect’s capabilities.
How do you look beyond the resume? Here are 10 tips from SmartCEO.
7th Rule: Differentiating Your USPs
Your unique selling proposition (USP) is the gateway to acquiring market share and potential financial success. Identify competitors and their products, then leverage your key differentiators to boost your position to become the market leader in your respective industry.
Have you studied the psychology of product differentiation? What does your business do differently?
These seven rules are just the beginning! To read Staci’s latest insights and join the conversation, visit the SAMS LinkedIn group.
Well, the folks behind the Contracting Officer Podcast have definitely shown some real focus, by targeting the concept of targeting (bad pun is entirely mine). I introduced hosts Kevin Jans (Skyway Acquisition Solutions) and Paul Schauer (CACI’s National and Cyber Solutions) in a previous post about the true cost of proposals.
The real issue with the topic of targeting is the law of large numbers. For example, the folks at Skyway Acquisitions target companies and that means their reachable market is all 500,000 companies registered in the SAM database (the Federal Government’s System for Award Management).
If they pare that down to target privately owned companies with over $500,000 in annual revenue, with five or more employees, who have won at least one government prime or subcontract in the last three years, that would still be 250,000 companies! As my millennial friends would say, “OMG!” that’s a lot of companies. “That’s a lot of phone calls, man,” Kevin jokes.
He says to also consider your weight class, “the right size of an opportunity that you can afford to win or lose without derailing your company.” This goes back to one of the three critical questions we talked about in the previous post: Does your company have the capabilities to win this job? What resources do you have available to solicit and deliver this potential contract?
Now for TAPE and many of you, our market is the Federal Government. I don’t know how many total buyers there are, or buyers plus KOs and contract specialists, and lions and tigers and bears, oh my, but I know there are a lot.
So how do we narrow down the targeting? It’s really quite simple. Start with who you already know. Who’s doing things in areas you already know how to do? Instead of sending out 25,000 pieces of junk mail (heaven forbid), we need to focus on where we can get in the door.
We can contact our 25 closest friends in the business, and then in our follow-up, ask, “Who in your agency might be needing our ABC services?” If they have no direct need, or their contracts don’t come up for years, or if they like their current support, then what about one of their neighbors or sister agencies?
What I particularly loved in this podcast episode was their focus on having a mindset of abundance, which Kevin explains as being able to think, “There’s more opportunity for me than I could ever chase, so therefore this one that doesn’t fit, it’s okay to walk away from it and keep going.”
It is indeed an abundant universe. You have resources like this blog and the Contracting Officer Podcast, you have friends, you have people you did good work for in a different situation, and now’s the time to test that abundance. But target the things you know and can do, and leave the rest of the abundance for me and other of my readers!