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FCW : July 15, 2015
Casey Coleman, the former GSA CIO who now runs Unisys Federal’s civilian business, agreed. “We really appreciate GSA setting up these forums and, more broadly, that they’re continuously look- ing to improve the government/industry dialogue. It’s outstanding.” Coleman and Everett said the key to successful discussions was GSA’s deci- sion to make the one-on-one meetings essentially confidential. Although the Alliant team could not share any infor- mation with a particular vendor that would not be shared publicly, industry officials could ask questions and raise concerns without fear that details about their own approach to Alliant 2 would wind up documented on the Interact site or FedBizOpps.gov. “Oftentimes, government procure- ments contain language that inadver- tently drive up indirect or overhead costs — which is reflected in the cost to the government,” Coleman said. “But there may not be a full awareness on the part of the government of the cost to reach that requirement.” “So in a forum like this, you can have a conversation about what the govern- ment is really trying to get to by way of an outcome and explore more cost-effi- cient ways to deliver those outcomes,” she added. “And we think that will result in better understanding on the part of industry of what the government is try- ing to achieve and, on the part of gov- ernment, to do a more cost-effective procurement that is going to result in better outcomes.” Everett said the face-to-face discus- sions helped clear up confusion on both sides of the table so that the final RFP can be improved. “It’s amazing what’s written on paper and what gets inter- preted,” she said. After the April meet- ings, “I can see the wheels moving with the [Alliant] executive staff.” Kelley said he had heard similar things from industry. “The feedback from the 100-plus meetings we had in San Diego [was that] they were so thankful for the transparency, the lead time, the collaboration — and for the demonstration that we are listening,” he added. That demonstration included the fact that feedback from the industry day Interact discussions has been reflected in the draft RFP, he said. “There were changes to that since the first RFIs based on input and feedback that we’ve been getting from industry,” he said. “We can’t accommodate and please every- one, but we’re genuine in trying.... We want advice on what we can do to make this better for our customers and make it a level playing field.” Turning talk into action The big question now is how much all this discussion will alter the draft RFP — and when those changes will come into focus. Blake, Cavadias and Kelley said another draft RFP before the final ver- sion was not guaranteed, but updates on the Interact site and additional RFIs about particular sections would signal important revisions. “You’ll see a dramatic change from the [draft] RFP to the final RFP, specifi- cally in the technical areas,” Blake said. The contractors “gave us insight we just didn’t have. We will do a much better job with the leading-edge technologies.” Cavadias, meanwhile, said concerns about the past-performance provi- sions being too subjective would be addressed. “I will break up the point structure per project, rather than all or nothing,” he said, adding that “almost everything in [the draft RFP] is open to change.” And although no more one-on-one meetings are planned, the Alliant 2 team continues to seek feedback — especial- ly from the agencies that they hope will be loyal customers. They are working with a Defense Department tiger team, for example, to get feedback from each of the military services on the draft RFP. The goal is to “make this final product something that they will endorse and support, even though it’s not a DOD contract,” Kel- ley said. There are also group discussions underway at ACT-IAC, the Professional Services Council and other industry orga- nizations. And “we have monthly meet- ings...with a large agency pool,” Cavadias said. “We need that feedback!” “We continue to refine and perfect,” Kelley said. “The ultimate vision...is to make any other agency ask [itself] why they would consider setting up their own unique agency IT service vehicle.” A new model for dialogue? It’s a common refrain in federal acquisi- tion that agency/industry dialogue has been curtailed by overly narrow inter- pretations of what’s allowed. The Alliant 2 outreach proves that broader discus- sions are possible but also raises anoth- er question: Does either party have the time to talk like this on a regular basis? Everett, for one, hopes so. “I would love to see the government have more dialogue with industry,” she said. “There are real advantages when the door appears to be open.” Coleman noted that “there’s more at stake for these really large procure- ments,” and the Alliant 2 team’s mara- thon of meetings represented a time commitment that might not be feasible for every contract. “But I certainly think this kind of model is replicable elsewhere and could be very beneficial in a lot of different situations,” she said. And although GSA officials were hesi- tant to talk about the broader implica- tions of their Alliant 2 approach, Blake was not shy about his basic philosophy: “We’d be idiots, frankly, not to listen to some of the things they had to say.” n 20 July 15, 2015 FCW.COM “We really appreciate GSA setting up these forums and, more broadly, that they’re continuously looking to improve the government/ industry dialogue. It’s outstanding.” CASEY COLEMAN, UNISYS Acquisition 0715fcw_018-020.indd 20 6/23/15 3:55 PM
June 30, 2015
July 30, 2015