Even as GSA moves ahead with its e-commerce portal project, individual agencies have either initiated pilots or are thinking about it.  The ease of use and real-time buying capabilities of these portals offer strong incentives for agencies to use them.  In addition, each platform offers substantial spend analysis features, enabling agencies to better manage their budgets and make smarter buying decisions.  Sounds like a no-brainer, right?  Peel back the cover, though, and there are some plot twists to this story.  First, agencies must consider how they want to compare pricing available via platforms.  Is it enough that prices on commercial e-commerce platforms are likely lower than the open market prices agencies obtain today when they make micro-purchases, or will pricing have to match or beat prices available through standing contracts like the GSA Schedules program?  One answer may be that slightly higher prices are seen as acceptable when the near-real-time availability of spend analysis is factored in.  Some agencies, though, may insist on the lower price.  Second, secure supply chains must be addressed.  Commercial e-commerce providers vary widely in how they vet the items sold through their platforms.  Some pay more attention to the authenticity of goods than others.  At a time when secure supply chains are viewed as essential, how will agency leaders manage e-commerce platform acquisitions to ensure that only the items that should be purchased are?  It is already an established fact that most agencies use E-Bay to obtain replacements for items that are out of production.  Whether it’s that platform, or another, the risk must be appropriately managedE-Commerce offers many potential benefits to the federal market but, like any other acquisition option, this tool must be used responsibly and under the right circumstances.


Government agencies get criticized for not moving quickly enough to adopt new technologies or processes.  Indeed, “agile” has been a watchword in government acquisition for several years now.  You’d think that contractors, themselves, could bend in any direction and run a sub-4 minute mile based on their advertising.  How agile really, though, is your organization?  How many layers of approval do you have to get to respond to a customer, send out a press release, or speak with a potential partner?  Too often contractors can be just as bogged down by internal processes as their government clients.  It’s great to send out a press release on the contract award you got on June 1st, but not so great if you can’t get it out the door till June 10th.  By then, the news cycle has turned several times.  Similarly, you’ve just gotten an e-mail from a prospective customer.  They want to see you next week about an actual project.  You look at your calendar and see almost no white space, with much of the calendar being devoted to internal BD meetings.  Putting the customer off can cost you an opportunity, ironically while you’re sitting in a conference room talking about opportunities.  Yes, processes can exist for a reason, but if your organization is a slave to process, it’s a cinch you’re not adept enough at moving at the speed of your customer’s need.  Getting out the scissors to cut through internal red tape might be the best thing you can do to boost your chances of closing federal business this summer


Welcome to the third quarter of the fiscal year.  The heat is up in both the market and outside.  It’s time for your company to shift strategies and tactics now that we’re moving closer into the federal busy season.  Here are a few tips to put your company in the best position to win:  1. Don’t expect a lot more “meet and greet” meetings this year.  Federal customers are increasingly defining project scopes and doing acquisition planning for what they’re going to purchase for the rest of the year.  That leaves little time to talk with newer entries.  You may be better off focusing on agencies with which you have existing contacts.  2.  Coordinate your marketing and sales efforts.  The Washington, D.C. airwaves are already full of contractor advertisements.  That’s earlier than normal, but it shows the importance of being able to get your message across in broadcast mediums so that it coordinates well with sales efforts.  There’s still time to conduct a coordinated strategic campaign.  Tactical marketing can come later.  3.  Strengthen your partner relationships.  September is not the time to go looking for a company that has the contract vehicle your prospective customer “has” to use.  Now is.  Make sure you have good relationships with companies that hold Best In Class and other contracts, small businesses, or niche players with unique solutions.  Q3 isn’t pre-season, but building a strong team now ensures that you can go deep into the September playoffs and win.  With so many agencies likely playing catch up for the rest of the year, business shouldn’t be dull.  Make sure you’ve laid the groundwork for your own success.


The “s” word of government contracting is starting to be spoken more and more on Capitol Hill as Congressional budget and appropriations members look to create a budget deal that would head-off mandatory cuts during the next fiscal year.  If you don’t remember the last sequestration, ask your fellow contractors.  It was not a pleasant experience.  If there is no budget deal that increases spending caps, the sequestration formula would kick in, making across the board, automatic spending cuts by whatever amount appropriations were made above “approved” levels.  If, for example, DOD had appropriations for $750 billion, but budget caps only approved $720 billion in spending, sequestration would take $30 billion in spending out of the picture.  There is currently no threat for cuts for this fiscal year, though agencies have to deal with the usual year-end rush to spend uncommitted dollars.  The real concern would for FY’2020.  Some potential concerns include the fact that most of the major Congressional players that achieved the last budget deal are no longer in Congress and there is a distinct lack of bi-partisanship generally.  In addition, there are new players at the White House who will likely have a lot to say about whether they approve of any deal.  There is plenty of time to achieve a budget cap deal and avoid cuts that could impact everything from military readiness to office supply acquisitions.  Congress is not traditionally known, though, for acting before the clock starts getting closer to zero.  Watch this space.


What does the broken-down Washington, D.C. Metro system have to do with contractor ethics concerns?  Potentially a lot if your employees live close to feds and work in the same area. As Metro implements a program to close stations beyond National Airport, traffic is becoming a nightmare that feds and on-site contractors are already complaining about. The urge to carpool to avoid this mess will be strong.  Plus, most people like helping out colleagues in need.  It’s important to understand, though, that free rides to and from work could unintentionally pose an ethics problem for your company.  Federal ethics laws prohibit covered entities (contractors fall in this class) from providing anything of value to a federal official.  Indeed, both feds and contractors have been dunned over free rides previously.  In one instance, even when a group of people were at the same conference and then flying out of the same airport at the same time, it was deemed improper for a contractor to provide a ride for a federal employee, even though they had space in their car.  It’s definitely worth reminding your staff that favors done or gifts given that are not based solely on someone’s personal relationship can get both you and the federal official in trouble,  That includes car rides to get around Metro’s summertime debacle.  Make sure your people respond accordingly.