Quiz on state contracting, including colleges and universities, now available

October 15, 2012 by

The University System of Georgia held its annual vendor expo, this year on the campus of the University of Georgia, on Oct. 15, 2012, and the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center developed a special quiz for attendees at the event.

The quiz features details on procurement rules and procedures followed by University System of Georgia schools and state agencies, including changes in purchasing rules that became effective on July 1, 2012.

Details on Georgia Tech’s participation and a copy of the quiz can be seen at http://gtpac.org/training/training-video.

Browser settings can make a difference in SAM

August 28, 2012 by

Since the launch of the federal System for Award Management (SAM) in late July, vendors have encountered numerous problems accessing the SAM database.  Those problems range from inability to locate a previously established record to slow response time.  SAM’s administrator, the General Services Administration (GSA), has directed that capacity be added to the SAM database and other improvements be made.

While improvements to SAM continue to be pursued by the government, SAM’s users themselves can influence SAM’s performance by using a current version of their Internet browser and activating the correct browser settings.

Browser settings can be a factor in whether or not certain features in SAM work.  GSA says that SAM is compatible with all of the dominant browsers, including Internet Explored, Chrome, FireFox, Opera, and Safari.  What’s important to know, howver, is that the browser being used to access SAM must be a recent version, and that particular settings within the browser must be activated.  A detailed guide to each browser and the appropriate settings can be found at: http://gtpac.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Browser-Settings-for-Optimal-Use-of-SAM-08.2012.pdf.

Over time, SAM will replace and consolidate several government databases.  The initial phase of SAM includes consolidation of Central Contractor Registration (CCR), Online Representations and Certifications (ORCA), and the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS).

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Recap of recent news involving SAM:

DoD Temporarily Alters Vendor Registration Rule Due to SAM’s Launch Shortcomings – http://gtpac.org/2012/08/dod-temporarily-alters-vendor-registration-rule-due-to-sams-launch-shortcomings/

GSA Issues IBM a Letter of Concern for Problems with Procurement System – http://gtpac.org/2012/08/gsa-issues-ibm-a-letter-of-concern-for-problems-with-procurement-system/

It’s a Mistake to Rush into the SAM Vendor Registration Process – http://gtpac.org/2012/08/%ef%bb%bf%ef%bb%bfits-a-mistake-to-rush-into-the-sam-vendor-registration-process/

CCR Closed until SAM emerges on July 30th – http://gtpac.org/2012/07/ccr-closed-until-sam-emerges-on-july-30th/

SAM Implementation Changed from May 29 to the End of July 2012 – http://gtpac.org/2012/05/sam-implementation-changed-from-may-29-to-the-end-of-july-2012/

CCR Shuts Down on May 23 and SAM goes live on May 29 – http://gtpac.org/2012/05/ccr-shuts-down-on-may-23-and-sam-goes-live-may-29/

SAM Takes Over CCR and ORCA at the End of May — Check Your Records Now! – http://gtpac.org/2012/05/sam-takes-over-ccr-and-orca-at-end-of-may-check-your-records-now/

SAM Deployment Likely To Be Delayed, GSA Might Replace DUNS – http://gtpac.org/2011/10/sam-deployment-likely-to-be-delayed-gsa-might-replace-duns/

 

SBA introduces ‘Quick Bond’ application

August 27, 2012 by

SBA has developed a new streamlined application to help small business owners bid and compete for contracting opportunities.

The Quick Bond Guarantee Application Agreement is for contracts less than $250,000 and combines the contractor application and SBA’s agreement with the surety to guarantee the bond into one easy-to-use form. The new form, the Quick Bond Guarantee Application and Agreement (SBA Form 990A) is available here.

The streamlined application reduces paperwork for both contractors and surety companies participating in SBA’s Prior Approval Program. The Quick Bond Guarantee Application Agreement helps:

  • Reduce processing time,
  • Streamline application requirements,
  • Speed up the application approval process.

For more information on surety bonds and SBA’s Surety Bond Guarantee Programs, visit SBA.gov/Surety-Bonds.

DoD temporarily alters vendor registration rule due to SAM’s launch shortcomings

August 24, 2012 by

In order to avoid delays in “the timely processing of awards,” the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has ordered the temporary suspension of rules requiring vendor registration in the System for Award Management (SAM).

SAM replaced Central Contractor Registration (CCR), the government’s long-standing vendor database. SAM was launched during the last weekend in July 2012 when CCR vendor data was migrated to the new system.

SAM’s late July implementation included not only CCR but Federal Agency Registration (FedReg), the Online Representation and Certification Application (ORCA), and the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS) as well.  “Performance issues” involving the new SAM database prompted DoD’s action to suspend for “a brief period” the requirement that vendors be registered in SAM before being eligible for a contract award.

Keep reading this article on The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech’s web site at http://contractingacademy.gatech.edu/2012/08/dod-temporarily-alters-vendor-registration-rule-due-to-sams-launch-shortcomings.

Georgia DOAS: Two simple steps to a more successful bid

August 6, 2012 by

The Georgia Department of Administrative Services (DOAS) recently published an article highlighting two mistakes most often made by bidders on State contracts.  The article is reprinted below in its entirety.

We know: Successfully competing for statewide contracts is not easy!

However, you can improve your chances, regardless of the form of business and the type of solicitation.

Here are two of the most common setbacks to successful submissions and their fool-proof remedies:

Setback #1: Waiting Until the Last Minute

Procrastination is one of the leading culprits to unsuccessful bids. Rarely are extensions to solicitation deadlines allowed. State law deems incomplete bids unacceptable.

Time and time again, suppliers don’t begin to post their response until minutes before the solicitation closes and more often than not, they are unable to place a bid. Typically, suppliers are just unfamiliar with the system or with the procurement processes and required documents.

Bid posts and any number of changes are permitted, but only before the bid closes. All suppliers are encouraged to allow a full week for initially submitting their bid and then up to the last hour before the bid closes for edits or changes. This method should give ample time for inputting error-free responses and ensuring that all required documents are uploaded and burning questions are answered.

Setback #2: Neglecting Your Profile

Once a supplier registers in Team Georgia Marketplace™, it can be easy to forget about maintaining your profile. However, this simple mistake can have a huge impact on a supplier successfully bidding and acquiring a state contract.

Staff come and go, but if the right organizational representative and his or her contact information is not in the system, you are leaving it up to chance as to whether you will be able to make timely submissions for contract bids. Team Georgia Marketplace™ will only send electronic bid notices to persons with registered emails.

Similarly, Team Georgia Marketplace™ will only send electronic bid notices for registered NIGP codes. When your business’ product or service lines change, update your profile. Regular profile maintenance will ensure that you don’t receive invitations unrelated to your business or miss receiving appropriate bids altogether. Don’t miss business opportunities because you failed to receive the invitation to bid. Update your profile every six months to a year.

Believe it or not, there is another added benefit to maintaining your Team Georgia Marketplace™ profiles. DOAS tracks Georgia spend with resident small businesses and reports this information to the Governor’s Office. Small business spending statistics are used by Georgia legislators in making important decisions. All suppliers are asked to review their profiles for accuracy and to update as necessary, especially if they meet the state’s new definition of small business.

(The State of Georgia’s small business definition: A Georgia-resident business that is independently owned and operated. In addition, such a business must either have fewer than 300 employees or less than $30 million in gross receipts per year.)

What goes on behind a contract debriefing?

August 3, 2012 by

Contracting officers oversee many moving parts in the complex procurement process. But perhaps no other element of contracting strikes fear into their hearts more than the debriefing.

For most procurement awards, contractors that were not selected can request to receive information on why they did not win, either in letter form or a sit-down meeting. Contracting officers worry that in-person debriefings, in particular, might disclose information that would trigger a bid protest. Managing debriefings is a tricky balance, but doing it right can save agencies time and money.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/management/management-matters/2012/08/post-game-review/57135/?oref=voices-top.  

It’s a mistake to rush into the SAM vendor registration process!

August 1, 2012 by

If you want to successfully pursue a government contract, it is essential that you register your business in the federal government’s vendor database.  The database is called SAM – System for Award Management – and it’s important for you to know that SAM registration is free and is something you can do yourself.

You may have received an advertisement from someone who is offering to register your business – for a fee – in a vendor database.  But before you rush to register – and certainly before you pay someone to register for you – you should learn what the registration process is all about, and how you can do it yourself – at no cost.

The federal government’s vendor database used to be known as CCR – Central Contractor Registration.  But on July 30, 2012, CCR went away.  It was replaced by SAM.  If you were registered in CCR, your company’s information migrated over to SAM.  This migration covers even firms whose CCR registration information wasn’t kept up to date.  Information that has migrated into the SAM database should be checked and updated by vendors.

You can access SAM at https://www.sam.gov.   Note that this is a “.gov” website, not a “.com” site.   Be wary of “.com” sites which are not government-operated websites and which will charge you a fee for registration services.  Again, SAM registration is free and something you can do yourself.  Assistance with the SAM registration process is free, too; for details, read on.

Before you start the SAM registration process (or update your existing record), it is very important to “get ready” by thoroughly acquainting yourself with SAM’s purpose and the information you’re expected to know in order to register properly.

We don’t want you to learn the hard way that registering in SAM with incorrect or incomplete information is worse than not registering at all.

The Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) provides advice to Georgia businesses every day on the subject of proper vendor registration. In the course of providing this assistance, our Procurement Counselors review many existing registrations and registrations in progress. Based on our reviews, GTPAC estimates that at least 20 percent of the 600,000 firms presently registered in SAM have errors in their records. The mistakes range from misspelled words to empty data fields, to incomplete entries, to selection of incorrect procurement codes, and other flaws. As a result, these vendors miss-out on government contract opportunities either because they are screened-out for not exhibiting attention-to-detail or – because of incomplete information – they cannot be identified by government buyers.

SAM is the federal government’s primary source for identifying potential vendors. Every federal agency, both civilian and military, utilizes the SAM database. Many federal contract officers initially determine whether a contract should be set-aside exclusively for 8(a), HUBZone, woman-owned, or service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses based on firms identifying themselves with these designations in SAM. Prime contractors also use SAM to identify potential subcontractors and suppliers, with emphasis on the various small business socio-economic categories like those just mentioned.  Even state and local governments sometimes consult the federal database to find potential vendors who are interested in the broader governmental marketplace. In addition, all businesses, non-profits, and units of state and local government must be registered in SAM in order to receive federal payments and disbursements against contracts and grants.

Are you beginning to see proper registration in SAM in a new light, including what an important tool SAM is to effectively market yourself to the government?  Truly, SAM is much more than a mere task to quickly get out of the way!

In preparation for registration in SAM, there are several steps you should take.. Among these steps are:

  1. Obtain a TIN/EIN for your business from the IRS. (Even if your business is a sole proprietorship, it’s important — because of identity-theft considerations — that you do not operate your business using your Social Security number.)
  2. Obtain a DUNS number for your business. (Don’t pay anyone for this; a DUNS number can be obtained from Dunn & Bradstreet (D&B) at no cost via the web within a day or two.)
  3. Research and identify the PSC/FSC and NAICS codes most appropriate to your business. (Every product and service is classified by these federal numbering systems, and it’s essential that you accurately identify the codes that are applicable to your business.)
  4. Determine whether your business meets the SBA’s small business size standard. (Virtually every federal contract valued at less than $100,000 is awarded to small businesses, so you need to know if you qualify.)
  5. Write a brief capabilities statement. (You must have a grammatically-correct, short description of what your company does.)
  6. Identify “key words” associated with the nature of your business. (These words should be crafted from a government buyer’s perspective; in other words, think about what the government might ”call” what it is you do or sell.)
  7. Make a list of business references. (Be prepared to provide company name, contact person, dollar value, and date range of work.)

These are not all of the preparatory steps, but they are the most important ones.  Plan ahead!  It can take five days or more for your SAM registration to take effect because the SAM database must synchronize with D&B and IRS databases before activating your registration.

If you have questions or need help with any aspect of SAM, please consider taking advantage of GTPAC’s services in a comprehensive way. GTPAC provides assistance to help Georgia firms get ready as well as find and pursue contracting opportunities in federal, state, and local government markets. This assistance is provided free of charge.  Complete details on how to access GTPAC’s services can be found on our ABOUT US page.

And a great way to learn about how you can develop each of the 7 items listed above is by attending GTPAC’s “Introduction to Government Contracting” class or “Fundamentals of Working with the Government” briefing.  Click here to see the dates and locations of these no-cost training opportunities.

What if your business is outside the state of Georgia?  Take heart!  Expert, no-cost assistance with SAM and every other aspect of government contacting is available to companies — small and large — all across the United States (plus Guam and Puerto Rico) through procurement technical assistance centers (PTACs).  To find the PTAC nearest you, simply click here: http://www.aptac-us.org/new/Govt_Contracting/find.php.

For the latest news involving SAM, please visit: http://gtpac.org/tag/sam

© 2012, 2013, 2014 – Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center – All Rights Reserved.

Who gets government contracts?

July 26, 2012 by

The U.S. government is the world’s largest single purchaser of goods and services. According to USAspending.gov, the federal government spent $536 billion on contracts in fiscal year 2011 with outside providers of goods and services. Within that figure are not only prime contracts awarded to businesses large and small, but also many subcontracting successes for small businesses.

A new report looking at the extent to which small businesses are pursuing subcontracting opportunities has recently been published by American Express OPEN. Subcontracting and Teaming: Important Avenues to Procurement Success finds that nearly half (48 percent) of active small business contractors have contributed products and services as a subcontractor, deriving an average of 25 percent of their procurement revenue from subcontracts.

Teaming and Other Findings

Teaming (banding together with fellow small business owners on a more or less equal basis to pursue larger prime contracts than any could compete for alone) is pursued less frequently. Just over one-quarter (27 percent) of active small contractors have had some procurement revenue from teaming, garnering 9 percent of their procurement revenue from this activity.

Other key findings from the analysis include:

  • Small firms in two industries—the information sector (software, data processing) and professional/scientific/technical services (computer systems design, engineering, research)—are the most likely to be engaged in both subcontracting (62 percent and 65 percent, respectively, compared with the average of 48 percent) and teaming (42 percent and 40 percent, respectively, compared with the average of 27 percent).
  • Women and minorities are equally active in subcontracting as the average small-firm contractor, but minorities are more likely than average (35 percent compared with 27 percent) to be engaging in teaming.
  • Nearly one-third (29 percent) of active small-business contractors have experienced the oft-discussed phenomenon of being shut out by large prime contractors, meaning that they participated in a winning bid as a subcontractor, but subsequently did not participate in the fulfillment of that contract. The likelihood of this happening to a business rises with level of procurement experience.
  • On the flip side, nearly one-quarter (22 percent) of active small-firm contractors say that they have gotten other subcontracting opportunities after being recommended to a large prime contractor by a prime that they had performed successfully for in the past. This, too, is more likely to have happened to larger, more experienced small firms, as well as those in information and professional/scientific/technical services.

Experience Pays

While engagement in subcontracting and teaming rises with business size and procurement experience, the share of revenue from these two activities declines as small firms grow—mainly due to increased success in obtaining prime contracts. Firms that have been in the federal procurement marketplace for three years or less derive half of their contract revenue from prime contracts; that share rises to 60 percent among small firms that have been active federal contractors for a decade or more. Thus, pursuing subcontracting or teaming can be an excellent way for small-business owners to gain procurement experience, expand their networks, and improve their chances for contracting success.

Read the full report “Subcontracting and Teaming: Important Avenues to Procurement Success.”

For resources and tips on how to pursue federal government contracting opportunities, visit http://www.openforum.com/governmentcontracting. And to learn more about this and other reports focused on small business challenges and successes in federal contracting, click here.

Julie Weeks is the president and CEO of Womanable.  This article was published on June 19, 2012 by the American Express OPEN Forum at http://www.openforum.com/articles/who-gets-government-contracts?om_rid=NtsB5y&om_mid=_BQCYVxB8rLzo-0&om_lid=naxp4.

CCR closed until SAM emerges on July 30th

July 24, 2012 by

Effective 11:59 pm on Tuesday, July 24, 2012, no new vendor registrations can be submitted to the federal government.  Central Contractor Registration (CCR) is closing and will become part of SAM — System for Award Management — on Monday morning, July 30, 2012.

Thus, until the morning of July 30, 2012, vendors will not be able to initiate a new registration or modify an existing one.

Any registrations in process will be on hold until SAM goes live the morning of July 30, 2012.  If a firm is in the middle of a registration, the data submitted will be migrated to SAM.

Similarly, all existing vendor registrations — both active and inactive — will be migrated to SAM.

When it is time to renew a registration, vendors should go to SAM.gov, create a SAM user account, and follow the online instructions to validate and update the information. Vendors only need to register for a user account in SAM when it is time to begin updating their current registration. Vendors do not need to do anything right away.

If a vendor’s CCR record was scheduled to expire between July 16, 2012 and October 15, 2012, the government is extending that expiration date by 90 days. Vendors will receive an e-mail notification from CCR when their expiration date is extended.  Vendors will then receive standard e-mail reminders to update their records based on their new expiration date. Those future e-mail notifications will come from SAM.

CCR is just the first federal database to be transferred to SAM.  Federal Agency Registration (FedReg), the Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA), and the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS) also will be migrated into SAM.  One advantage to the creation of SAM is that it will reduce the number of passwords users need to remember, reduce the number of systems needed to enter and interact with, and reduce data redundancy by sharing the data across the award lifecycle.

Visit SAM.gov to learn more, or feel free to contact your nearest GTPAC procurement counselor for advice.  Our contact information is at http://gtpac.org/team-directory.

 

Cutting through red tape in government procurement

July 16, 2012 by

Do government purchasing departments drown prospective vendors and contractors in paperwork and procedures?

“I certainly believe there is too much red tape in selling to the government, which is driving up procurement costs on lower ticket items, which is the core of our business,” Steven Bosio, president of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based MarketLab, told Industry Market Trends (IMT).  MarketLab is a direct-mail catalog supplier of specialty products and services for health care professionals.

Keep reading this article at: http://news.thomasnet.com/IMT/2012/07/10/cutting-through-red-tape-in-government-procurement/