Part 3 – Past Performance
This article is part of the shortened content of a training course I held last year at our company for a number of trainees on how to write winning proposals for MATOC or IDIQ contracts. There are 10 parts to this training. In the previous article, we went over the Technical Solution section of the proposal. This article is about the Past Performance section of the proposal.
Why Past Performance
Past performance evaluations are required for any construction contract exceeding $650,000, any service contract exceeding $150,000, and any architect-engineering contract exceeding $30,000. Almost every proposal you write including all MATOC proposals have a requirement for information on past performance. The government uses this information to evaluate how well your company has performed on similar programs and expects your past performance to be a predictor of how well you will perform on the project you are currently bidding. In fact, without demonstrating strong past performance, there is a very low likelihood of winning the contract.
What is Past Performance
Past performance comprises a set of specific contracts that you select to demonstrate how well your company, or your team, has performed on contracts that are similar in size, scope, and complexity to your current bid. Of course, each RFP will be very strict about the information you need to provide when you describe each past-performance contract. Although it may seem obvious, you really do need to provide all the requested information in order to submit a “compliant” proposal.
Past Performance vs Past Experience
Past experience, which is sometimes confused with past performance, is about the broader issue of what experience and expertise your company or your team has gained from all of its contract work and the work of its teammates. Past performance is all about relevancy and how well you performed the work you’re referencing.
Selecting Contracts: Recency, Relevancy & Performance
Past performance information must be relevant and recent regarding your actions under previously awarded contracts. Similar or relevant past performance efforts could be defined by the size, scope, complexity, and contract type. The government will consider the quality of performance and relevancy of the contract when developing your past-performance score. However, performance is more important than relevancy. It is better to showcase your best-performing contracts and argue that they are relevant than to select contracts that are highly relevant and had poor performance.
The description of the work is where you can stand out. Write your response to not only show that you performed relevant work — which every bidder does — but that you also had specific accomplishments that were meaningful to the government. Don’t just rewrite the statement of work from the contract you are citing. Focus on accomplishments because it’s these achievements that can make your contract past performance stand out from the crowd.
Unless specifically asked to do otherwise, concentrate on the following:
- Technical Performance (Quality of Product/Service), including any corrective actions taken and any performance improvements and quality results.
- Cost Control, including reductions, value engineering and use of other innovative management techniques, and effective corrective actions that facilitated cost reductions
- Schedule (Timeliness), including exceeding delivery requirements and early deliveries to the Government’s benefit, quickly resolving delivery issues and effective corrective actions
- Business Relations, including professional, responsive and proactive attitude, and significantly exceeding expectations with user satisfaction as well as exceeding SB/SDB subcontractor goals. Also can mention implementing minor changes without cost impact, limited change proposals and timely difinitization of change proposals.
To round it up, make sure you have outstanding past performance on the contracts you select to showcase.
Expect the government evaluator to ask your customers how well you performed in each contract. This is done via a formal PPQ (Past Performance Questionnaire) submission process and/or direct communication with your customers.
Internally, the government keeps two databases—the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS) and Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS)—to determine how well your company performs its contracts. Because past-performance ratings are such an important factor in proposal evaluations, every company should regularly review its CPARS ratings and challenge any evaluations they consider unfair.
Government Past Performance evaluation and PPIRS reports often decide who will win and who will lose a contract. When submitting a government contract proposal, a common mistake made by companies is not including sufficient information including positive PPIRS information. Since the agency evaluating your proposal is not obligated to check PPIRS, you should ensure that positive information is included in your proposal. Conversely, if you know that you have negative information in your PPIRS/CPARS system, it is a good idea to be proactive, include that and mention the reasons you think it should not be considered for this proposal or how you have since overcome the deficiencies.
Past Performance of Subcontractors, JVs, Teams and Startups
The FAR permits agencies to take into account information in the PPIRS, including a parent, affiliated, and predecessor companies, key personnel, and major subcontractors when the information relates to an acquisition. Unless expressly prohibited, a proposed subcontractor’s past performance evaluation can be considered in evaluating your past performance.
Therefore if you think that including your subcontractor’s past performance can augment and increase the credibility of your past performance evaluation rating, by all means do include it. Just remember that you need to mention that it belongs to your subcontractor; it is also better if you explain how it is relevant. Note that sometimes RFPs ask that subcontractors sign a formal letter allowing you to do this; don’t forget to get that signature or you will be non-compliant.
In the case of a newly formed business entity, where the company is relying mostly on the past performance and experience of its key personnel, go ahead and use their information; but the proposal must clearly explain “whose” past performance, and “how” that past performance is relevant to the procurement.
- Put yourself in the shoes of the evaluators of your past performance and try to evaluate and rank each contract, based on performance, relevancy and recency. Doing that will tell you which contracts to pick to showcase in your past performance.
- “One size fits” all approach doesn’t work. Work on your assets (your contracts or your subs/team/key personnel past performance) each time and for every bid.
- Always be up-to-date about all current and recently-completed contracts: know their weak and strong points and exploit that.
- Constantly monitor your PPI rating in the government databases and challenge any mistakes to ensure you have the correct information in their database.
- Examine your subcontractor/teammate’s PPI rating before using their contract as part of the past performance. Don’t go for surprises.
In the next article, we will go over Past Experience.
(See my other articles at our blog at http://www.gdicwins.com/blog/)