The new standard: Exceed expectations

The new standard: Exceed expectations

In this competitive environment, meeting expectations is no longer good enough for securing a follow-on contract, as D.C.-based Concepts & Strategies Inc. found in a recent protest decision.

Protesting contractor: Concepts & Strategies Inc.,

Contracting agency: General Services Administration

Protest issue: Whether a proposal was properly evaluated for technical capability and past performance

GAO decision, Jan. 12, 2012: Denied.

Post-mortem: Among the many grounds included in its protest, ConStrat took notion with the GSA’s decision to not rate the company at the highest level for past performance, given that the incumbent had fulfilled the requirements under the prior contract.

But it seems from the protest that the agency decided to hold the company to a higher standard. GSA admitted that ConStrat had successfully performed the requirements of the contract, but found that it had “labored to develop creative solutions” and failed to “make the office significantly better.” As a result of failing to exceed the contract requirements in this way, ConStrat was given less than the highest rating for past performance, while the contract winner — CACI International Inc. — was given the highest rating possible for a contract it had never performed.

Worth noting, it is clear from the protest that there was less than an ideal working relationship between the contract staff and ConStrat, with mention of multiple investigations by the inspector. This did not likely help the company’ case.

The take away here is simple: fulfilling the contract is no longer enough to be competitive for follow-on work, nor does being an incumbent automatically offer an advantage. Creativity and surpassing expectation is more and more often the standard for agencies, which GAO found here to be perfectly reasonable.

Having a good working relationship with the customer doesn’t hurt either.