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Help Industry Help You - Transparency is More Than You Think

Transparency doesn’t always have to mean giving away all of your evaluation information, your full budget details, your “secret sauce” as the Government. What it should be though, and something I…

Help Industry Help You - Transparency is More Than You Think

Help Industry Help You - Transparency is More Than You Think
Mr. Brian Serra
Transparency doesn’t always have to mean giving away all of your evaluation information, your full budget details, your “secret sauce” as the Government. What it should be though, and something I wish had tried harder to do as a Contracting/Agreements Officer, is giving your industry partners a clear and legitimate opportunity to give you the buyer the best, most right, solution to your problem.

I can’t count how many times I relied on a templated version of a Request for Proposals or Request for Solutions to lay out my request. I gave lip service to “be concise” and “use plain language” but did I really boil it down and reduce to following the Brother-in-Law Test? Rarely. Much easier to just push things along.
The Brother-in-Law Test is a not-quite-patented idea I created to try and get my customers to just tell me what they wanted to buy. As you may have guessed, the goal is to describe your requirement in such a way that even your most loved/hated Brother-in-Law could understand it. Looking back on it though, I think this boiled it down a little TOO generically at times. The Government becomes over reliant on saying “Hey Industry, you’re the smart folks – you tell US what is in the art of the possible! We just want something awesome that is next generation and also super cheap (but also please don’t ask us our budget).” The reality is this though, we live in a specialized world trying to solve really hard defense-specific problems. Defense contractors (nontraditional AND traditional) need guidance! What has worked and what hasn’t? Why? What is your use case for the new technology? What are the known restrictions?

Sometimes in an effort to promote a fair and honest competition, we become so vague that no one can help. When I mentioned in my first paragraph about the “most right” solution, it’s important to realize that lots of people can solve tech problems and provide solutions – but not many people can GUESS the real issues you have. The more technical understanding [note: this does not mean generating more requirements] you can provide, COMBINED with the plain language around it, the more you can help scope people to your true problem. This is the real transparency that industry needs to better focus – and to help you get after solving your hard problems.
So keep it simple, keep Killing Your Acronyms (KYAs) whenever possible, but don’t forget to help people really understand your problems, limitations, and previous successes. It’s a win-win.

This is the second edition of the “More Than You Think” series from Brian Serra, DAU Other Transactions Subject Matter Expert. You can read “Commercial Solutions Opening – More Than You Think!” here.