Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Big data, procurements, and the "annoyance factor"

I generally work on state and local proposals, but occasionally I get involved in a proposal to a Federal agency. By its sheer purchasing power, the U.S. Federal government has a measurable impact on the economy, and much of that impact comes through Requests for Proposal (RFPs) that are issued by contracting officers (COs).

Contracting officers are people too. One CO will do things one way, while another will do things another way.

What if you could compare COs? It's easy to do, since the CO for any particular procurement is publicly known, and data on the procurement is available.

So GovTribe created the Purse String Index.

The Purse String Index is an evaluation of CO performance across the three variables that, in our experience, speak to productivity and efficiency....

While the three variables (frequency, velocity, and magnitude) are certainly interesting, the part that caught my attention was something called "the Annoyance Factor." And no, this is not a measurement of the number of times a Contracting Officer responds with a two-word answer that is unrelated to the original question.

The Annoyance Factor is derived from two things - the number of amendments or modifications issued prior to award, and the number of times the due date changed. Changing the requirements and moving the timeline for a procurement costs companies money, so we thought this was only fair.

Even if you don't work in Federal proposals, you've probably encountered the "Annoyance Factor" in your own work. Perhaps your boss or your boss' boss asks you to do something, and after a while asks you to do it just a little bit differently. Or perhaps something that was due on Wednesday the 10th is now due on Friday the 12th...or Monday the 8th.

If you thrive on predictability, then the "Annoyance Factor" can truly be annoying. If, however, you love chaos, then perhaps the Annoyance Factor should be renamed the Fun Factor.

Getting back to the Purse String Index, it was specifically applied to COs at the Department of Homeland Security. And I'm sure that DHS is not pleased. In the same way that a basketball team may request that a particular referee not be assigned to a basketball game, now private companies are probably going to request that a particular CO not be assigned to a particular procurement.

P.S. Neither Ayo Kimathi nor Paulette Creighton were/are Contracting Officers.
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