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August 1999
(c) P2C2 Group, Inc.

Proposals for Competitive Tasks

Increasingly, the federal government is turning to indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts. Ranging from very specific requirements to cafeteria-style GSA Schedules for technical and professional services, the contracts guarantee little or no business. Most of the revenues hinge on how many Task Orders the contractor wins. Usually, after winning an IDIQ contract, the contractor must prepare task-level proposals and compete with other companies to win the tasks.

How Task Order Proposals Are Different

Competitive proposals for tasks are very focused, and the guidelines for proposal preparation are often defined in the underlying IDIQ contract. A typical Task Order proposal might contain:

  • A one-page executive summary
  • A technical approach including a review of and response to the government's Task specifications, as well as information about deliverables
  • A task management plan that includes a schedule and GANTT chart, proposed personnel assignments, a task organization chart, a table with estimated hours for each labor category, and resumes of key personnel for the task
  • A brief cost proposal which multiplies the estimated labor hours by the hourly rates negotiated in the underlying IDIQ contract ... plus any Other Direct Costs that may be necessary to complete the job.

What's Missing

Proposals for tasks omit much of the paperwork and red tape that is common to full-blown government proposals. The underlying IDIQ contract takes care of that--where the contractor has already submitted:

  • A Schedule B of cost/pricing data (including hourly labor rates) for the base year and option years
  • Section K, Representations and Certifications
  • Past performance information (references)
  • Overall business, personnel, and technical capability information
  • Detailed backup about indirect cost rates and direct labor rates
  • Financial statements and/or Dun and Bradstreet information
  • A technical response to the IDIQ contract's overall Statement of Work.

What Matters

For competitive task awards, either the government's request for a task proposal or the underlying IDIQ contract will state the basis for selecting the successful contractor. It may be strictly on price, or it may be a "best value" proposal. The criteria for award will affect your approach to a successful proposal.

For awards made on price, remember that there are several ways to win. For service tasks, one way to win is to select labor categories with lower hourly rates. However, there are often smarter strategies. Assuming that a task award is based on the bottom-line, total task bid price:

  • You may want to consider a task team with more expensive hourly rates, who may be able to complete the job in half the labor hours (thereby resulting in a competitive bottom-line bid price).
  • Alternatively, you may be able to redesign the task workflow or the technical solution--so the customer gets the specified results for fewer labor hours and, therefore, a lower price.

For best value, you may want to emphasize a technical solution that the customer prefers ... or outstanding personnel that the customer would appreciate having on the task team. Other best-value strategies include use of your special corporate capabilities, adding value, or promising to complete the job faster. Examples of adding value include (1) introducing a solution that integrates easily with the customer's other processes and systems, or (2) describing how your solution will save time and trouble for the customer's personnel.

But like any proposal, your strategy will depend partly on the characteristics of your competitors who are also bidding the task. If a competitor named XYZ Corporation always has the lowest-priced labor or products, you will obviously need a strategy that offers more than low unit prices. If another competitor has the most experienced personnel, you probably won't be able to compete head-to-head on your resumes alone.

Thus, I haven't given you a "cookbook" recipe for winning task proposals. You have to use experience, judgment, and available marketing intelligence ... and translate that knowledge into a winning proposal.

Speaking Up

Your task proposal may not always be a written document. Increasingly, government agencies are asking for oral presentations--either in addition to or in lieu of a written proposal. You will probably want to leave a written document that is effective in reinforcing your presentation, but the oral presentation will be crucial as a means of showcasing key personnel and their first-hand ability to discuss technical solutions and management approach for the task.

Quick Miracles

Many IDIQ contracts require a quick response to requests for task proposals -- typically 5 or 10 days, sometimes less. This means that the Program Manager for the IDIQ contract should prepare effective boilerplate before it is needed. At minimum, this will include resumes, typical technical approaches, products, and solutions. The Contract Line Items (CLINs) should already be in a spread sheet, and it would be a good idea to set up project management software with the contract's labor categories and wage rates. Other good ideas include having a contract-specific cover for task proposals, a boilerplate cover letter, and electronic versions of any required task bidding forms.

A Little Extra Effort

My observation is that many companies knock themselves out in preparing a proposal to win the underlying IDIQ contract but then become casual about the task-level proposals. This is short sighted. Putting in 20% more effort than competitors in winning task competitions may yield millions of dollars--in a few cases, billions--of additional revenues. That's a result you can take to the bank.

Now Accepting New Projects

My intensive consulting work at the Executive Office of the President came to a successful conclusion in July, and I am eager to identify several new challenges. After nearly five months of turning away consulting projects, my schedule is now open. I'm interested in IT capital planning, acquisition projects, and studies.


We provide enterprise-level management consulting services for federal agencies and the contractors who support them. Our areas of specialization are Capital Planning and Investment Control, Enterprise Architecture, strategic planning, performance evaluation, and acquisition support including work statements. Our consulting specialty includes experience in many related areas such as CIO program support, earned value management, risk management, the C&A process for security, and customer satisfaction surveys.

Best wishes,

Jim Kendrick
4101 Denfeld Avenue
Kensington, MD 20895


The P2C2 Group, Inc.
4101 Denfeld Avenue | Kensington, MD 20895
Point of Contact: Jim Kendrick, President
phone: 301-942-7985 | fax: 301-942-7986

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