At FP&C, we routinely have conversations with clients about the time it takes the government to do whatever it is they are waiting on the government to do. Often is the case, clients are pacing the floor clicking the browser refresh on in hopes the request for proposals (RFP) they know is coming “soon” has been uploaded by government procurement officials. The endless waiting leads to huge frustration, which leads to a negative outlook on doing business with the government.

While the angst associated with the “waiting game” is understandable, clients should not cave to the devil sitting on their shoulder to make rash decisions based on unknown information. In this post, we will briefly go through the procurement timeline from the government’s perspective. Keep in mind, a full multi-page essay could be written on every phase of this timeline, so this post just scratches the surface; however, there should be enough here to give a glimpse into why things take “so long” for the government to issue just about any document that signals progress toward awarding an opportunity.


In industry, we like to use the term “opportunity” for anything that has to do with a government-purchased effort. The first thing we coach clients on is that while we may view them as opportunities, the government views them as mission nrequirements. They are procuring a good or service because they need to get their job done. And, believe it or not, they do not have an endless budget to buy the things they need to do that job.

Understanding the government’s motivation as they enter into the requirements development phase will help manage your expectations on what’s to come. In this phase, the government will be performing market research to help them understand what’s commercially available. Sometimes what’s available to the general public is fine for their needs and sometimes they need to alter a commercial item to fit their need. Either way, the government has a lot of work to do in figuring out how best to articulate the requirement to industry so they actually procure the thing they are hoping to buy.

How Can a Vendor Help?

When the government is seeking information from industry in this phase, it is not an automatic process where there is an RFP that is issued for vendors to bid on. The requirements development phase can be sloppy…and lengthy. The first thing you can do is be patient. Track the opportunity, collect information and use it to decide if it is an opportunity you want to compete for when the RFP comes out. However, that does not help the government.

If you want to help them out, while also helping yourself, put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Understand they are almost always NOT allowed to directly award something to a specific contractor. Yes, it does happen. No, it’s not easy. As the government works to understand their

requirement, use your knowledge to help them refine it. Help them to understand the competitive landscape so they can make appropriate set-aside decisions. And help them to understand how to set up the contract vehicle and RFP so they can align the risk-reward equation in a way that benefits both. If you are willing to provide this level of assistance in the early stages, you might just find that the RFP will be skewed in your favor. We call this shaping an opportunity.

How Long Can It Take?

This is the million-dollar question – sometimes literally. There are a lot of variables that go into answering this. If the government is simply re-procuring an existing service because the current contract is expiring, the market research effort and requirements development phase may not take as long. However, if there is a significant change, then it will be a more intensive effort requiring a longer lead time.

What isn’t as obvious is everything that is going on within the government team to manage the initiation of a procurement. Market research feeds the budgeting process, which by itself can create a months-long endeavor. The procurement team at this juncture will be working on developing its acquisition plan and strategy. Within the plan, several elements require government action. All of this must be completed before they will be approved to release an RFP for industry to respond to. There is myriad actions that I can go into detail on, but the larger point is, the government has a process that can be challenging for them to navigate and that translates to more time spent in this early phase. To make matters frustrating to us in industry, there is – by design – little to no transparency in this process. Remember though, this is the government’s requirement, not our opportunity.

In a subsequent post, we will discuss the timeline associated with the source selection process and why things take “forever” in a government proposal evaluation.

At FP&C Consulting, our skilled consultants are uniquely adept at shaping government opportunities because our team members have been on the government side doing the procuring. Our former contracting officers know firsthand the challenges government procurement officials face in meeting mission needs through a contracted effort. Give us a call and let us help you manage this process with a unique contextual awareness your competitors are unlikely to have.

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