The root of my frustration with federal procurement is its inherent wastefulness. No, I didn't douse myself in patchouli this morning to rant about energy wasted running laptops late into the night before a submission deadline or wasted paper printing out multiple copies of technical and pricing volumes or even the wasted water from flushing the toilet after drinking so much crappy office coffee.
No. The procurement process wastes effort and ideas.
Every day, thousands of hours are spent chasing work that will never materialize. Of course, someone will win but far more will bid and lose. With a loss, all of the effort invested in preparing the RFP response is lost like heat to the universe. Waah. Of all of the time spent, a portion was spent in thoughtful consideration of the client's problem. (A bunch more was likely spent in silly internal color team meetings that boil down to wordsmithing and formatting but I'll save that rant for another day.)
On the contracting side, we know that clients often have someone in mind long before they issue a competitive RFP. Well-intentioned contracting regulations, however, make it difficult-- or impossible-- for clients to save everyone else the hassle and just say this.
A more upfront, transparent approach would be better. How about this process instead?
A federal client identifies a need. During the course of trying to address this need, they encounter someone who pitches a solution they like and think just might work. Instead of then going through the motions of a competitive RFP, the client would issue a "beat this" notice. Specifically, they'd describe the need, the end goal, the approach they're strongly considering, the solution provider (oh yeah, you'd have to name names), and the price they were willing to pay. The "beat this" notice would invite others to do just that... try to beat it.
As a contractor, you could then determine whether or not you could offer a better approach, a lower price, faster timeline, or whatever. Then you'd put a counter offer for consideration.
This alternative procurement strategy ensures that the government still gets a good-- or even better-- deal. The client need and favored approach is cracked open for all to see. Armed with this information, contractors could do a little sole-searching to figure out whether or not they really had a better, cheaper, faster offering. Time and effort is saved on both sides. Federal clients don't have to review proposals that don't meet their needs and contractors chase work with better awareness of the competition and their win probability.