Episode 28: Breaking down Scorecard Bids with Joe Salgado 

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Victoria Kruemmer: Hello, and welcome back to the highlight cast in the new year, 2023. We’re excited to start the new year with a new group of folks on the show. My name is Victoria Kruemmer , the marketing manager here at highlight. We’re also joined by Emily Scantlebury, our director of corporate portfolio development from our business development team.

Welcome Emily, and happy to have you on today. 

Emilie Scantlebury: Hey, Victoria. Happy to be here. Thanks for having me. 

Victoria Kruemmer: Of course. Even more excited, we have Joe Salgado from the Red Team Consulting joining us today on the show. Joe is the GWAC and IDIQ General Manager supporting teams, um, not only to bid on these, but also win slots after these sought after contracts. So hi, Joe, and welcome. 

Joe Salgado: Hey there. It’s great to be here and thank you for having us, Victoria. 

Victoria Kruemmer: Would you start us off, Joe, by just telling us a little bit more about Red Team and your role in the RFP process for your clients? 

Joe Salgado: Yeah, sure. The Red Team Consulting is, we’re based out of Reston, Virginia, but our employees are all around the country. And we have consultants that help with everything for the full life cycle of a business development. Starting with Growth and developing opportunities and developing pipelines. We have a general manager that focuses solely on that, along with consultants that can help any client focus in on a service area or a offering that will be attractive to the federal government. And then we have a capture organization also that helps out once those opportunities have been identified, then we have consultants that can either do full. Capture life cycle, which is everything from identification to moving into a proposal phase or parts of it. So a black hat situation, competitive analysis, wind theming, hot button identification, call planning, all of those things we have consultants that can help out with, and then we have proposal management and proposal management is obviously from the time the RFP comes out to the time that it’s submitted and anything that. It was on post, uh, submission and we have proposal managers, writers, document specialists, which is something we’ll talk about today, I’m sure. And, um, as well as pricing experts, uh, to help with all parts of our proposal phase and then myself, I’m involved in the pursuit and capture of Government wide acquisition contracts or multiple award contracts and IDIQs, which stands for indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contracts, which are usually multiple year contracts with multiple awardees and are in the usual. Billions of dollars of overall contract value. And then what we do, what I do is actually look at each one of these and identify the ways that companies can pursue them, what they need to pursue them, those that can pursue them and those that can’t pursue them. And then. I work with our consultants either on the capture or the proposal management or the growth side to kind of give them the strategy that they need. And I’m a resource that they can come back to bounce ideas off of specifically to their customers. I also do presentations, uh, for multiple industry and organizations to help promote these vehicles, as well as to explain what is going on with these vehicles on a global basis.

Victoria Kruemmer: Awesome. I know you guys run the full gamut of proposal support and just the whole capture process from start to finish.

Joe Salgado: Yeah. 

Victoria Kruemmer: So for a lot of teams, they just submitted Polaris. And as we look forward into 2023, Oasis Plus is on a lot of people’s radar. So for many people, they’re right in the middle of the mix in terms of scorecards. And some people might be just learning what they are and how to approach them. So Emily, Joe. For all of those new to GovCon or even just scorecard bids, what is a scorecard bid, and why is it significant in this discussion around, you know, GWACs and IDIQs? 

Emilie Scantlebury: Yeah, a scorecard bid versus an RFP, they have some critical differences. The first and foremost, of course, is the actual scoring element of the requirement in your response. Scorecard bids usually lay out a number of different qualifications that they are looking for to prove that you as the offeror are credible and capable of supporting task orders of size and scope that are going to be procured under the vehicle. So these qualifications could look anything like The size and dollar value of the past performance is that you’re citing. They could look like organizational capabilities, such as your ISO or CMMI certifications. Um, they could look like qualifications for OCONUS work, if the vehicle encompasses some out of country or in country support. So it really spreads the gamut. They’re usually pivoted off of a set of past performance, either like five or 10 references that you can use to really maximize your scoring points. And I think the. Really interesting part from my perspective on score carpets versus some RFPs is that you can get really creative with how you are looking at your past performance and that creativity often sparks new knowledge on what’s in your portfolio. You know, oh, I didn’t realize that for project. Hey, we’re not just doing cyber security. We’re doing cyber security and policy writing as an example. So it’s good all around from an offer standpoint, and it really forces you to take that hard look at your portfolio. But Joe, did I capture that well? What do you think? 

Joe Salgado: Yeah. And just to explain what a traditional RFP entails is usually there is a written response to a technical, sometimes a management, and then a past performance write up. What the scorecards have Typically done is taking that technical element as well as the past performance element in most cases and change them to a binary scoring. What you’re looking at is with federal acquisition regulations, all of these vehicles have to evaluate the technical merit of each one of these. And they can, you can do it in multiple ways. In some cases, you’ve probably heard of blue, green, yellow, red evaluations. What you’re doing with a scorecard is just stack ranking them in the same way. But doing it with binary elements, and that’s a very key part of these scorecards is that it has to be something that is provable, and it has to be something that’s quantifiable. Both of those things are very important. So saying you did very good or using adjectival responses, which might be written in some cases, is really hard to do on a scorecard. You have to show in a very succinct way that you’ve done work. The government. Has some classification codes and certain things that they use that allows to show something has been done. Let’s call it that. It’s not what the intended purposes of those classification codes was. So it’s a situation where it’s interesting. 

Victoria Kruemmer: So from a government perspective, what do you think the inherent benefit of a government customer is to use a scorecard over an RFP? 

Joe Salgado: Usually the benefit to that is these contracts that are using scorecards primarily are usually 5 to 10 year contracts. And in some cases the contracts have met their ceilings or dollar ceilings for the overall contract. And they are in a. Time crunch actually to try to get these re awarded. Uh, in other cases, it’s just been a trend that has taken hold, for example, general Services administration, probably 15 years ago now with the, uh, with the O original Oasis contract. They were the first ones to really do the modern scorecards that we’re seeing right now. And that is where a lot of this was worked out through questions and answers and market surveys, and a lot of different things that were going on at that time. And so GSA has kind of adopted using this for almost all of their GWACs and IDIQs at this point. So you’re seeing some element of this at 8a stars. You’ve seen it in Alliant. You’ve seen it now in Polaris, which just was last year, and you’re seeing it in Oasis. Plus an alliance to recover

Emilie Scantlebury: and to build on that, Joe, I think from my perspective, what I hear from the government is the scorecard bids are creating a pool of very much vetted offerers that are getting on the vehicle because you said it very well. The scorecard nature leaves. There is very little, if no room for adjectival or kind of more, let’s call it descriptive words in a technical approach. It is tried and true. You either did it or you didn’t. You did not, you either have the qualification or you do not either qualify or you do not. And so it’s just, yeah, it’s creating that more seasoned vetted pool of offers. Good job. 

Joe Salgado: Exactly. And it’s very hard to write around as they say, the fact that you don’t have the qualifications or something, and it does drive towards that.

Victoria Kruemmer: From a contractor perspective, would you say that there are the same benefits to the contractor in terms of there’s a tried and true? You either have it or you don’t kind of approach to a scorecard versus an RFP. Do you think that it’s supported a more transparent procurement process from a contractor standpoint as well?

Joe Salgado: It’s, it’s caused friction in some cases, and for those contractors, for unrestricted contractors, especially those very large contractors that usually have acronyms for names, it’s, it’s been accepted because they do have the experience that’s required, because what really comes down to, as Emily said, there is some points that are given for certifications, accounting systems, and a few other areas. But they’re not the real bulk of the points. The bulk of the points are usually very tied into the experience of the contractor. And what happens here is there’s pressure on all these GWACs because they’re 10 year contracts that usually have in some cases at year five. The opportunity for what’s called an on ramp so new contractors can come in at year five So a 10 year contract for a government wide acquisition contract for it services Creates a lot of pressure on the contractor community, especially the small businesses to say, I want that 10 year contract for the next 10 years. So, I am going to move heaven and earth to get it, but on a scorecard basis, if they don’t have the experience required to get that. Then it leads to looking at other options is what I’m going to say right now, and really, those other options is teaming joint ventures and a lot of things that are offered to small businesses through the SBA regulations that exist that then create a Unintended joint ventures. Let’s call it that things that normally wouldn’t happen in a normal business situation, start to happen to address that pressure to say, okay, I am going to team up with this company because they can give me three extra performances to get me 400 extra points. And, um, we might not get along that great, but we all, we both will be in a, 10 years, which If you were a bank and somebody said that as a business plan to you, you might go, should I give you that money? So that’s a situation where you are really looking at a lot of different things going on that is unnatural due to the fact that these scorecards exist. And the biggest area of point scoring is really the experience points. 

Victoria Kruemmer: So we’ve kind of already touched on how these are inherently different from RFPs. So, with that being said, what are some of the best practices for preparing for a scorecard versus, you know, that traditional RFP? What kind of preparation would you come in with versus, you know, traditional RFP? 

Joe Salgado: Emily, do you want to jump in or I can jump in too? The way that I look at this is that Emily touched on this earlier on, getting to know your existing work, because you’re usually looking at experience examples for three to five years back, and I mentioned earlier on, or I alluded to the way that experience examples are coded, there is something called the North American Industry Classification System, or I can’t believe I can remember that, which stands for, it’s commonly referred to as NAICS or NAICS or NAICS codes. You’ll hear that a lot in a lot of different discussions. Those are codes that are, that were assigned for contracting officers to classify how work is performed. It usually is how the contracting officers define what a small business is. businesses. But because there is a lack thereof of any other binary way of describing work, that’s also how the scorecards are figuring out whether something is relevant or not. Um, it’s not what it’s intended purpose has ever been, but it’s what the scorecard contracts are using as a automatic, this is relevant. Usually with all the scorecards, there is a secondary way where you can get a contracting officer’s signature to validate something, but NAICS codes has been the way that they have always usually classify whether something is relevant or not. So getting to know what all of your NAICS codes on all your existing work is the first thing that you want to do. You want to find out what those are. You want to FBDS documentation because almost all of these scorecards are asking for that information. That’s what determines how much the value is of something. It determines certain types of contracts have, that have been awarded. It is a signifier for a lot of that information. One thing we haven’t talked about is commercial work. And in some cases, as you, if you are a subcontractor on experience, then that is. Classified as commercial work as well. So getting your commercial information as much as possible to understand everything that it is that you’re doing. And then it usually takes on the contractor side to do a scorecard bid, a lot of investigation. It’s interviewing your program managers, finding out people from that are working actually on site, what they are doing at all times. That is very important to figure that out. 

Emilie Scantlebury: Yeah, Joe, you touched on an important point that I want to expand upon, which is. A lot of times these vehicles, companies track them for a significant amount of time, call it 12, 18, sometimes in many cases, even longer than that. And we all anxiously await the drop of a draft scorecard so that we can start applying that documentation. All of that pulls down of, okay, here are my suite of opportunities and past performance programs I can reference. And here’s my documentation. And. Let me start on that draft scorecard. And the one thing I’ll add on that is. Make sure you have a contingency plan there. These opportunities as they move through draft cycles, and then sometimes as they are in the post RFP stage and as amendments are issued, they can change. So, removing your horse blinders from yourself, and you are taking a 360 view at your entire portfolio, and you are prepped to slide in project. B for project a, should the need come is critical because they move fast after the are dropped and often I joke with some of my colleagues. It’s like trying to go in a game of thrones at season 5 after an RFP trustee can’t just jump in. If you are the point of contact for your organization, and you are working this bid, and you are coordinating with your teams, that preparation is critical from my perspective. 

Joe Salgado: Agreed, and in some cases, a lot of the what I’ve heard is people all when I talk to clients, they want to apply the rules of a previous scorecard to the current scorecard. They are working on it. play by the rules of the game that you are working on, not by the previous rules. And there are different government agencies who look at things differently, as well as set up rules. So the rules are what you are playing on, not on what happened on a Nitech bid a few years ago or a GSA bid, or I’ll bring up those names. They’re all very different and they have different peculiarities. 

Emilie Scantlebury: Yeah, that’s a really good point, Joe. 

Victoria Kruemmer: So, kind of shifting gears here, I, before we kind of hopped on this recording, we were chatting a little bit about just the history of scorecard bids and looking back all the way to the original Oasis as kind of the modern scorecard, to take Joe’s terms from earlier. What kind of trends are we seeing now? I know you just mentioned about. Six different ones that have come out and are coming out over the next year. So what kind of trends are we seeing? And also what kind of things do you guys anticipate to continue seeing? 

Joe Salgado: I’ll jump first and then let you provide color there, Emily. But what I see more and more now, and the government is moving more and more to this type of bid because they’re not looking forward to re competing these, this is a lot of work for them. You’re talking about thousands of proposals coming in at any given time. time. And honestly, the vehicle itself does not hold the dollar value. They want that to be awarded so the task orders can be completed, not for the award of the actual general vehicle. For contractors, that award of that general vehicle is incredibly important. They’re the crown jewels of the federal contractor. So what everybody is looking at is resources. If you listen to the way that CIO SP4 was discussed at the beginning of the draft RFP process. The thing that they were most concerned about and I always listen to hear what the contracting shop is most concerned about. They were most concerned about the number of proposals they were going to get and how many they were going to have to evaluate. The scorecard was a solution to their risks. Same thing, um, when it comes to other vehicles, you’re seeing that Vehicles are hitting their ceilings right now. So VAT 4NG2 announced the draft at the end of the year last year and dropped one, and they’re planning on competing that contract next month. So it’s a situation where it’s very quickly happening and they’re hitting their ceiling and they have to get another contract award and they have taken what has traditionally been a very. Classic technical sample task order, pricing response, and switch the entire contract to a scorecard. So you’re seeing these large vehicles that have billions of dollars attached to them, really on the vehicle side, moving to a scorecard approach, and then letting the task orders be where what we’ve been describing as traditional RFP response, uh, reside.

Emilie Scantlebury: You’re spot on Joe. And there’s. A lot that we’re seeing patterned in that way, but we’re also seeing some new interesting things like on Oasis plus with a qualifying threshold. I’m really interested to see how this plays out in future procurements over the next and I’m talking big time 510 years when we look at scorecard bins. Will that take hold? Will it have footing? Is it as quote protest proof as we all hope it is? Because, you know, they are the crown jewels. These are what provides the license to fish, or whatever phrase you want to use, for offerers to go and win new work, to provide more career opportunities for their folks on staff, for the government to procure from vetted offerers, if you will. And so, um, We all want the protest Nature behind some of these vehicles to be more limited and i’m really curious to see if that’s going to take hold 

Joe Salgado: And that’s the one that i’m most interested in because i’ve got two pressures that I see That creates a lot of this protest I think the way that we talked about a pre priority recording was is there a way to make these types of bids protest proof? the answer is I don’t know because The pressures that are there Are very interesting and the two pressures I see the highest is this 10 year. I can’t get a contract for 10 years and the other is I can’t get to the right about a point or I don’t know what that threshold is. Those are the 2 questions whenever I present on any contract with the scorecard. That’s the things that everybody wants to know is what’s the threshold going to be. So when it comes down to that. What Oasis is doing is, and it’s very interesting because in a lot of cases, they don’t want to be called a scorecard. They’re using the term qualification matrix, and they’re not even using the word points. They’re using the word credits. But behind that, they are providing the threshold. Any there is an unlimited award pool. If you meet the threshold, you get a contract. Secondarily, they’re using something called ongoing on ramps or frequent on ramps has been used. Also, the terminology that states that when you meet the threshold requirements, their intention is to allow for any bids to come in at any time. So it’s not a situation where you only have a shot at this every 5 to 10 years. It’s. When you meet the threshold, you’re a qualified vendor. You get on a lot of subcontractors that are higher up on the food chain are saying, well, wait a minute, that’s a schedule. It’s not a schedule because there will be cost plus, uh, contracting and these thresholds are not minimal. A schedule is something that if you have minimal qualifications, you can get one. And when you look at the elements of what you need to do to get to the credits to meet the thresholds, it’s above and beyond what a schedule. 

Victoria Kruemmer: Well, you mentioned this a little bit earlier too, is that there’s a big strategy around how do you make sure that you qualify for these from a credits or a points perspective in terms of, you know, we have those opportunistic joint ventures, if you will, and kind of. Question for you and Emily. How does that impact the access to these scorecard bids? How does it impact the access to these vehicles also, um, for small businesses, mids like Highlight, and even larges? 

Joe Salgado: It’s an interesting scenario because what we are running into is then when you have a limited award pool, it’s a situation where you are beginning to winnow down. The number of awards. So let’s say from what I’ve heard for T4 and G2, there’s going to be 30 awards, 15 for unrestricted, 15 for small businesses. For the unrestricted offers, it’s going to be hard to create joint ventures because they don’t have the same benefits that a small business joint venture or a men or protege joint venture might have. So, but for the small business pool, it becomes. Okay, well, wait a minute. How do I get an actual award? If I’m just a small business, it’s under 30 million because there’s only 15 spots, one goes to a hub zone, one goes to aluminum, small business. And now we’re, now we’re at 13. And so if you are trying to only make points, you’re trying to create a super team at that point. Especially if teaming is open and what you’re trying to do is try to get this super team to be able to get as many points as quickly as possible and you have created an entity potentially that’s bidding on this that is better than everybody else. But the question that the community has for. VA at that point is, are you really getting the best contractor to do the work that you’re asking for? Because of SBA regulations and the way that scorecards are built, both of which were created in vacuums separate from each other, you have opportunities to go after these in ways that might not result in what their intended purposes were.

Victoria Kruemmer: So, as we sort of wrap up on our scorecard discussion, as you know, I know a lot of people are going after the VA opportunity that you just mentioned and Oasis Plus right around the corner. Emily, Joe, what is your top piece of advice for folks as they prepare for these scorecard bits? 

Emilie Scantlebury: I think from an advice standpoint, listen to what the government is saying closely. They are providing information to you intentionally. And I’ve noticed a high level of transparency from government to industry on the transidentity scorecard bids. I had the privilege of going to the ACT IAG Imagination ELC event, um, back in October. Both the Alliant team and the OASIS Plus team were there briefing. Um, at the end of the conference, they are out there in industry talking. Go listen, read the RFP to Joe’s earlier point. Don’t take what happened in Polaris as what’s going to happen in Oasis plus and for that matter. Don’t even take what you are reading necessarily in the draft scorecard in OASIS Plus as tried and true and that’s going to be what it looks like at the final stage. Stay open, stay flexible, know your portfolio, know how you can use it to your advantage. And the last piece of advice, and we were talking a little bit about this before the recording started. Getting on a vehicle is point A, and that’s great, and that adds a lot to your portfolio, but consider a task order strategy. Getting on these vehicles is only as good as you can win task orders. It’s only going to drive business and add to your strategy as good as you can add programs to your portfolio. And, you know, taking that into consideration and really thinking about how you’re going to be able to respond to those task order RFPs needs to be a part of the discussion when it is a draft RFP at the vehicle level. So that would be my advice. 

Joe Salgado: I second everything that you just said, Emily. And what I like to do also with these scorecards or any vehicle that I’m looking at is be empathetic to the government, understand what their driving factors are. And to Emily’s point of listening to each of these contracting officers speak whenever you can. If there’s so many more virtual events, a lot of what I could understand and people were like, how do you know that this was going to happen on CIOS before Polaris? And the other was like, well, it was the only natural Conclusion after what I heard Brian Goodger say on this event here is that he’s trying to get to this point. And this is the only avenue that he has to get there. So it’s not just the reading of the RFP, but it’s also understanding who it is that’s driving the RFP. fees. And when you are empathetic to them, then when you are asking for something to change, you’re usually asking for something to change in the right way in terms of helping them get through their process. Because none of these contracting officers or program offices want to deal with protests. They are a natural occurrence, especially when the pressure that we’ve discussed on this already, um, is as high as it is. But when it comes down to it, they want to get these awarded so that they can start getting the task orders running. So knowing that helped them drive towards getting these things awarded. I understand that everybody wants these and there’s a lot of pressure corporately to get each one of these, but you’re going to get a lot more. If you’re empathetic to what all players are doing and looking at things that are working well, as well as trying to fix those things that you know, might have.

Victoria Kruemmer: Awesome. Well, I’m sure everyone listening in today is going to love all of these tips and advice. I know everyone is anxiously awaiting and preparing for a lot of the scorecard bids that we’re seeing coming out. I would say, make sure that you look out for resources like red team and other organizations that are chatting about these also check out for events from these government customers that can give you insight into what’s coming and what’s happening. If you want to learn more about Red Team Consulting, you can visit their website at redteamconsulting. com. You can also find them on LinkedIn and other places. Joe, is there any other places?

Joe Salgado: I think Twitter as well. Yeah. 

Victoria Kruemmer: Okay. But I wanted to thank you both for being on the episode today. Thank you everyone for listening to the highlight cast to keep up to date with all of highlights, news, and activities. You can follow us also on LinkedIn. You can find us online at highlighttech. com and we look forward to having you tune into our next episode. So we’ll be talking about software development life cycle with a lot of our development team. So thank you again, Joe, for being on the podcast today. 

Joe Salgado: Thank you for having me.