The CIO-SP4 final RFP has been out for nearly three weeks and one of the questions we’ve been addressing most frequently is how to provide sufficient “documentation” to make sure the score that bidders give themselves on the self-scoring sheet holds up to government evaluation. While the RFP does not provide crystal clear guidance, in this article, we provide some interpretations and useful suggestions for what bidders should submit with their proposals to justify their scores.

We believe NITAAC intends to make a significant down-select based on the Phase 1 evaluation (i.e., review of the self-scoring sheets). Bidders should be focusing their efforts on collecting and validating documentation now, to make sure the claimed score is validated during evaluation.

As you probably know, the RFP proposal instructions for the scoresheet are provided in Section L.5.2 Volume I, Section 2 – Self-scoring Sheet. Also, RFP Table 11 Proposal Format dictates that documentation related to the self-scoring sheet is to be provided in Volume I, Section 3. Scattered throughout the instructions for the self-scoring sheet in RFP Section L.5.2 are references to the requirements for “documentation.” For example, at the end of RFP Section L.5.2.1 Row 8 Corporate Experience, we see this paragraph:

“Documentation of each example must be included in the appropriate section in the offeror’s proposal in accordance with L.5. The documentation must prove to the government the offeror’s corporate experience examples are real and legitimate. Examples of the types of documentation that would accomplish this would be the first few pages of a contract award along with its statement of work or commercial (private sector) equivalents showing the dollar value of the contract / project and offeror’s name.”

A careful reading of this and related parts of the RFP indicate the following:

  • All documentation for self-scoring goes in Volume I, Section 3 – Self-scoring Sheet Documentation
  • Documentation must prove the scoring examples are real and legitimate
  • Examples include contract award documentation and Statements of Work
  • Examples must prove the dollar value that is being represented in the offeror’s Section 2 – Self-scoring Sheet

Although this list seems clear, bidders will likely encounter challenges when they start to collect and analyze this documentation. Here are just a few of the challenges bidders may encounter once they collect their initial documentation:

  • Original Award Documentation may not match the actual Total Contract Value
  • Statements of Work may not be specific enough in their descriptions of the work actually being performed
  • Modifications on Federal Task Order contracts are commonplace and may occur multiple times on a Single task order changing the Total Contract Value and, potentially, the scope of a contract
  • Statement of Objectives, by definition, on Federal Task Orders can be very vague and not detail the type of work performed

The RFP also leave unanswered a few questions related to documentation:

  • Can you take credit for the work performed by a company that has been purchased by a prime offeror? If so, how do you prove that documentation showing another company’s name is that of the prime offeror?
  • For submission, should you combine all documentation into a single file for upload to the to-be-named portal?
  • Can you provide a written explanation of your work for each experience reference, particularly if you need to make clear the connection between the work on your referenced contract and the requirements of the 10 task areas in CIO-SP4?

Where does one even begin??

As you know, since Phase 1 is based solely on the Self-Scoring Sheet, bidders’ scores and their supporting documentation will determine who proceeds to Phase 2. Since the RFP does not describe the government’s evaluation approach to documentation, you may be wondering how this evaluation will be accomplished. It is our belief that not all bidders’ proposals will be evaluated during Phase 1. This may seem shocking, but here is our logic:

  1. Evaluators will likely evaluate the scores of all bidders and rank all bidders in each socio-economic category, from the highest score to the lowest
  2. The government may pre-establish a target number of submissions to move to Phase 2 for each socio-economic category. For example, if the government plans to award up to 125 OTSB awards, they may choose to allow the top scoring 150-200 proposals with validated documentation to proceed to Phase 2
  3. We believe NITAAC will then validate the documentation for those bidders in the target set of submissions for each socioeconomic category
  4. If any bidder’s documentation fails validation, the government may then adjust the points for those bidders and determine if they are still in the pre-established score range for that socioeconomic category
  5. Based on these score adjustments, some bidders will fall outside of the target range and will be replaced by the next highest scoring proposals

If our assumptions are right about NITAAC’s approach to evaluating proposals during Phase 1, bidders need to make their proposals—particularly the documentation—as easy to evaluate as possible. You must be thorough and organized with your documentation without needing to rely on an overabundance of explanation. The documentation should be presented in an easy to find and understand format. Think of Phase 1 as a pass/fail evaluation.

A note on providing your own explanation of the work you performed on a Corporate Experience citation: Government evaluators are looking for “documentation” that proves whether a task was performed by a bidder using contract documentation provided by or to the government. An explanation of the work your company performed, written for the CIO-SP4 proposal, is not documentation since it is your version of events and is not validated by a government document. Written explanations may not even be evaluated by the government. You should focus first on providing actual government documentation.

Top 8 Recommendations on How to Prepare and Present Your Documentation
  1. Start with the actual Contract Award Document. Ideally the contract has the Statement of Work attached to it. If not, find the SOW from the Request for Proposal.
  2. Go to SAM.gov and pull down FPDS documentation of actual revenue on the contract. This will provide independent validation of Total Contract Value, while alerting you to any changes in contract value that you may not be aware of.
  3. If revenues do not match between the Award Document and SAM.gov, find out where the discrepancies are. There may have been modifications to the contract. If so, you will need to provide the contract mod documentation to prove your Total Contract Value.
  4. Once Contract Value has been established, begin reviewing the contract’s Statement of Work. Find and highlight phrases that show relevance to the Task Area you are addressing. If the documentation is in PDF format, Adobe Acrobat includes a feature that allows you to add comments to highlighted text. Provide the relevance to the Task Area by stating only the relevance to the Task Area subsection. For example, “Relevant to Task Area 1 Subsection j. IT Clinical Support Services.”
  5. Provide complete documentation for each Corporate Experience reference provided, regardless of whether you are re-using the same experience across task areas. Do not make this hard on evaluators to figure out what highlighted area is relevant to what Task Area.
  6. If the above documents do not sufficiently validate your score, look for additional documentation including:
    1. Deliverable reports
    2. E-mail communication from the government
    3. Monthly reports accepted by the government
  7. Once all documentation is collected and referenced for a scoring element, establish and follow a naming convention for each file for submission. Each file name should show an evaluator what they are looking at, for example:
    • “Offeror Name_Row_8_CE_TA1_R1_DHSEAGLE_Contract_Award.pdf”
      • CE – Corporate Experience
      • TA1 – Task Area 1
      • R1 – Reference 1
  1. Organization is key; store all documents together by scoring element and by example within each element. A File Tree may look like this:
    • Volume I – Section 3 – Self-Scoring Sheet Documentation
      • Row 8 – Corporate Experience
        • Task Area 1
          • Reference 1
          • Reference 2
          • Reference 3
        • Task Area 2
          • Reference 1
          • Reference 2
          • Reference 3
        • Task Area 3
          • Reference 1
          • Reference 2
          • Reference 3
        • Task Area 4
          • Reference 1
          • Reference 2
          • Reference 3
        • Task Area 5
          • Reference 1
          • Reference 2
          • Reference 3
        • Task Area 6
          • Reference 1
          • Reference 2
          • Reference 3
        • Task Area 7
          • Reference 1
          • Reference 2
          • Reference 3
        • Task Area 8
          • Reference 1
          • Reference 2
          • Reference 3
        • Task Area 9
          • Reference 1
          • Reference 2
          • Reference 3
        • Task Area 10
          • Reference 1
          • Reference 2
          • Reference 3
        • Row 9 – Leading Edge Technology
          • Reference 1
          • Reference 2
          • Reference 3
        • Row 10 – Federal Multiple Award Experience
          • Reference 1
          • Reference 2
          • Reference 3
        • Row 11 – Executive Order 13779
          • Reference 1
          • Reference 2
          • Reference 3
Final Thoughts

We recognize that this is a lot of documentation to collect, organize, analyze, highlight, and submit. Before submission, we recommend that companies perform an audit or review of just the documentation itself. The reviewers should know as little about your documentation as possible and be able to validate easily whether or not the documentation submitted confirms your score.

We recognize (and hope!) that the government may provide guidance via amendments and answers to questions to clarify some of the confusion on score sheet documentation. Until that time, our recommendations in this article provide a comprehensive and low-risk solution for submitting documentation on CIO-SP4. Best of luck!