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Observations On the Upcoming CIO-SP3 Small Business On-Ramp

What is CIO-SP3?

CIO-SP3 is a Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) in the truest sense of the term because it is.  All too often we get confused about GWACs, GSA Schedules, etc.  CIO-SP3 is the real deal.  It can be utilized by any U.S. Government agency to purchase any IT service.

Why do we care about this?

CIO-SP3 is having its first ever on ramp opportunity.  This is a big deal.  It’s a rare day when you get a second shot at a contract opportunity that you may not have won last time or maybe you simply were not ready to win.  Either way, this is your opening to not say again “I coulda’ been a contender.”

What is the current state of CIO-SP3?

CIO-SP3 has 94 small business contractors and 54 large business contractors.  This is far more than we would see on a typical agency specific contract but obviously far less than the GSA Schedules.  CIO-SP3 as enjoyed steadily increased usage over its first few years of performance.  Note the overall spending trend.  Obviously, we need to be mindful of the current contract start in fiscal year 2012 occurred late into federal fiscal year 2012.  Any contract – even as a re-compete will have a ramp up period.  Let us avoid “irrational exuberance” but still recognize that this upward trend is a good thing.

The simple takeaway is to consider both the continued very strong growth of CIO-SP3 and how well small businesses have thrived under CIO-SP3.  Both large and small businesses have thrived under CIO-SP3.

Why do you care?

Conservative estimates have at least a third of the 94 incumbents to not be a small business already.  We can expect more to cross over into the large business category (NAICS 541512 has a $27.5M size standard) in 2016.  When the NITAAC in ramps a new generation of small businesses, they’re going to shed the small businesses that are no longer small.  Expect this to happen sometime before 2017 at the contract mid-point.  Consider the aforementioned small business set-aside spending of $623.7M in FY2015.  That becomes your Total Available Market (TAM) just based on CIO-SP3 alone.

Who is using CIO-SP3?

Pursuing a contract without an end in mind is foolish.  Who is the customer you’re likely to reach with CIO-SP3?  If any aspect of the past is prologue, consider the customers by real spending (a.k.a. obligations) over the current incarnation of CIO-SP3.

This is an incredibly broad array of customers to consider.  Many of these customers have what are arguably the same contract as CIO-SP3, but for a number of reasons they turned to CIO-SP3.  In fairness, the NITAAC has a reputation for good services and low fees.  This makes for a pretty compelling reason to use CIO-SP3.

Look at the expiring task orders

Where there is chaos and turnover, we have opportunity.  If we know that some small businesses are no longer small businesses and legacy opportunities are small business set-asides, it leaves re-compete work more exposed than normal.  FedSavvy Strategies has worked to figure the CIO-SP3 task orders out and here are a few of the opportunities currently under some form of set-aside held by businesses that are or will no longer qualify to win as a small business prime.

There are many more available, but these are both substantial and potentially transformative for small businesses.

What do you need to consider going forward?

Even though this is a broadly defined GWAC, it has some very specific requirements that must be met to even have a chance to win.  If you cannot match or exceed what current contractors did to win their contract, you have no business going for this rare opportunity.  While we all like to believe that anything is possible, we also need to realize that time is money and every minute you spend on this pursuit is a minute that you cannot dedicate to something else.  Consider the below task areas that make up CIOSP3. Everything here references the last CIOSP3 SB solicitation.

Ten task areas constitute the technical scope of this contract:

  • Task Area 1:   IT Services for Biomedical Research, Health Sciences, and Healthcare (MANDATORY TO BID)
  • Task Area 2:   Chief Information Officer (CIO) Support
  • Task Area 3:   Imaging
  • Task Area 4:   Outsourcing
  • Task Area 5:   IT Operations and Maintenance
  • Task Area 6:   Integration Services
  • Task Area 7:   Critical Infrastructure Protection and Information Assurance
  • Task Area 8:   Digital Government
  • Task Area 9:   Enterprise Resource Planning
  • Task Area 10: Software Development

Go back and look at the previous RFP.  It’s always smart to do your homework, but consider the below major points of the old RFP to help understand what you need to be prepared to do in order to win.  It’s a safe assumption that the previous requirements will vary very little in the on ramp.  Why? Because if the NITAAC changes requirements they’re creating a new set of standards for an award that do not apply to current CIO-SP3 contractors.

  • Key personnel – You will need a Program Manager well versed in GWAC management and marketing, a contracts manager with similar credentials and a backup (yes, a backup) program manager with yet the same credentials.  Show the NITAAC that you are serious about promoting CIOSP3 and you can handle the volume of work.
  • EVMS review or progress towards – This is unusual as a requirement.  Standing up an EVMS is not a trivial task.
  • Technical capabilities in Task Area 1 (again, this is mandatory) and at least three (3) other task areas (8a, HUBZONE and SDVOSB only need to do 2 other task areas).  This is where you need to fold in teammates and further demonstrate what you can do as the prime.
  • Demonstrate domain specific capability in health related mission – Health-related missions are broadly defined as those that contribute directly to human health and may include healthcare services, reimbursement for services, health-related/biomedical research and health science, health policy, health-related grant making, and regulation of health industries.
  • Corporate commitment – Articulate a strategy to market and managing task orders.
  • Pricing – All contractors need to be able to respond to cost plus task orders.  Therefore, “offerors must have verification from the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA), any federal civilian audit agency, or a third-party accounting firm of an accounting system that has been audited an determined adequate for determining costs applicable to this contract in accordance with FAR 16.301-3(a)(1).”

How should you prepare to win?

  1. Do the current customers fit your current customer portfolio?  Do they fit your aspirational portfolio?  Pursuing a contract that has no clear end game is not always a smart decision.
  2. Consider the previous RFP and if you can win it today.
  3. Knowing that you may have some weaknesses (see item #1) above, what do you need to do to fill gaps?
  • Teaming?
  • Certifications?
  • Key hires (contingent hires)?

Start closing these gaps now because Spring 2016 will be on us before long.  Good luck and good hunting!


LIndholm head shot 2Brian Lindholm is a 20-year veteran in federal contracting with expertise in market research, competitive intelligence and business development.  His experience comes from large businesses such as URS Corporation (now AECOM) and SAIC, consulting roles in small businesses and prior service as a U.S. Naval Officer.  He founded FedSavvy Strategies in 2012.

This blog is republished with the permission of Brian Lindholm, Founder and CEO of FedSavvy Strategies.FSS Logo 3a

About fedsavvy1

Brian Lindholm is a 20-year veteran in federal contracting with expertise in market research, competitive intelligence and business development. His experience comes from large businesses such as URS Corporation (now AECOM) and SAIC, consulting roles in small businesses and prior service as a U.S. Naval Officer. He founded FedSavvy Strategies in 2012.


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