Past performance evaluations play a major role in evaluating current proposals. Government agencies naturally view contractors with a strong record of past performance as contractors likely reliable for the completion of future awards. The Government typically relies on Past Performance Information (PPI) from three sources, along with references from each of these. Keep in mind that strong past performance combined with a strong technical proposal often outweighs price in the bidding process. Understanding how the Government views and evaluates past performance during source selection is critical to creating successful proposals that result in contract awards.
Where Does Past Performance Information Come From?
The Government relies on several sources when evaluating past performance. First, they review information contained in the Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS). Next, they review self-reported information about past performance. Finally, the Government may rely on other sources when evaluating past performance.
What is the Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS)?
When a contractor wins the award for a solicitation and begins work on the project, the Government Owned Entity (GOE) conducts evaluations on the work. Depending on the nature of the contract, this can be done after the work or order is completed, on an interim basis (for contracts over one year in length) or, on an as needed basis. The Contracting Officer (KO), Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR), or the Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative (COTR) evaluates performance based on a pre-determined scale, or based on the Quality Assurance requirements detailed in the contract. Once these evaluations are performed, the information is entered into the PPIRS with the intention and understanding this information will be used in future source selections.
How do You Identify and Provide Good References?
When you are considering references, careful thought should be given well in advance of a solicitation’s response due date. You want to make certain to speak with your references, letting them know you plan to include them in your proposal, so they are prepared to provide a detailed reference if called upon. The Government considers this part of your responsibility. You should let them know a member of the Technical Evaluation Panel (TEP) or the Contract Officer may be contacting them.
When choosing references, consider the following:
- Does this person know you, and your work, well enough to offer a reference?
- Will they speak highly of your work ethic, abilities, and follow through?
- Is there potential the reference will not provide a positive picture of you and your work?
- Are you certain you have accurate contact information? (Helpful Hint: do not presume you have accurate contact information. Reach out to them and confirm!)
When providing references, include a reference’s current name, email address, and a direct phone number. You should also provide a summary of the work performed for this person.
What “Other Sources” Can the Government Rely on?
The Government can seek information from whatever source the Government thinks is appropriate. In evaluating past performance, Government Owned Entities (GOE) rely on the PPIRS, however, they may also consult other sources. This can include phone calls to relevant personnel in agencies the contractor worked for previously. This is permitted even if the contractor has not listed that person as a reference.
How Does One Know What the Government is Looking For?
Past Performance is not a “one size fits all” category. Each solicitation describes how past performance will be evaluated for that particular solicitation. It will also have a section discussing how offerors with no relevant past performance will be evaluated. Generally speaking, however, contractors are asked to list references, identify past or current contracts with similar requirements, provide information on any problems encountered or challenges presented, and finally, identify any corrective action taken.
What Topics Will the Government Ask About During a Past Performance Review?
References are generally asked about the following areas when providing information about a contractor:
- Quality of Service: Did you meet or exceed the performance requirements; effectively address problems with well supported corrective actions; improve performance and/or quality?
- Schedule or Timeliness: Did you meet or exceed delivery due dates? When there were delivery issues, did you address them in a timely and efficient manner?
- Cost Control: Did you apply innovative techniques to reduce costs, while still meeting the requirements of the contracts? Did you quickly resolve issues related to costs? Were corrective actions well thought out, based on data, and result in cost reductions?
- Business Relations: Did you professionally respond to issues and concerns expressed by the GOE? Did you exceed expectations? Were change proposals limited? Were they timely? Did the contractor provide high user satisfaction? as well as
- Overall Customer Satisfaction.
The Government relies on the information provided by references to verify your ability to provide the goods or services sought in the solicitation, and balances that against the level of risk associated with your business.
How Should I Choose Past Performance References?
Assuming a contractor has more than three past contracts to choose from, the best Past Performance Information includes projects that are relevant to the current solicitation and recent in time. “Relevant” past performance can be considered “relevant” based on the following:
- Size of contract;
- Scope of contract;
- Complexity of contract;
- Type of contract;
- Contracts in the same industry;
- Contracts with the same type of work; as well as
- Contracts within the same NAICS codes category.
Offerors should identify how the past performance submitted is relevant. If an offeror submits a past performance whose relevance is not readily apparent, it is generally wise to spend a few extra minutes explaining how the past performance is the relevant to the current solicitation.
What Does the Government Do with Past Performance Information?
The Government will compile the past performance information that you provide, information from your references, any data in the PPIRS, as well as information from any other source they deem appropriate. Once the Government receives all this information on Past Performance, they will validate the information. After validation, the agency assigns a rating for performance risk. This rating may be based on a color system, such as red, yellow, green. It may be based on a number system, such as 1 – 5. Or, it may be based on an adjective rating, such as Excellent, Very Good, Satisfactory, Marginal, or Unsatisfactory. Or, it may be based on another system all together. In any event, the risks associated with each offeror will be assessed using the same scale.
Typically, risk evaluation assesses both the number of past problems, and the severity of the past problems. The Government also assesses when problems occurred, the offeror’s response to the problem, whether corrective action was taken, and whether the response was effective. Finally, the overall work record of offerors is reviewed. Significant achievements, significant failures or problems, and the absence of relevant data can all be important considerations in the process of source selection. Consequently, offerors should carefully consider these areas when providing information in response to a solicitation.