An acquisition plan is a document that shows what products and services are required, and how they are acquired, during the life of a given project.
Acquisition Plan: Definition
An acquisition plan:
- Provides agency management with information for making procurement decisions and ensuring the availability of funding;
- Provides technical evaluation personnel with adequate information for analyzing and evaluating vendor proposals;
- Helps ensure that vendors have adequate information for preparing bids; and
- Provides the source selection official with adequate information on which to base a selection.
There’s nothing magic or unique about government acquisition plans. They can be found in the private sector, too. But here’s the important difference: don’t expect your commercial customer to comply if you ask him to see the acquisition plan he’s been working on.
Knowing in Advance
As with procurement forecasts and request for information announcements, tracking acquisition planning information is a critical way to “get into the heads” of government agency personnel involved in making purchasing decisions.
Within this context, when you try to speak with someone at an agency, you’re looking for the acquisition planner. Under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), the “planner” is the “designated person or office responsible for developing and maintaining a written plan, or for the planning function in those acquisitions not requiring a written plan.” Planners are often program managers or the people who work for them.
If you’re on top of an agency’s acquisition planning, you’re seeing into the future. If you know a planner and follow an acquisition plan from its initial stages, you are automatically following an opportunity EARLY. The FAR states that “[a]cquisition planning should begin as soon as the agency need is identified, preferably well in advance of the fiscal year in which contract award is necessary.”
The FAR outlines the information that is supposed to comprise the acquisition plan. FAR 7.105. Part of a planner’s “Plan of Action” is to list the prospective sources of supplies or services that can meet the agency’s particular need. Other information includes how competition will be sought, budget estimates, product and service descriptions, environmental and energy conservation objectives, security considerations, whether subcontract competition is both feasible and desirable and the types of source-selection procedures for the acquisition. FAR 7.105(b).
So if you have an acquisition plan in hand, you can find out in advance specifically what types of products and services the agency will be looking for, including unique features. You can potentially uncover agency “hot buttons” well in advance of writing a proposal.
Finding Plans and Planners
Okay, so where do you get your hands on acquisition plans and talk to the people behind them? One way, of course, is to call procurement personnel within the target agency and just ask. You can always start there.
Another way: Internet research. To give you some idea on the volume of acquisition planning information on the Web, go to Google.com and type the following into the search screen and click search:
"acquisition plan" site:.gov
(You’ll be searching federal civilian agency web pages that contain the term “acquisition plan.” Another search engine to try is Firstgov.com.) The result is 224,000 returns, not all of them direct hits, but you get the idea — there’s a lot of acquisition planning information out there.
So as we’ve said many times, you need to focus on the right agencies: the ones that buy what you sell. Tracking acquisition planning information takes time, so don’t waste your time in the wrong places.
In doing Internet research, one way to focus is to use the right keywords. Let’s say you’re a minority-owned company that manages government facilities. If you add the keywords “facilities management” to your Google.com search (“facilities management” “acquisition plan” site:.gov), your first “hit” will be a National Science Foundation Annual Acquisition Plan Web page:
Scroll down to the bottom of that page and you’ll find a gold nugget. In the first quarter of 2003, the agency plans to procure facilities management services from an 8(a) company. It’ll be a competitive procurement and the contract value will exceed $5 million.
All you’ve found so far is a simple table representing the plan, and yet the information is a critical first step. Now you’re focused. Now you can call the agency to introduce yourself and find out more. (Who’s the incumbent? How are they doing? What can be done better? etc.)
For an example of a state acquisition plan — in this case from Tennessee — go to http://www.state.tn.us/generalserv/purchasing/foreacq.pdf. (Warning: this may take a while to load; it’s a 709 page .pdf document.)
The Internet research method of finding acquisition planning information works well for companies new to government contracting or otherwise not yet “in” with a particular agency. Another tactic is to do targeted research on who buys what within a particular agency. This will help you pinpoint the right people to speak with in order to locate relevant planning information. Products such as our own FedBuying Intelligence (FBI), http://fbi.bidengine.com/, can be helpful in this regard.
If you already have an established relationship with an agency, check out its web site. In the National Science Foundation example, if you’d gone directly to the agency’s Contracts Branch page, http://www.nsf.gov/bfa/cpo/contracts/, you’d find these words:
“NSF Annual Acquisition Plan.” That text is linked to the page cited above.
Also, don’t hesitate to ask procurement personnel you know about their acquisition planning. Ask if you can assist in any way — comments, suggestions, information on your products or services, why they will help meet agency program goals, etc. Ideally, of course, you’d like the items you sell to be part of the things deemed necessary within an acquisition plan. Your company probably won’t be mentioned, but your products might be.
Acquisition plans represent one more example of information that’s out there to help you find customers. It’s just one more part of your arsenal — an important one — in winning government business.