3 BIG Problems with beta.SAM.gov

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You might think I am piling on about the system dysfunctionality of being difficult to search, inaccurate responses for “active” solicitations or the fact that email updates still don’t work… Well, while all good examples of problems with beta.SAM.gov, there are much bigger issues with the new GSA opportunities system.

Just a quick overview for folks that are new to the federal market… The federal government is required by Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) to compete contracts to insure that the taxpayers (that’s you and me) are getting a good value for the dollars spent.  Talk to almost any contracting officer and they will tell you to “watch FBO (now beta.SAM.gov)”.  They might even say “I post all of my opportunities on beta.SAM.gov…”

Is this true?  Nope. 

So why do they say this? The real reason is they don’t know you and you haven’t proven that they should give you any inside information, but let’s set that aside for the moment and look at the biggest issues of beta.SAM.gov.

  1. MOST opportunities NEVER hit beta.SAM.gov.

The repository for contract awards is currently Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation which can be found at www.fpds.gov and it shows us 6,465,516 contracts were awarded in FY 2019. If we include ALL solicitations posted on beta.SAM.gov in FY 2019 you get 125,266 – less than 2%.  Where are the rest?

  1. Legally “Short Listed” requirements between 2-5 qualified vendors) make up 76% of the contracts.
  2. beta.SAM.gov is only required for contracts budgeted for $25,000 and up
  3. GSA eBuy does not hit beta.SAM.gov.
  4. Most 8(a) sole source solicitations do not hit beta.SAM.gov.
  5. Simplified Acquisitions (Less than $150k) may not hit beta.SAM.gov.
  6. IDIQ task orders, BPA calls, GWAC contract orders do not hit beta.SAM.gov.
  7. Credit Card orders (now up to $10,000) do not hit beta.SAM.gov.
  • Search does not allow for open solicitations.

As of today there are roughly 10,921 active solicitations – at least that is what beta.SAM.gov says.  Given that most opportunities close within a 30-day window for response, let’s look a little closer to see what is really there:

  1. 7,936 posted in last 30 days – more than half have closed already
  2. Historically about 12% will be pulled for some reason or another and never be awarded at all
  3. When you review the Scope of Work (SOW), 80% have been significantly influenced by competition (See #3)

3. When it hits beta.SAM.gov it is too late.

Rule #1 for us at isiFederal is: if you didn’t influence the RFP then your competitor did.  This means that if beta.SAM.gov is your first exposure to the opportunity, then you are already way behind the win curve.  Your competition has a relationship inside the agency been working on it for months (sometimes years) and has impacted the verbiage of the SOW and possibly has a relationship with all of the key decision makers that are involved with the opportunity.

So, when you take the advice from procurement or SBA when they say “Watch beta.SAM.gov”, they are really saying go and compete for the 8% that hits beta.SAM.gov that isn’t already baked for the competition.  This adds up to about 10,000 TOTAL opportunities of the 6.5 million contracts that will be awarded in 2020. There is a better way and we invite you to explore how isiFederal can help    

You might think I am piling on about the system dysfunctionality of being difficult to search, inaccurate responses for “active” solicitations or the fact that email updates still don’t work… Well, while all good examples of problems with beta.SAM.gov, there are much bigger issues with the new GSA opportunities system.

Just a quick overview for folks that are new to the federal market… The federal government is required by Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) to compete contracts to insure that the taxpayers (that’s you and me) are getting a good value for the dollars spent.  Talk to almost any contracting officer and they will tell you to “watch FBO (now beta.SAM.gov)”.  They might even say “I post all of my opportunities on beta.SAM.gov…”

Is this true?  Nope. 

So why do they say this? The real reason is they don’t know you and you haven’t proven that they should give you any inside information, but let’s set that aside for the moment and look at the biggest issues of beta.SAM.gov.

2. MOST opportunities NEVER hit beta.SAM.gov.

The repository for contract awards is currently Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation which can be found at www.fpds.gov and it shows us 6,465,516 contracts were awarded in FY 2019. If we include ALL solicitations posted on beta.SAM.gov in FY 2019 you get 125,266 – less than 2%.  Where are the rest?

  1. Legally “Short Listed” requirements between 2-5 qualified vendors) make up 76% of the contracts.
  2. beta.SAM.gov is only required for contracts budgeted for $25,000 and up
  3. GSA eBuy does not hit beta.SAM.gov.
  4. Most 8(a) sole source solicitations do not hit beta.SAM.gov.
  5. Simplified Acquisitions (Less than $150k) may not hit beta.SAM.gov.
  6. IDIQ task orders, BPA calls, GWAC contract orders do not hit beta.SAM.gov.
  7. Credit Card orders (now up to $10,000) do not hit beta.SAM.gov.
  • Search does not allow for open solicitations.

As of today there are roughly 10,921 active solicitations – at least that is what beta.SAM.gov says.  Given that most opportunities close within a 30-day window for response, let’s look a little closer to see what is really there:

  1. 7,936 posted in last 30 days – more than half have closed already
  2. Historically about 12% will be pulled for some reason or another and never be awarded at all
  3. When you review the Scope of Work (SOW), 80% have been significantly influenced by competition (See #3)
  • When it hits beta.SAM.gov it is too late.

Rule #1 for us at isiFederal is: if you didn’t influence the RFP then your competitor did.  This means that if beta.SAM.gov is your first exposure to the opportunity, then you are already way behind the win curve.  Your competition has a relationship inside the agency been working on it for months (sometimes years) and has impacted the verbiage of the SOW and possibly has a relationship with all of the key decision makers that are involved with the opportunity.

So, when you take the advice from procurement or SBA when they say “Watch beta.SAM.gov”, they are really saying go and compete for the 8% that hits beta.SAM.gov that isn’t already baked for the competition.  This adds up to about 10,000 TOTAL opportunities of the 6.5 million contracts that will be awarded in 2020. There is a better way and we invite you to explore how isiFederal can help    

If .15% chance of success is good enough for you, keep trusting beta.SAM.gov. If not, this month’s free “Federal Success 2020” webinar series will address these issues and provide the road map for finding the millions of other opportunities that will never hit beta.SAM.gov in 2020.  Join us!

If .15% chance of success is good enough for you, keep trusting beta.SAM.gov. If not, this month’s free “Federal Success 2020” webinar series will address these issues and provide the road map for finding the millions of other opportunities that will never hit beta.SAM.gov in 2020.  Join us!

in Federal Contracting by Aisha H. Leave a comment
About the author: Aisha H.

Aisha has been working exclusively in the federal market space with isiFederal, providing research and finance expertise in addition to being the Business Process Manager and assistant to CEO. She's no stranger to unpredictable, demanding environments--her past work experience includes auditing, teaching English at the Berlitz School of Language, and working for the Grand Hyatt in Dubai.

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