REQUEST FOR INFORMATION (RFI)
Disparity Study – Technical Assistance for Small, Diverse, and Veteran-Owned Businesses to Bid on State of Washington Solicitations
Enterprise Services is seeking a business who will work closely with Enterprise Services, performing the scope of work that is specific to removing barriers and provides technical assistance for small, diverse, and veteran-owned businesses; with the purpose of increasing the number of small, diverse, and veteran-owned businesses that are successfully participating in State contracting opportunities. The successful vendor will advocate for small, diverse, and veteran-owned business by regularly communicating with State agencies, and collaborating with Enterprise Services and OMWBE, to further improve the procurement process to benefit small, diverse, and veteran-owned businesses.
The Department of Enterprise Services (Enterprise Services) is in the process of developing specifications for a contract to provide technical assistance to small, diverse, and veteran-owned businesses. In this area of technical assistance, it means helping the State become aware of these barriers, inequities, and failures to follow State policies. We ask this vendor to make the State aware of barrier(s) they see in solicitations to give the State the opportunity to correct the barrier(s). Similarly, if there is a visible bias in the way a bid is evaluated, it must be reported. The State has enacted a supplier diversity policy and put forth several supplier diversity best practices. Failure to follow these policies and practices should also be reported.
The successful performance by the awarded vendor will help build and maintain the sustainable increase in the number of small, diverse, and veteran-owned businesses to meet the State contracting needs of achieving the state spending equity.
As part of the Washington state commissioned Disparity Study, the State as well as Enterprise Services have deemed it necessary to fund a comprehensive and exclusive third-party training and technical assistance program to help small, diverse, and veteran-owned businesses that are new or lacking the experience or expertise to participate in state contracting opportunities. For more information on the disparity study goals see the section on the disparity study at the end of this document for more context or use the link for the full text of the 2019 disparity study.
1. Pricing. Based on the scope, what would be the main factors in determining pricing for this contract?
a. Which approaches do you tend to use for pricing this type of work: total project cost, hourly rates, price per service rate, indirect costs, and other additional rates?
2. Onboarding Time. Please describe your approach to onboarding customers and the timeline for the onboarding process.
3. Client Intake. What does the client intake process look like for your company? As part of the scope of work the selected Contractor will work with a variety of client businesses that are pursuing contract opportunities with the State.
4. Unbundling. Would you suggest we unbundle, and award contracts based on the scope of work? If so, how would you suggest we split the scope of work into different contracts?
5. Scope of Work. After reviewing the draft scope of work listed below, please identify any areas of confusion or challenges in meeting any of the listed tasks.
6. Barriers. Identify any barriers for your business to bid on this opportunity.
7. Other feedback. Please provide any additional information you believe is relevant for Enterprise Services to consider in developing a solicitation for services.
8. How do you measure success? What metrics do you gather now while working with a business?
SCOPE OF WORK Below is the proposed scope of work, which could result in the future contracts. Please review the Scope of Work (SOW) below. This proposed scope of work is not final and can be changed based on the responses from businesses. This SOW lists various areas of service for contract performance along with some basic explanation of the tasks to be performed.
Draft Scope of Work
• Assist small, diverse, and veteran-owned businesses to identify State contracting opportunities, focusing primarily on helping Office of Minority and Women Business Enterprise (OMWBE) certified businesses.
• Assist these businesses in preparing bids on State solicitations by ensuring their bids are complete, well presented, and responsive. This may include assisting the business in preparing for an interview or presentation to the agency.
• Assist in financial analysis or price estimating.
• Assist successful bidders to ensure they are successful Contractors to the State. This may include assisting them to market to the State and other purchasers who may use statewide contracts, helping to create complete and accurate invoices, analyzing where there are business needs to fulfill contract, and assisting in fulfilling those needs. These needs may include assistance in customer service or accounting.
• Assist in getting certified by OMWBE.
• Assist in getting registered in the Washington’s Electronic Business Solutions (WEBS).
• Ability to assist small, diverse, and veteran-owned business owners with limited English proficiency.
• Provide a roadmap for success in State contracting:
o Assist in finding opportunities
o Assist in go or no-go decisions
o Assist in building relationships (agencies, cities, counties, procurement officers, partners, etc.)
• Assist in determining if they should team with another business or subcontract with another business including pricing and management considerations of that decision.
• Assist with other elements such as resumes, illustrating past experiences, references etc.,
• Attending a debrief with the agency if they were unsuccessful and to help them to learn more about submitting a bid.
• Help small, diverse, and veteran-owned business prepare for a presentation as a finalist – what to share, listen for, and emphasize.
• Help to build a workplan if they win the project – being successful at managing the budget and schedule.
• Help small, diverse, and veteran-owned businesses to understand bonding and insurance.
Responses to this RFI should be submitted electronically to the RFI Coordinator listed below no later than 4:00pm on May 4, 2023. Please email RFI Coordinator to request a Teams meeting to discuss any of your responses in further detail.
A response to this RFI is not a mandatory requirement for participation in any subsequent solicitations released by the state of Washington. The results of this RFI may be used in development of future solicitations. All vendor communications concerning this RFI must be directed to the RFI Coordinator.
Department. of Enterprise Services
PO Box 41411
Olympia, WA 98504-1411
The vendor acknowledges that state agencies are subject to Chapter 42.56 RCW, Public Records Act. Vendor responses to this RFI will become a public record as defined in the RCW. For the purposes of this RFI, no information considered confidential or proprietary should be included.
NO OBLIGATION TO CONTRACT
Release of this RFI in no way obligates the state of Washington to award a contract.
The state of Washington appreciates your thoughts and input on the proposed specifications and would also welcome any thoughts on associated new, green, and/or sustainable technology.
The Disparity study identified the following barriers that are relevant to this scope of work:
Access to information and State decision makers: Many small and diverse business owners and stakeholder representatives stated that it is difficult to meet and follow the State contracting processes. State contracting personnel were reported as preferring large firms and often rejected small firms and minority and women-owned businesses (M/WBE)s due to perceived risk. A common perception was that informal networks within the established business circles negatively impact minorities and women.
Technical assistance and supportive services: Experience, surety bonding, insurance, financial status, and other contractual requirements pose barriers to small firms’ participation on State contracts. The State’s highly decentralized and antiquated procurement systems pose additional challenges to M/WBEs and small firms. Many small firms and some large contractors suggested “offering technical support to assist in doing business with the State.”
Other barriers identified by small, diverse, and veteran-owned businesses include:
• Access to information about State contracting and solicitations;
• Experience bidding on State solicitations;
• Experience selling goods and services to the State;
• Reading and understanding solicitations and State contracts; this also includes language barriers;
• Formulating pricing;
• Determining whether bidding on a State contract makes financial sense for them;
• Lack of/little knowledge of the solicitation rules, including heavy use of acronyms and common terminology;
• Understanding how to use the State’s electronic bidding systems, Washington’s Electronic Business Solution (WEBS);
• State solicitations processes, and disparity between the State agencies;
• Understanding the State market and how to find opportunities;
• How to market their businesses to the State buyers;
• Interviewing for solicitation and presentations;
• Responsibility post award; and
• Understanding their own infrastructure needs like cash flow, budgeting, and operations.
Reporting of Barriers Within a Solicitation
While some of the barriers are related to the experience and the infrastructure of a new business, other barriers exist within the solicitation and procurement process itself. This could mean intentional and or unintentional inequities and biases within the requirements that are in the solicitation; or the biases within the evaluation; or the conscious/unconscious biases of the solicitation evaluators, who may be looking for the vendor they have historically felt comfortable working with before.