Thinking Outside the SOW: Sources for Past Performance Data You Should Start Using Today

Relevant, positive past performance in federal proposals is often what decides the outcome of an award. When you sell to the government, past performance is more than just a track record – it is your organization’s most powerful asset, and something that should guide your business development activities throughout every phase of the business development lifecycle, from the first gate review to proposal submission and award. A detailed record of past performance results in smarter bid decisions, more compelling proposals, and ultimately, more revenue for your company.

When organizations hear “record of past performance” – they are likely to go right to their Statements of Work (SOW) or Performance Work Statement (PWS), usually written by the government and distributed with an RFP at contract award. While this is a good place to start, it is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to identifying sources of information related to past performance. As detailed as they might be, more often than not, SOWs don’t cover the intricate technical requirements. This is why it is not uncommon to hear contractors say that they do more than what the SOW spells out!

So, how can your company build a comprehensive record of past performance if SOWs paint an incomplete picture? You have to look beyond the SOW. Below are the top three resources that most companies overlook when collecting past performance data:

1. Technical Status Reports Chaos

Does your contract include a deliverable requirement for status reports? If so, then you may already have a wealth of information available to you. Status reports go into detail about work being done over a shorter period of time, usually weekly, monthly or quarterly; compared to SOWs that summarize work being done over the life of a contract. In addition, SOWs are often written by procurement and management personnel, while status reports are written and submitted by the people actually doing the work. The details you collect from status reports are the ones you will likely be missing if you depend on SOWs alone. What do you do if your contract doesn’t require status reports? You can implement them yourself. Ask your employees performing and managing the work to provide a detailed summary of the major accomplishments, challenges, issues, accolades and activities completed over a monthly or quarterly time period. Create a template and be diligent about collecting responses and taking time to read and understand the work your company is doing.

2. Timecards

If your organization provides services to the government, your time and attendance policy likely requires employees to complete timecards on a daily basis in order to maintain compliance with Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) requirements. Implementing daily timecards notes is a great way to gather more detail about the work being done by your employees on a daily basis, and when done the right way, can amount to a tremendous source of past performance data. To ensure you are collecting valuable information, ask employees to provide a 3-5 sentence description of the meaningful activities they accomplished that day. They should avoid using acronyms as much as possible and write with an outside audience in mind – something that can be easily understood by those who are not doing the work, day in and day out. The value of timecard notes for past performance purposes is twofold: not only will it provide you with a stream of information related to your past performance, it creates a record of activity that can be used by managers to understand the activities being done by employees each day. Timecards also serve to maintain historical records of activity should issues arise that need to be addressed.

3. Employees

Employees are often the most overlooked resource for valuable past performance data. The individuals who support your customers day in and day out, those who are responsible for completing deliverables, and those who manage your contracts/personnel are your company’s past performance subject matter experts, uniquely qualified to provide a wealth of information about the work being done under your government contracts. The most productive way to ensure their knowledge is captured and utilized is through communication and relationship. How often do you sit in a room with your managers and employees and talk to them directly about the work they are doing? Develop a corporate culture that includes meaningful, regular interaction with your employees – ask them to tell you about the projects they are working on, the challenges they face, and the accomplishments they are proud of. Invite them to lunch and check in with them regularly – before you need their support on a proposal, and you will find that you will not only have a greater understanding of your organization’s past performance, your team will feel valued and be happier overall.

Past performance should guide you through every phase of the business development lifecycle, including the proposal process. Building robust past performance narratives with metrics can drive up the quality of your proposals. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you are not alone! Start with an objective – why and how do you plan to use the past performance data? ProposalHelper’s expert employees can help setup and train your team on how to collect the right set of information. Using our process, we study your current contracts and build templates for Status Reports (if they don’t already exist), design questionnaires for Program Managers to collect the right set of data from employees, and synthesize all the incoming data on a monthly basis to continuously improve the depth of information in your past performances.

Past Performances are one of the most important determination factors in a company’s bid/no-bid decision. Arm your team with the right set of information about every project. Don’t wait till your next proposal, start working on this today!