Government Contracting Seasons
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Just like the changing seasons in nature, federal buying cycles have distinct government contracting seasons that contractors should know. Being aware of this seasonality allows contractors to be better prepared for any weather and avoid being left out in the cold.
At Collaborative Compositions we love fall. Not just for the corn mazes, the pumpkin patches, or the warm apple cider. We love the colors of changing foliage (which you can scope out nationally here thanks to our friends at thefoliagereport.com) because it reminds us of the changing seasons of government contracting. Perennial contractors recognize the signs of the changing government contracting seasons but what about new market entrants? Those who are unfamiliar with the nuanced dependencies of the government buying cycles are likely to be surprised by the seasonality of the federal market. To avoid getting lost in the corn mazes of contracting, contractors must do more than shift to pumpkin spice and sweaters. Successful government contractors must come to truly understand the federal buying seasons.
Contractors can correlate the federal buying seasons with seasonal shifts that are seen in nature. For instance, as the leaves are starting to fall in the autumn the federal government is taking a chance to step back and evaluate. During the fall, the government is generally reviewing contracts and assessing contractor performance.
Agencies spend this time reviewing past procurements, making any necessary modifications, and preparing for re-competition of finite contracts that end in the spring/summer timeframe. Importantly, the government fiscal year begins October 1st at which point Congress and the President should have reached agreement on spending levels and enacted regular appropriations. Unfortunately, an ongoing trend of continuing resolutions delays new start projects and leaves spending at prior year levels. This trend is also why the government buying season slows down substantially later in the fall.
On the industry side during the fall, companies with government contracts should prioritize exceptional performance on the contracts they hold. Contractors that don’t currently hold government contracts and those looking to expand should focus on building teams to pursue opportunities in the coming calendar year. They should also be seeking feedback and insights from contracting officers to ensure alignment between agency missions and emerging priorities. This is also a great time for subcontractors to evaluate their current teams and build relationships with government customers.
When fall transitions into winter, the federal market slows and becomes much quieter. Just as nature takes time to rest and reset in preparation for the coming spring, so does the federal workforce. During this time the government is engaging in strategic planning, analyzing lessons learned, and preparing the landscape for the spring ahead. The trend of continuing resolutions impacts the amount of federal presence during the winter and usually results in a sort of government hibernation with substantially less procurement activity.
Winter provides a time for companies to refine their business strategies and take stock of their internal capabilities. Firms should be prepared to go to industry events and conferences to stay informed and maintain their networks. They should also be keeping an eye out for movement in agency procurement forecasts and remain tuned into budgets. Maintaining relationships and communication during the slower winter months will be key for companies to emerge in the spring with a fertile opportunity landscape.
As spring emerges from the slower winter season, the federal buying cycle begins to blossom. Spring is a time of renewal when federal agencies begin to solidify their procurement needs for the rest of the year. This is when we see requirements drafted, budgets allocated, and forecasted opportunities come to fruition. The government is often bustling during the springtime with a workforce busy as bees. Spring is often when we see a flurry of market research efforts in the form of sources sought, requests for information, and industry briefing opportunities.
During the spring bloom companies should stay attentive to agency communication channels, procurement portals, and forecasts. It’s critical that companies emerge in spring with market research and competitive intelligence that is up to date. They should be sure to attend industry briefing and engagement opportunities to network and engage with procurement officers. Companies should plant the seeds to ensure comprehensive understanding of agency needs, mission priorities, and upcoming requirements. Finally, Spring is when companies should begin refining their capabilities and solution offerings to align with upcoming opportunities.
Emerging from spring fully thawed, the federal season transitions into the summer heat. Summer is when things really heat up in federal contracting. During the summer agencies are actively seeking goods and services, issuing solicitations and procurement notices, and awarding contracts. Summer is arguably the busiest and most competitive season of federal contracting. It represents a season of growth and productivity and gives government contractors a time to shine.
During the summer contractors should be actively pursuing work on their existing contracts and keeping an eye out for opportunities on the various government entry points. Companies will want to leverage the relationships, networks, and any past performance developed throughout the rest of the year to stand out as much as possible in the broader competitive landscape. To succeed in the hot federal summer, contractors should be prepared to submit well-crafted responsive proposals that demonstrate an understanding of agency needs and an ability to achieve their mission objectives.
Understanding the unique seasonality of the federal market is necessary to succeed. Just like the seasons we have in nature the federal buying seasons display predictable patterns and phases. By learning those seasonal patterns companies can navigate the federal sector more effectively and capture opportunities that arise in each new season. As the leaves continue to fall this autumn and the seasons continue to change, draw parallels between what you see in nature and the federal market to prepare for better weather.