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Card Cataloging for Government Acquisitions

Before the invention of the Internet, libraries depended entirely on card catalogs. Although painstakingly tedious for any librarian, organizing card catalogs is an almost fail-proof method of documenting the overwhelming inventory of any library. And general cataloging standards tend to be standardized across most libraries.

Card cataloging or any standardization method can make almost all processes more efficient. Additionally, consistency in documenting information makes the process easier in the future. For federal acquisitions, market research data informs agencies as to how they can improve their procurement processes, but organizations need a more standardized approach for documenting market research to ensure greater efficiency for future acquisitions.

Tim Dinapoli, Director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, spoke with Chris Dorobek of the DorobekINSIDER program about market research for improving the acquisition process.

“It’s the process by which federal agencies collect and analyze data, about capabilities in the marketplace, so that it can meet their needs,” explained Dinapoli. “But it’s not a throwaway item. It’s not a check the box thing. It’s actually a very important part of the acquisition process. When you think about the federal government, we spend $450 billion a year or more on goods and services.”

Market research is a crucial part to all procurement procedures, and consistency in research methods and documentation ultimately cuts costs. The Government Accountability Office analyzes the market research procedures of various agencies to ensure proper budget allocation for acquisitions as well as determine which agencies need to adopt more efficient procurement strategies. Despite its significance for future procurement, market research varies from agency to agency. The GAO reviewed and compared the market research strategies for the Departments of Defense (DoD), Transportation (DoT), Homeland Security (DHS), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is part of the DoT. Although all departments require that market research be clearly documented and include information that will inform current and future procurements, the agencies varied regarding the documentation specificity of their market research.

Dinapoli explained that most agencies have to follow the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), which is the principal set of guidelines in the Federal Acquisition Regulation System. The FAR system was developed to direct the government process for purchasing goods and services. According to Dinapoli, the FAR provides certain external and internal techniques regarding the acquisition process, including using a request for information, which is a formal process where an agency approaches an industry outlining what data it may need to ensure a smooth, efficient acquisition.

But not all agencies, including the FAA, are required to adhere to the FAR System. These organizations create their own set of procurement rules, which hinders consistency in documenting market research findings across different agencies. In general, all agencies included the four elements required by FAR, which were the market research methods used, when the market research was conducted, an analysis of vendor capabilities, and a conclusion about the findings. According to the GAO, when documented, these four elements provide a thorough understanding of the specific research an agency conducted.

So what were the GAO’s findings? Dinapoli said that the Department of Homeland Security covered all four elements very well, followed closely by the Department of Defense. The GAO also recommended that the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security take appropriate action to guarantee that their basic acquisition elements are clearly documented and that the Secretary of Transportation update its market research guidance.

To review the complete GAO report on market research techniques for procurement, click here, and to review the complete set of FAR guidelines, click here.

Feature Image Attribution: Sage Ross

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