What is a Best-in-Class (BIC) vehicle?
First, let’s answer the question, What is a Best-in-Class (BIC) vehicle? The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) defines the designation as government-wide contracts that include and properly satisfy five key criteria defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
The five criteria are:
- Rigorous requirements definitions and planning processes
- Appropriate pricing strategies
- Data-driven strategies to change buying and consumption behavior (i.e., demand management)
- Category and performance management strategies
- Independently validated reviews
GSA goes on to convey that BIC contracts can be used government-wide, by multiple federal-level agencies and are often “preferred” and “sometimes mandatory.”
Why are BIC contracts “preferred” by government acquisition departments and agencies?
The answer gives yield to multiple conveniences. BIC vehicles:
- Provide pre-vetted, well-managed government-wide contract solutions wherein federal acquisition resources can take advantage of such
- Support government-wide migration to well-managed contract solutions that meet defined criteria for management maturity.
- Assist in the optimization of spend
- Increase data sharing for department-level and government-wide analysis of buying behavior
Furthermore, when used across multiple government departments and agencies, a BIC vehicle reduces their individual efforts in purchasing common goods and services by:
- Reducing contract duplication, thereby better leveraging the government's collective buying power and helping agencies to operate more efficiently
- Providing transparency and standardization that leads to better, shared data-driven business decisions
- Reducing administrative costs and eliminating practices that dilute or reduce the government’s shared purchasing power
So now we have a glimpse of why BICs are preferred, but they are also “sometimes mandatory.”
Why and when are they “sometimes mandatory?” Let’s try and clear that up. Regarding the mandatory use of BIC contract solutions, it is not required that they be used for all acquisitions in every situation. But there is a government-wide target for BIC utilization, and it is 35% of government acquisitions. To reach a target, one needs to invoke guide rails, and the government has invoked “sometimes mandatory,” and then will look at one, two, and three year spends to see how well the target of 35% was met.
Now let’s ask and address the what-about-me question. What impact does BICs have on small businesses? Contrary to popular belief, evidence shows that BIC solutions actually support small business goals. Looking back over the last three years, on average 36% of the spending through BIC solutions went to small businesses. Government-wide contracts already determined to be BIC include large numbers of awards to small businesses, and this is likely to continue to be the case as more BIC contracts are named.
Lessening the threat and impact to small businesses, BIC designations do not change a department’s existing small business and socio-economic prime contracting-subcontracting goals. BIC solutions actually provide viable means of reaching small business suppliers to achieve those goals. One of the BIC evaluation criteria requires designated vehicles to demonstrate a commitment to small business considerations. Even when considering a BIC option, government acquisition offices must consider small business objectives as they practice discretion in choosing the best acquisition solutions for their requirements.
The bottom line is the government wants to do business with small companies. Those small businesses that focus on opportunities within their capabilities, present clearly differentiated offerings, and proactively and continuously engage and seek feedback, will position themselves to succeed - and from there, “hard work pays off.”