Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: government

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to government.

Surviving the RFP Process

Melissa Bryanton By Melissa Bryanton,
Proposal Manager at Eagle

Surviving the RFP ProcessA Recruiter has contacted you to discuss a new opportunity they are working on. The Recruiter goes over the qualifications their client is looking for and it sounds like a great match for your skillset. You start to get excited and then you hear the Recruiter say “RFP” and “government client”. If you have gone through the Request for Proposal (RFP) process with a staffing company before, you may understand what you are getting yourself into. If not, you are in for an interesting ride full of red tape and unexpected twists and turns.

Any independent contractor that has undergone the rigorous process of having their profile presented in a formal proposal knows that this is no easy task. A good professional staffing company should have a Proposal Team to help guide their Recruiting colleagues, and in turn, their candidates through the RFP process. Here are a few words of friendly advice from the Eagle Proposal Team if you are interested in entering the world of government contracts and are asked to prepare your resume for a proposal:

  • The long haul – the RFP process will be lengthy for you, the candidate, and for the Recruiter. Pulling together the proposal will take a lot of time and effort on both sides. Then you will wait, and wait, and wait some more for the client to evaluate all of the proposals and finally award a contract. This often takes months rather than weeks. Try to be patient and trust that your Recruiter will provide updates as soon as they receive any news from the client.
  • Form an alliance – Remember that the Recruiter is on your side and will do everything they can to help you win. So when they ask you to be more specific when describing your experience, or re-write parts of your resume, it is because they believe you are the right fit for the role and they want you to get the job!
  • Ask questions – If the job qualifications do not make sense to you, ask your Recruiter for clarification. If the Recruiter also finds the requirements confusing, they can have questions submitted to the client to get a better understanding of the qualifications.
  • Mandatory = Must Have. No Exceptions – Understand that if a qualification is referred to as Mandatory that it must be met. Government clients use Mandatory Requirements to quickly disqualify candidates during the evaluation process. The Recruiter will work with you to draw out the specific details the client will be looking for in your resume. The Proposal Team will conduct a second-level review of your resume and identify any areas where the resume requires more specific detail.
  • Honesty is key – Most RFPs include Point-Rated Criteria in addition to the Mandatory Requirements. Be honest with your Recruiter when comparing your experience to the Rated Criteria and assigning yourself a score. Again, any experience claimed has to be validated and will be reviewed by the Recruiter and the Proposal Team before your resume is submitted as part of the proposal.
  • Less is more (sometimes) – Now that you have been asked to edit, re-write and add to your resume and make everything as detailed as possible, here is a curve ball – a 40 to 50 page resume does not benefit you or the people reviewing it. If you have several projects that you worked on concurrently, keep the stronger ones that closely match the requirements. If the role you are being proposed for only calls for a maximum of five years within the last ten years, drop any projects that are more than ten years old. Cut your resume down as much as possible while leaving in the relevant detail and projects that demonstrate how you meet the client requirements.

The government RFP process is unique and demanding. Always remember that your Recruiter and their Proposal Team are there to support you throughout the process. Buddy up with your Recruiter and settle in because it’s going to be a long race to the finish line!

Plane Lands Safely at Airport!

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

Plane Lands Safely at Airport! The complex IT projects we don't always hear aboutBoth the IT community and the Federal Government often bemoan the fact that newspapers and media, in general, feast on failed technology programs and projects as their headline stories, while the successful projects are all but ignored. It is why the politicians and senior government executives have a long standing fear and largely prefer blind ignorance to the role technology can play in transforming and increasing productivity while they know it to be a truism. It’s why the Harper government, and frankly every government, effectively slows down or stops all IT projects in the months and sometimes year or two before elections to avoid potential embarrassments. We’re equally confident that although the media doesn’t report “Plane Lands Safely at Airport,” failed or over budget IT programs in the Federal Government tend to grab the headlines.

One needs only look at the incredible visibility the Phoenix pay system has garnered due to its glorious “failure”. This, of course, is the system that has resulted in 80,000 of 300,000 public servants not being paid correctly or in many cases at all. While it’s not ours to assign who, what or where all is to blame or at fault, let’s look at just some of the moving parts and complicating factors that have resulted in the new government fully engulfed in an IT Project mess that dominates the headlines. Unfortunately, many of these are characteristic and common to many projects and what therefore tend make it far more complicated than just the technology.

Processes. A long and convoluted procurement process that started in 2009 was awarded in 2011, and has now spanned two distinctly different governments. These procurements, although complex, tend to never envision total scope, underlying fundamental complexities already embedded, or difficulty to implement without a huge change management piece. For example, in this case, during the course of the software development work, it became clear that the myriad of union contracts in the Feds were being interpreted vastly differently by payroll specialists in the various regions and departments; furthermore, contract terms weren’t even clear. Re-configuring and “customizing” off-the-shelf software to handle many of the 80,000 pay rules and rates of the Feds is hopeful at best.

People. As always there is/was a huge people piece. The Phoenix implementation involved a government initiative that saw the Feds centralize and move its pay centre and all its pay specialists to Miramachi, New Brunswick; however, as is often the case, many of the experienced and tenured specialists chose not to move and a lot of knowledge capital went out the door (many have since been rehired and are located in Gatineau now). There has been a steep learning curve for many of the new hires as a result that resulted in a huge backlog of case files. Training and specifically training users was, and is, a vastly underestimated component

Specifications. It is now apparent that architects on the Feds initially vastly underestimated both data volumes and users for the new system, resulting in poor and sluggish performance of the system. Vendors and clients can certainly attest to so called post award “‘surprises” after what may have been a seemingly thorough RFI or RFP process. Who is to blame is always contentious but it is almost always real.

Finally there is always the unexpected, (somehow one thinks this should have been anticipated); however, in this case, the curve was the location of the Miramichi Pay Centre evidently had insufficient Internet bandwidth to handle the system load!

All to say that just as we know the hundreds of truly successful, on time and under budget IT projects will never be the lead story on the nightly news, we have to always remember every project is a complex amalgam of people, process, “stuff” and finally at the end, technology.

2015 in Review: Working in the Federal Government

2015 in Review: Working in the Federal GovernmentIndependent contractors who have worked with government clients know that the experience can be completely different from working in the private sector. There are often more processes and longer timelines, with various hoops to jump through.

In the past year, David O’Brien, Eagle’s Vice-President of Government Services, has shared a few important pieces on this topic, specifically with the Federal Government. If you’re in the National Capital Region and haven’t already seen some of these posts, have a look:

Now’s the Time for IT Contracting in Government

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice-President, Government Services at Eagle

As the Canadian economy continues to sputter and struggle to gain its footing thanks to the sudden and now seemingly here to stay (at least for the mid-term) low oil prices, growth in our economy and job numbers will likely be flat. Most economists would agree that this is the new “reality,” at least for a while, with perhaps slim hopes that the booming American economy, combined with a low Canadian dollar and lower energy costs, other regions and sectors within Canada will bounce and pick up the slack. To date, however, that simply has not been the case.

What, then, is the role of Government and Public Sector as an employer or choice for contractors as we go forward in times like these? In the past during recessionary times, Governments have had to step up and infuse in to the economy while Private Sector resets and re-calibrates.

Let’s look at job creation during this collapse in oil prices where the jobless rate rose from 6.6% to 6.8% from January to February. In the past year, private sector added 28,000 positions while at the same time Public Sector added 43,000 jobs. Looking at February itself, there was a loss of 29,000 Private Sector jobs while 24,000 were added in Public Sector.

As a result, many contractors have been displaced out of resource-based companies and others. So, is it time to reassess your choices as a contractor and get into Public Sector if you have not before?

There are many very valid reasons why you may want to take a Government contract Success in Public Sector Contractinginstead of one from the private sector, here are but a few:

  • Government projects, by their nature, tend to be longer term projects. Hence the average IT contract in Public Sector is longer.
  • The Feds, provinces and municipalities all make extensive use of Contractors, especially in IT. With the true cost of hiring full-time employees (ie. pensions, benefits etc ) the model of contractors is very valuable. As a result, there is and will continue to be a lot of opportunity.
  • Demographics in Governments see many in Public Sector employees set to retire in droves and opportunities, as a result, will abound.
  • If one so desires, it is an excellent way to transition to full time in the Public Sector.
  • There is ample opportunity to leverage your experience once you have successfully completed a Government contract; multiple departments within Feds, Provincial and municipal governments all value Public Sector experience.
  • Government Security Clearance is a bona fide advantage and added feature to enhance your business as a contractor.
  • There is more stability. While projects are subject to rigour, there is not the same “unpredictability” in the Public Sector. Governments do not tend to close branches, get out of business lines or sell divisions abruptly.
  • It’s called “Public Service” and, yes, I may be old fashioned but there is pride in committing to and helping Canada be a better place to live!

So if you’re not already considering it, yes now is the time to look at Contracting in the Public Sector. Do you need help making the leap or getting a foot in the door? We’d love to help you.  Leave your questions below!

Delays in Federal Government Security Clearances

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice-President, Government Services at Eagle

The Process IS Improving… Here’s How

While systems, technologies , networks , email platforms, back-offices and procurement within the Federal Government are all moving towards consolidation to provide savings among other positive outcomes, it seems Security and Security Clearances required with the Feds move in quite the opposite direction. In fact, they’re becoming ever more complex for vendors and contractors alike. With the nature of Security as an overall topic, we don’t expect it to become easier any time soon.

Person holding clockCISD, the division of Public Works responsible for Industrial Security in the Government, have suffered with limited resources and budget to keep up with the increasing demand and complexity. As a result, many contracts and projects are delayed and, in many cases cancelled, while waiting for Security Clearances. Delays and backlogs are unfortunately the order of the day. Vendors and, of course, Independent Contractors have suffered immensely as a result and frustration with the delays is pervasive, including many client departments.

The other very significant development has been the advent of the requirement that Independent Contractors not only hold Personal Security Clearance but in addition, their incorporated companies must similarly be registered and cleared to the same level. This is referred to as a Private Sector Organization Screening or PSOS.

So what’s new and news on both of these fronts?

First, on the overall delays and backlog issues in the everyday effort to obtain, duplicate and transfer Clearances, CISD has recognized the issue and made commitments at four levels.

  1. Process- Poor Timelines: Back-log teams have been deployed to improve turn around times and fix back logs. As a result, Reliability Clearance is largely up to date.
  2. Online Application System (OLISS): An old, slow system is set to be updated in its entirety in the next year.
  3. Call Centre: Wait times are very significant and a new system will be in place in the next year.
  4. Communication: CISD has committed to a better communication plan with industry on process changes, renewal information etc.

As for the PSOS process which requires all independent contractors to go through in order to win government contracts , CISD has committed to a process whereby once a contractor together with their sponsoring organization submits the registration request, an “establishing” letter will go out to both parties, giving them 30 days to acknowledge and submit the required information and documents. If the organization doesn’t respond, a second email will go out, giving them 10 days to respond. If there is still no response, then the file will be closed. If incomplete or inaccurate information is provided, it will be returned and the whole process will have to be restarted.

There is an expected transition period for all contractors to get this PSOS but rest assured it will be mandatory to win Federal Government business in the future.

There it is — not exciting stuff but it is the reality of Ottawa (and excuse me for all the acronyms) and the wonderful world of Security that goes hand-in-hand with it! If you have any other questions around regarding Security Clearances or the PSOS process, please leave them in the comment section below and we’ll get you your answers as quickly as possible.

An Inside Scoop on the Federal Government’s Hiring Process

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice-President, Government Services at Eagle

I once had a Federal Government client who said there is probably no process more cumbersome, costly and lengthy than hiring contractors in her department.  With all that goes in to it, though, she still finished with: “And yet we get it wrong too often”. There is a lot to that statement but, at its root level is the very fact that the Feds do a whole lot to get it right but it’s what they don’t do — interview in their contractor procurement process — that is likely the number 1 culprit for failed hires.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that every organization will point to hiring and “hiring right” as crucial to their success, or lack thereof. As such, large enterprises like the Feds put a ton of process into hiring, not only to select the best value resource but also to ensure a fair and transparent process, safeguarding the taxpayer throughout. The current Fed process to hire is often a complex RFP response. It seeks to match the best hire for the requirement entirely on paper, through a series of often complex mandatory and rated criteria that vendors need to “prove” in their response. It is a costly and cumbersome process that misses one crucial piece: there is no interview assessment of potential candidates. The hiring department never gets an opportunity to meet and assess both technical and soft skills, nor do they get a chance to dig deeper into experience and overall team fit before they award. These criteria can only be derived off of a resume paper response.

Hiring managers within the Feds are in a tough position, with no ability to interview and, as a result, Piles of folders filled with paperthey try to minimize their risk and have some influence in the choice by making extremely difficult requirements. Unfortunately, this only serves to add to the complexity of the process and makes for a very poor procurement process for all parties involved.

Interviewing face-to-face, likely with a small panel, provides an obvious and valuable mechanism with which organizations get to really assess technical skills, experience and fit to decide best value, but there are other benefits than these obvious ones. With over 300 TBIPS qualified vendors, there are sure to be some who do not play by the rules, will obfuscate credentials on a resume (or to put it kindly, “exaggerate ” experience) and others who play “bait and switch” (win the RFP by proposing candidates they never had or intended to take the work but used their resumes, and then back fill with other resources). Interviewing ensures this cannot happen as these unethical vendors will, without fail, be weeded out.

Other Public Sector organizations have successfully embedded interviewing in their process to hiring contractors both Municipal and Provincial. The Ontario Government even has a page with helpful hints and guidelines to interviewing with them and successfully hire similar resources.

A single friend described the whole process as  “a bit like using a dating service and marrying based on their dating site profile”… foolhardy indeed!

We, through our Industry Associations like NACCB, are working actively with the Federal Government to make interviewing a part of the contractor hiring process for these and other good reasons.

Would you like more information on this topic?  Leave your questions below and we’ll be happy to address them.

Changes with Federal Government Security Clearances

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice-President, Government Services at Eagle

Working with the Feds requires an understanding of complex contract vehicles, understanding RFPs, SOWs, working with Proposal Teams and Recruiters in filling out matrices, longer than private sector time to close cycles, understanding bureaucracy and perhaps most uniquely Federal Government Security Clearance.

Security fingerprintIt goes without saying that in this day and age Security is of utmost critical importance for every organization and certainly with the Feds who deal with real cyber threats daily that are of National Security importance and may have adverse effects on Public Safety. It’s for this reason that Security will not get any easier, is not going away and in fact may be more onerous and complex for all of us in the years to come.

Currently in order to do business with Feds, Independent Contractors (ICs) have to be cleared generally at one of 3 basic levels: Reliability, Secret or Top Secret (and while there are a myriad of other levels and differences these are the most common with Secret being the most common of the three). Today the vast majority of ICs who hold Security Clearance with Feds do so at a personal level, in other words they are screened and cleared personally as John Q. Public.  This is a Personal Security Clearance (PSC).

Earlier this spring the Canadian Industrial Security Directorate (CISD) introduced to Industry Representative Associations like the National Association of Computer Consulting Businesses (NACCB) that effective immediately, Independents who are incorporated must additionally clear their incorporation or business entities under the Private Sector Organization Screening (PSOS) in addition to their PSC to qualify for government contracts. A PSOS means that their John Q Public Inc. must be cleared.  This clearance will require information on the structure and ownership of their incorporation, appointing a Chief Security Officer (CSO), Personal Screening for CSOs, a signed Security Agreement and signed CSO Attestation Forms.

As you may guess it will take some time and effort on the part of ICs, the agencies who work with them and CISD.  Currently there is a huge backlog of regular Security applications, renewals and duplications. The PSOS requirement will be added to this workload with already limited dedicated resources at CISD.

In the industry consultation with the Feds, they have made it clear that this requirement has been in place since 2012, however, it has not been enforced until now. The Feds have agreed it is likely a substantial undertaking and they will be absolutely reasonable in implementing it through a transition period they anticipate will happen over the next couple of years.

There is no doubt this will be a bit of a challenge but ICs should begin the process right away to avoid any disruption to your business. The bottom line is that in order to win business and be awarded contracts you will have to hold a PSOS.

So what is the good news in all this? What there is good news?! Yep. I believe there are some definite benefits in all this.

First and foremost you and your business will be fully registered with CISD and can continue to compete for contracts with the Feds. In addition you and your business will be able to hold your own Security without having a sponsoring entity hold it for you eliminating the need for “duplications”’ every time you bid or are awarded a contract. Finally and maybe most significantly, fully clearing and registering your Business entity is another strong indicator that you are running a business as an independent contractor which provides further evidence that you are not an employee in the eyes of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).