RFPs: Keep It Simple, Stupid

Lora Bentley

I rolled my eyes this morning when I saw that Google is suing the government for excluding it from a contract."Good grief, Google. Get over yourself. So you didn't get one contract. Guess what? Life's not fair."


Then I read the article. And I rolled my eyes again-at the government this time.


Here's the skinny, from the BBC News:

Google is suing the US government, saying it was unfairly excluded from a $58 million deal to revamp e-mail systems at the Department of the Interior...Google says it was told there would be "full and open competition" for the contract, but that the bid specified that only the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite-Federal could be used.

Seriously? I haven't seen the documents, but if that's accurate, so much for the Obama Administration's commitment to get tough on antitrust violationsand promote increased competition. With that particular request, they're actually discouraging competition. Like my boss noted in conversation over morning coffee, a request for bids that says anyone can participate but only x company will win is pretty much to be expected from a bureaucracy. "Too many cooks..." she said.


Simpler is always better when it comes to communication. And someone must agree with that, because Congress passed the Plain Writing Act not long ago. It requires the government

to write all new publications, forms, and publicly distributed documents in a "clear, concise, well-organized" manner that follows the best practices of plain language writing.

Though the letter of this law might not directly apply to contracts for government technology, why should the spirit of the law not apply? It's just good business.

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