Judging Past Performance
When was the last time you took a hard look at how you evaluate past performance of a potential or current Contractor? We tend to combine past performance with experience, but they are not the same. A Contractor may have experience making a shoddy product or performing a substandard service. Past performance means how they performed on yours or a similar jurisdiction’s contract. It includes relevant experience, timing, similar evaluation criteria, similar performance standards; and, perhaps most importantly, the confidence you have in the person or jurisdiction upon whose opinion you will base your decision.
How do you level the playing field in evaluating past performance? Sometimes determining the real answers are more difficult than learning the Klingon Two-Step. Contractors should be judged on the totality of their experiences with public bodies. Get a list of all their contracts within a reasonable period of time. Then consider the contracts they have performed that most closely mirror your present requirement. Call the Buyer and Contract Administrator and get their evaluation of the Contractor. Be sure of your sources; who you get the information from is as important as the information itself. See what worked and what didn’t work. If they are willing to share documentation, notes of minutes of meetings, conversations or other experiences, so much the better. Evaluate them as they would apply to your contract.
Don’t forget to evaluate their Sub Contracts as you would them. They were chosen by the Prime Contractor and should be judged alongside the Prime Contractor. How a prime selects a sub is a telling bit of intelligence that you need in order to complete your decision-making tree. Ask for the résumés and relevant work experiences of both the Sub Contractors and their personnel.
Use the same evaluation criteria as you would your own contract. Do this with the evaluations from several other public bodies, and judge the results. Use your acquired research skills to find out as much about a prospective Contractor as possible. Make a site visit if you can and open your eyes! Do the workers seem competent? Talk to the foremen; do they appear to have a plan to accomplish their tasks? Is their technology up to speed? Are they using a Commodore 64 when a later version of an operating system will do? Have they embraced innovation? If so, how so? Do they use packaged software or are they clever enough to have developed their own?
Gather your information, and talk it over with members of your own organization who perform similar jobs. Make your informed decision, and then share what you have learned with the Contractor. They have a right to know what you have found out so they can take corrective action. If they are truly interested in working with public bodies, they will investigate their weakness and use it to strengthen their growth potential and new business opportunities.
Frederick Marks, CPPO, VCO, is a retired purchasing officer who has held positions as a supervising buyer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as well as director of material management for Northern Virginia Community College. Contact Marks at [email protected].