20
Aug

How to extract FAR clauses from RFPs in under 3 minutes

FAR Requirements If you’re a contracts or proposal manager working US federal programs, you’ll know the importance of the FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulations) and DFAR (Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations). And contractors working army contracts also review AFARS (Army Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement).

You need to carefully review certain FAR / DFAR clauses for compliance, especially those concerning OCI (Organisational Conflict of Interest), Security and Intellectual Property.

Prime contractors also need to manage any flow down clauses that apply to their sub-contractors. And sub-contractors need to clearly understand what flow-down clauses apply. Contract managers manually comb through and review the FAR clauses. While many FAR clauses are benign, a good number need careful review. All told, a very time consuming, but critical process.

NOTE: For the rest of this post, we’ll just refer to FARs, but the same concepts apply for DFAR and AFARS reviews. We’ll also just refer to Contract Managers, but Proposal Managers and Proposal Coordinators also review FARs.

To do this, contract managers will create a type of FAR requirements matrix, often using a spreadsheet. This allows you track compliance with the FAR mandates. The FAR requirements matrix is a critical tool. It often dovetails into a responsibility matrix, sometimes called a RACI matrix.

Contract managers can spend days during the course of larger contracts extracting, updating and maintaining the FAR requirements matrix by hand.

Can you automate this process? And move from several hours to a few minutes to create the matrix? Turns out you can, and our customers are doing it. Here are some considerations:

    1. How are FAR/DFAR clauses manually identified?
    2. Can these clauses be automatically flagged?
    3. What kind of time savings can you expect?

If you’re a contracts manager, program manager or proposal manager, automation will change how you do things. It drives dramatic efficiency, and helps avoid missing critical FAR clauses that could damage your organization. Read on.

1. How are FAR/DFAR clauses manually identified?

When it comes to checking FAR clauses by hand, you’ll likely follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Open the doc in PDF or MS Word
  • Step 2: Search for the specific FAR clause using standard ‘find’.
  • Step 3: Check if there are any hits using the search box. If you find any, copy and paste the relevant paragraph of text into a spreadsheet.
  • Step 4: Repeat step 2 & 3 until you’ve checked all the FAR clauses.

Many FAR clauses are standard and tend not to change. Or they may simple be benign. These are typically pretty easy to identify as they have a fairly uniform structure in the RFP paperwork.

However, contractors pay particular attention to certain clauses including;

  • Conflict of Interest FAR clauses,
  • IP (Intellectual Property) FAR clauses,
  • Security related FAR clauses,
  • Any flow-downs.

These same considerations apply for DFARs and AFARS too. So in your spreadsheet, you likely have a column titled ‘Must Review’ which serves to communicate any requested changes to these types of clauses. For example, for one of our customers when they see “52.227-14” connected with Rights in Data, they always request Alternative IV.

2. Can these clauses be automatically flagged?

Yes. VisibleThread Docs does this in three simple steps. Let me walk you through them:

  1. Upload your contract document to VT Docs
  2. Use a FAR search dictionary. NOTE: In the context of VT Docs, a search dictionary allows you specify multiple search terms. For example, let’s say you want to find all FAR clauses, you define a search term of “52.*”.

On the left, you can see which contract document has been chosen to be analyzed. You can see 246 FARs and 2 DFARs in total (Catch All) in this document. Already, VT Docs has marked 7 as must review and 2 as less important. You can view a list of all FARs and DFARs in the preview.

3. Export to Excel

When you choose to export it to Excel, you will receive a spreadsheet like this:

FAR Requirement Matrix

The yellow highlighted lines are FAR and DFAR clauses. Each line outlines exactly which requirement you are tackling. Any requirement that you must act on is highlighted in red.

In just three clicks you have created a FAR requirements matrix. You have not only saved but by eliminating the manual tasks, you will have reduce the risk of missing vital requirements.

3. What kind of Time Savings can you expect?

We defined earlier 4 manual steps contract managers take today:

  • Step 1: Open the doc in PDF or MS Word
  • Step 2: Search for the specific FAR clause using standard ‘find’.
  • Step 3: Check if there are any hits using the search box. If you find any, copy and paste the relevant paragraph of text into a spreadsheet.
  • Step 4: Repeat step 2 & 3 until you’ve checked all the FAR clauses.

To quantify time savings, let’s consider 2 scenarios;

1.) checking for 15 OCI (Organization Conflict of Interest) clauses

2.) checking the full set of FAR/DFAR clauses

Time Savings Scenario 1: Checking 15 OCI clauses

So let’s assume you want to extract OCI (Organizational Conflict of Interest) FAR clauses from a 106-page document. You need to search for 15 specific OCI terms; including ‘9.501’, ‘9.502’ etc. Then if you see hits, you need to copy/paste to the FAR matrix. Assume the RFP contains hits for 5 of the 15 terms.

If done manually here’s an estimate of time required =

  • Step 1: Open the doc
  • Step 2: 15 x 30 seconds = 5 minutes (450 secs) . Assumes it takes 30 seconds to enter the term and determine if there are occurrences or not.
  • Step 3: 5 x 2 minutes = 10 minutes. Assumes it takes 2 minutes to identify and copy/paste the various clauses found for each FAR term.

This gives us a total of 17.5 minutes for a single 106-page doc with just 15 terms to check.

With the automated approach, steps 2 and 3 took 1 minute. Recall that we found 5 terms occurring in the doc immediately and at a single click we had the output in a spreadsheet.

So for this scenario, it’s:

17.5 minutes (for manual) vs. 1 minute (for automated).

Time Savings Scenario 2: Checking 672 FAR clauses

Using the same approach as scenario 1 but this time with the full FAR, it’s a lot more time consuming. For our 106 page RFP doc, assume we have 155 hits, and we need to check for 672 FAR clauses.

So, here’s how our calculations play out.

Time taken =

  • Step 1: Open the doc
  • Step 2: 672 x 30 seconds = 336 minutes or 5.6 hours (20,160 secs) . Assumes it takes 30 seconds to enter the term and determine if there are occurrences or not.
  • Step 3 & 4: 155 x 2 minutes = 310 minutes or 5.1 hours. Assumes it takes 2 minutes to identify and copy/paste the various clauses found for each FAR term. NOTE: 155 of the 672 clauses had hits.

This gives us a total of 646 minutes or 10.76 hours for this 106-page doc.

If we use the automated approach then steps 2 and 3 become extremely fast. In our case, in fact, it was 2 minutes. We were able to extract in the output to a spreadsheet in a single click.

So for this 2nd scenario, it’s:
10.76 hours (for manual) vs. 2 minutes (for automated).

The value of reliably extracting the full content is that it dramatically shortcuts the time-consuming copy/paste process to populate the FAR spreadsheet.

Takeaways:

  • Tracking FAR and DFAR clauses and creating matrices is critical but time consuming.
  • You can safely automate the extraction process saving you days of effort per contract.
  • You can reduce the risk of manual/human error and therefore the risk of missing vital requirements.
  • Reducing effort and risk allows you to concentrate on winning the contract.

If you have questions about how VT Docs can work for your contract processes, we’d be delighted to answer these for you on a live demo.


Acknowledgements: I am very grateful to a number of 3rd parties who helped my understanding of the FAR and clarified many of the challenges for contract managers. In particular, big thanks to Maxine Tolbert of SBC Solutions, Carl Gouaux of CWG and associates, Melissa Howell of Government Acquisitions and Bridget Anderson of Deltek. Thanks guys for your insights.

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