Here's what you need to know when the customer asks you to write the work statement

When your customer issues a statement of objectives instead of a performance work statement, it falls to you to write that PWS. Here's what you need to know to make the most of that opportunity.

Proposal professionals are accustomed to responding to the federal government’s requirements as detailed in the performance work statement (PWS) included in the RFP.

According to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 48 Subpart 37.101, the PWS is the preferred performance-based acquisition (PBA) approach because the focus is on “structuring all aspects of an acquisition around the purpose of the work to be performed as opposed to either the manner by which the work is to be performed or broad and imprecise statements of work.”

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 37.602 allows either the government or the bidder to prepare the PWS. If the government issues the PWS as part of the solicitation, then bidders must respond to the requirements by presenting the features, benefits, and proofs of their proposed solution and highlighting strengths.

In contrast, highlighting a discriminating value proposition may seem challenging when the government ask you, the bidder, to write the PWS in response to a statement of objectives (SOO). The first step in overcoming this challenge is to understand why the government takes this approach.

A common reason for issuing an SOO is the need for innovation. Perhaps there are multiple ways to achieve objectives, and the government is seeking innovation regarding the best means to program success, including which performance standards are appropriate. Providing only the SOO opens the work to a wider range of potential solutions.

Another reason is constraints. The government may not have enough information or time available to perform bottoms-up job analysis and create the work breakdown structure (WBS), which is the prerequisite for a well-defined PWS. Requiring bidders to create the PWS helps to streamline the procurement process.

SOO contents

While offerors must use the SOO to develop the PWS, the SOO does not become part of the contract. According to FAR 37.602, the SOO must at a minimum include:

  • Purpose
  • Scope or mission
  • Period and place of performance
  • Background
  • Performance objectives
  • Any operating constraints.

PWS contents

The PWS does become part of the resulting contract. As the bidder, what should you include in the proposed PWS?

The PWS must specify what work is required, but NOT how to do it. A comprehensive PWS should answer the following questions:

  • What needs to be done, flowing logically from WBS tasks and subtasks?
  • When and where should the work be done?
  • What should the final output(s) be?
  • How will those final outputs be inspected/accepted?

No standard PWS outline or template exists government-wide, but most agencies have guides available for reference.

Typically, the PWS contents include such elements as:

  • Background/objectives
  • Applicable documents
  • Performance requirements (tasks)
  • Supporting information such as security, key personnel, and place and period of performance
  • Government-furnished items
  • Contractor-furnished items
  • Deliverables
  • Workload data

An important attachment is the performance requirements summary (PRS), including performance objectives, performance standards, acceptable quality levels and methods of surveillance, and incentives/disincentives. The PRS narrative demonstrates that the bidder understands how to measure the outcomes of the work to be performed.

In writing the PWS, bidders should not include any past performance or technical experience. The PWS is not a marketing piece. As in any proposal narrative, be concise. Do use active voice and strong action verbs, avoid generalities and ambiguous adjectives, and spell out all abbreviations and acronyms. Use shall for work the contractor will do, and use will for work the government will do.

The opportunity

The government evaluates each offeror’s proposed PWS in response to the SOO and assesses the proposed performance standards against agency requirements. The bidder has an opportunity here to demonstrate comprehensive understanding of the necessary tasks and subtasks to be included in the awarded contract.

Bidders also have the opportunity to craft meaningful performance measures, metrics, and/or service level agreements (SLAs). These all become significant factors in the best-value evaluation process.

While it may be uncomfortable for bidders to craft a PWS, recognize the opportunity. Take as thorough an approach to creating a PWS as you would take to creating a solution in response to a PWS. Research the procuring agency’s PWS development requirements and follow suit.

Focus efforts on developing requirements and standards that enhance the program and/or mission success probability for the procuring agency, thus significantly reducing risks and potentially earning Strengths in the evaluation process. While the PWS may seem like a dry document, it has the potential to demonstrate benefits to the government by virtue of insightful requirements that have real value.