Continued from Part II. To read the 1st part of our story, click here.
The NTI team was pretty shaken with the news of losing out on the bid. We had a solid proposal, a strong, experienced team and we had a plan (and the experience) to exceed the programs hiring goals for people with disability. What went wrong? We asked for a review with the evaluation team and their manager. They told us we did a good job and should be proud. They identified a few areas we could have done better; our quality assurance plan was one. Interestingly, this is one of the pieces that we leveraged heavily from our technology partner. It was actually in use on the contract at that time! So we appealed the decision. We went through multiple levels of appeals until we reached the AbilityOne Commission. The Commission over-turned the SourceAmerica’s decision. They instructed SourceAmerica to open up the bid process again. We’d won!
We scrambled to modify our proposal. Tweaking it to address the minor comments SourceAmerica provided in our review. We submitted our proposal again and we waited. It wasn’t long before we got our response. We lost again… We later learned that the USDA didn’t even review our proposal. We went through the review/appeal process again. In the review process we were told that ensuring the highest number of people with disabilities were hired was not a primary decision-making criteria. Really? We were incredulous. As we went through the review and appeal process we learned a lot but the result was the same. We lost…
Some companies would have given up right then but we knew that the process hadn’t been fair. Our technology partner came to us and asked us to backfill positions on the USDA contract. We trained and placed 16 help desk agents on the contract. Our agents took over 3000 calls per month. Our partner told us our agents got up to speed as fast as or faster than of our partner’s agents and their quality was just as high. Our team knew this might be a short-term assignment but hopefully they were blazing a trail for more of their colleagues to follow.
NTI continued to fight the fight. We decided to appeal the decision in the US Court of Appeals. A long arduous process that would review the government’s procurement practices for this contract.
Meanwhile, after 10 months on the job the NTI team at USDA was firing on all cylinders. Our technology partner was funneling more and more calls to us. Then we got the news. They were shutting us down. USDA and SourceAmerica were transferring this part of the contract to the new vendor. Just this piece. None of the rest…
We pulled the team together and broke the news to them. They were extremely disappointed. They had worked so hard and done so well and now the government program they hoped would change their lives was telling NTI to fire them. It was a tough message to give and a VERY tough message to receive.
So where do we go from here?
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