JP Richard, SJ&A
Working on a recent project for a client, I am reminded of how important it is to use Federal contract databases to understand your market. They can provide valuable information about where your clients are spending their dollars, who your competitors are dealing with, when contracts are due to expire, and even which purchasing offices of an agency is doing the buying. It may take a few passes through the data to become familiar with all of the items and formats in the databases, but the effort is well worth it.
There are two free sources that we recommend: (1) The USASpending.gov site is available simply by accessing the web site, and (2) the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS.gov) requires only registration and a user ID to log in. It is advisable to look at both databases because I found that the USASpending.gov site contains better data on DoD spending than the FPDS site. It appears that DoD does not post everything to FPDS.
The best way to use the data is to start with easy searches provided by the site, then download more detailed data into an Excel spreadsheet to do further analysis on it. It is good to use both USA and FPDS sets of data to validate one against the other. If there is a big discrepancy, there must be some data errors somewhere that you should identify. I found, for example, that USASpending data records obligation data when a contract is first awarded as well as contract actions as they occur—leading to the double reporting of dollars. This can be identified in the detailed data and can thus be accounted for in your analysis.
Another good validation tool is to compare what the databases say about your own organization’s revenues with the actual revenues you experience with a given client. If there is a big discrepancy, you can assume that the error in reporting is consistent with other contractors, and you should factor the database data up or down accordingly in your analysis.
If you would like to discuss ways in which we can support your market research needs, contact JP by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 703-568-6417.