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04 10 2019

Five steps to doing business with the NCI Agency

The NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency acquires, deploys and defends communications systems for the Alliance's political decision-makers and Commands.

And we need your innovative technology and solutions to do that. The Agency looks to industry to provide their solutions in areas such as air command and control, cyber security and big data and analytics.

Our acquisition process may seem overwhelming at first, but it is designed to make sure company proposals are looked at fairly. Below we have outlined a few things you should do to work with us. We have also addressed some of your frequently asked questions.

These five steps are not the only things you can do to get started.

For example, your company could attend our annual flagship industry event NITEC in May. This year's event is in Oslo, Norway, and will bring together more than 700 senior government, military and industry leaders.

At NITEC you can meet NCI Agency managers and acquisition experts. It is also a great opportunity to meet potential partners for NATO competitions. And the event will offer a preview of our upcoming business opportunities.

Every fall, we also host our cybersecurity conference, the NATO Information Assurance Symposium (NIAS) in Mons, Belgium.

And now, here are five steps to doing business with us to help you get started….

Five steps to doing business with the NCI Agency

STEP 1: Decide if you are a fit for our Basic Ordering Agreements (BOA) Programme

The BOA Programme is an accelerated procurement procedure used by NCI Agency to acquire commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products and services. This procedure might be a good fit for you if your company is a small-to-medium enterprise. BOA competitions have short-term performance periods and are COTS-oriented.

It is a two-step contracting procedure. First, you and the NCI Agency establish a framework agreement, specifying all basic contract provisions, for a range of COTS goods and services. Your company would also have to get a Declaration of Eligibility. For more on that, see Step 3. Once this step is completed your company will be included in our BOA vendors database.

The second step takes place when there is an actual BOA competition. The contracting officer would match the vendors in the database with the requirements for the competition, and the solicitation documents would be sent out to those vendors.

All open BOA competitions can be found by scrolling to the bottom of the Contracting and Procurement page of our website. Questions on our BOA Programme should go to [email protected].

STEP 2: Check out our open competitions

If the BOA Programme does not seem like the right fit for your organization there are other options. And even if your company joins our BOA Programme, you might still want to consider bidding in our open competitions.

We hold open competitions through Invitations for Bid, or IFBs, where we use two different evaluation methods to determine the awardee:

  1. Lowest compliant: In this situation, only price criteria will determine the award.
  2. Best Value: Price will not be the main driver for best value competitions. Other qualitative criteria will also be considered.

Open competitions are listed here and information is presented in chronological order from the nearest bid closing time. The opportunities are separated into three categories: Requests for Information (RFI), International Competitive Bids (ICB), and BOAs.

You can also follow the @NCIAAcquisition Twitter handle for acquisition news. Other interesting information can also be found by following us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. For general acquisition questions you can contact [email protected].

STEP 3: Get a Declaration of Eligibility

Now that you have decided to compete for an Agency contract, you need to work with your national delegation to get a Declaration of Eligibility.

The Declaration of Eligibility certifies that your company has the necessary financial, technical and professional competence to bid.

Prior to a competition, the Agency will issue a Notification of Intent, which alerts industry to an upcoming business opportunity. The notification will include a deadline for the Agency to receive Declarations of Eligibility for all companies interested in competing. The Declaration of Eligibility is how our acquisition office will know you are eligible to bid in the competition.

STEP 4: Prepare a competitive bid

Study the solicitation documents closely to make sure you understand the requirements. You will need to prepare a few documents, such as a detailed proposal and a bid schedule where you will propose your prices.

Create a detailed outline of your bid, and make sure you address the information specifically required by the bidding instructions. After we issue an IFB, we sometimes add additional information in the form of amendments. Make sure you also address the content of amendments, if needed, in your bid.

Take advantage of question-and-answer sessions before the bid closes. Ask any questions you may have in writing, and confirm that we receive them. Q&A sessions are also the only opportunity you will have to get approval for a waiver, or deviation from our requirements.

Q&As are sent to all bidders to ensure fairness and transparency without identifying the bidder, so be careful not to reveal your technical solution in the question.

When in doubt, contact the project's contracting officer!

STEP 5: Learn from the process

If your company is selected, congratulations! The work is not over. Now you will need to deliver on what you proposed in your bid.

If your bid was unsuccessful, don't give up! We have a plan in place to make sure your company can learn from the experience. You can ask for a debriefing on why your company was not selected by contacting the contracting officer. Anyone who asks will get one. It can be in-person or by Skype.

During the debriefing we will not compare your bid to other companies' submissions. The debriefing we provide is tailored to your company and specific aspects of the bid your company submitted. During the debriefing, you will learn the strengths and weaknesses of your bid.

Don't miss out on this opportunity! The debriefing will give your company extremely important information to better your chances in future competitions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Where do I find info on upcoming contracts?

A: Check out our website, and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. We also have the @NCIAAcquisition Twitter handle just for acquisition news.

Q: What networking opportunities does the Agency offer? What are your major conferences?

A: Our annual flagship industry event NITEC is coming up in May in Oslo, Norway. It's a great opportunity to meet potential partners for Agency competitions. Later this year we will also be hosting our cybersecurity conference, the NATO Information Assurance Symposium (NIAS).

You could also attend an industry day. Nations organize such events, and invite companies to attend. Our Agency sends a speaker, who briefs attendees on upcoming opportunities and how to do business with us.

Q: Who should I talk to if I have questions?

A: For general acquisition questions you can contact [email protected]. Questions on our BOA Programme should go to [email protected]. To get involved in any industry initiatives feel free to email [email protected].

Q: Why should I consider partnering with larger companies?

A: Partnering with (or subcontracting to) a prime contractor can be a profitable experience as well as a growth opportunity for a small business.

Q: How can I find out why I didn't win a bid?

A: You can ask for a debriefing! We discussed this above in Step 5.

Q: What are the common mistakes made by industry when competing for NATO contracts?

A: Here are a few common mistakes:

  • Submitting your bid late, or submitting an incomplete bid
  • Taking exception to any terms or conditions in the contract provisions
  • Imposing conditions that would modify the IFB
  • Imposing a condition that would limit your liability to the NCI Agency
  • Limiting the NCI Agency's rights under any article
  • Failing to acknowledge a material amendment to an IFB
  • Unqualified bidder (not from a participating Nation, not nominated by a participating Nation when required, not a BOA holder if it's a BOA competition)

Your bid should be…

  • Logical, coherent, and easy for the NCI Agency evaluation team to read and understand
  • Submitted before the deadline
  • Detailed enough to show you have a good understanding of the problem and technical approach presented in the solicitation
  • Able to answer the question "how are you going to accomplish this requirement?"
  • An accurate explanation of your company's qualifications and capabilities as they relate directly to the requirements identified in the solicitation
  • Focused on technology you have already delivered, not on aspirational capabilities. Submitting a bid is serious business.