Title should be:
Google shows up late and unprepared, says standard government contracting procedures are unfair.
Caveat: I have only read this one article, so I’m basing this on what is said there and what I know about government contracting.
Contracting primer: There are essentially three phases to large-scale contracts:
RFI (Request for Information): This is an optional “pre step.” What happens here is that the organization concerned is interested in some initiative, and wants to give industry a chance to weigh in before they let an RFP (see next step). Sometimes this is honestly a “Hey, we’re idiots on this SOA thing, but we want a SOA, so how would we do that?” Other times it’s a political maneuver. For example, the CIO is saying the agency needs an enterprise service bus, but the CEO/Agency head doesn’t want to deal with it. So the CEO has the CIO put out an RFI, which shuts him/her up about it for a year.
RFP (Request for Proposal): This is where it gets serious. The Agency intends to let a contract, and is asking the industry to submit proposals for the Agency to consider with respect to what solution to use, who to get to implement it, etc, etc. This is where Google should have been busy trying to sell Google Apps. (I see from another article that they tried to get in here, but they didn’t have their government certifications in place to participate.)
RFQ (Request for Quote): This step depends on how the RFP was positioned. If the RFP was positioned for wholesalers to submit solutions, then after the Agency selects a wholesalers, an RFQ is sent out for retailers to bid on the already selected solution. (In other cases, the RFP may be open to retailers, in which case the RFQ is sent directly to the winning retailer as a pro forma exercise)
So the RFP was released by DOI, and it was most likely vendor-agnostic as much as possible (enterprise messaging, calendaring, must provide Blackberry sync capability, etc). It may specify Outlook because the Agency has already established Outlook as their standard messaging client. And the RFP was probably answered by IBM, Microsoft, etc.
An analogy – Wal-Mart wants to replace their trucking fleet. So they put out an RFP for “vehicles able to deliver [x lbs] cargo over [y miles] distance, driving on standard roadways and highways, NTSC certified, using standard replacement parts. Maintenance requirements to be detailed in the response, as well as fuel economy, etc, etc, etc”
So Ford and Honda respond to the RFP, proposing their trucks, why Wal-Mart wants to go with their trucking fleets, etc.
Wal-Mart considers the proposals, and selects the Ford truck fleet for their solution. Now Ford doesn’t sell trucks retail – they only wholesale, so Wal-Mart needs to find a retailer.
So Wal-Mart puts out an RFQ for retail truck fleets to submit a quote for “One Ford Truck Fleet.” And BMW shows up, arguing that Wal-Mart can’t specify “Ford Trucks” in the RFQ.
Well, yes they can. This was competing a selected solution on price. Selecting the solution was properly competed in the RFP process, which Google didn’t have their paperwork in order for