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Government Contractors: Should You Build or Buy Your Pricing System?

Pencil Posted by PROPRICER Team

For government contractors, the quoting process drives your business growth, so having the right pricing system in place is a must. For that reason, many companies have kicked Excel to the curb and are replacing it with either their homegrown pricing system or purchasing a purpose-built system, such as the market leading one from PROPRICER.

The remainder of this post presents several factors to help you decide if you've outgrown Estimating purpose built system your homegrown system and it's time to replace it with a more robust pricing system alternative.

Functionality Does Not Equal User Experience

Let’s face it. Some of your pricing professionals are going to be spending ample amounts of time using your estimating system. The system not only needs to work but also must feel right and appeal to system users. Having all the functionality in the world will not save a system that provides a sub-par user experience. Don’t you think your staff would prefer to work with a system that presents an intuitive, attractive user interface that serves as the front end to complete and simplistic functionality?

Your employees have become accustomed to using the web and mobile apps that are slick, simple, intuitive and highly functional. If your user acceptance is low, then your implementation may not launch successfully, or members of your team(s) may even create their own workarounds beyond the system.

Therefore, the scales are weighed heavily in favor of purchasing a well-designed, purpose-built system that offers a clean user experience. If your organization has the unique blend of technical application development personnel as well as user experience (UX) design skills, then building your own system remains a viable option, assuming those professionals have the time to commit to such a project.

General Atomics Customer Case Study

Collaboration Must Coincide with Usability

Medium- and large-scale estimating projects require inputs from multiple people often working in different departments and locations. These people also must be able to view version-controlled estimates that maintain their data integrity and offer role-based access, proper workflow execution, and other collaboration features. After all, the only way you can generate proposals and bids quickly and efficiently is when the system’s workflows and functions are automated, and people can access them with minimal effort.

Whether you are a prime or tier-2 contractor on a project, by using one of the leading purpose-built systems from a commercial vendor, you and your partners can collaborate in a standardized system, streamlining activities and eliminating data and reporting errors.

Functionality Must be Broad and Flexible

As we noted in this prior post, the main agency overseeing contractor bids to the federal government’s Department of Defense, DCAA, has become more stringent in their information requirements. Heightened information requirements may lead to an increase in bid rejections that lack sufficient data and support for cost estimates. The more justification they require, which is justified, the more information your system must provide. This includes a wide array of current and historical data, such as your bases of estimates, the algorithms you employed to create a bid, the formulas for calculating direct and indirect costs, unit cost breakdowns, time-phased cost changes, CLIN and WBS summaries and sorting, ‘what-if’ scenario results, and more.

Based on this broad and often-evolving set of data requirements, your build-vs-buy decision becomes clearer. The need to develop a system that captures all these data elements, archives the history, allows for long-term reuse, and changes, as government requirements evolve, means you will likely need continuous dedicated staff to maintain and upgrade the system to suit new requirements. Assuming you do not have continuing technical skills availability, you will need to rely on a purpose-built system that provides consistent upgrades.

Do Not Neglect Support

Deeply experienced software vendors rarely ‘get it right’ with the release of the first version of any product. Now, consider the release of a homegrown system by staff that is not in the business of developing and supporting a system most often used by non-technical personnel. Odds are there are numerous glitches and oversights in the initial, second, and third releases of the system.

Who will support users when they have issues? Who will fix technical system problems and on what timetable? Your business needs to run off this system, and that means you must have ongoing support with fast issue resolution. That is a pretty rare find in homegrown systems. This is especially true in organizations that experience normal turnover rates. If the few people who developed the system ever leave the organization, you suddenly have an unsupported system.


There is a real need for proposal teams and the tedious process of developing competitive cost proposals that meet the detail requirements set forth by the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). To this end, PROPRICER was created and has become the leading estimating system in use by many government contractors. We would love to talk about your challenges and price estimating needs. Please contact us here or call 800-507-9980.

Aerospace Customer Case Study rectangle 

Topics: homegrown pricing systems

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