Updated: 5 days ago
Governments are big. The Federal Government of Canada, particularly so. Maybe in straight numbers of people, not so big as some of our neighbours (e.g. the USA) and partners (like the UK). But one thing we have more than any: open space!
The workforce of the Federal Government and its departments and agencies are all over the country, and in some cases all over the world (like the fairly obvious employees at Global Affairs Canada).
What does this mean to you as an IT professional?
It means that they need you to keep their IT running and up to date. With remote work all the more necessary today due to the pandemic, IT systems are being pushed to their limits, and the Government needs more people, and more innovative solutions to make sure they are able to keep up the quality of services Canadians demand, as well as keep their workforce working and engaged.
So, how do you do that?
There are two methods that Canada uses to get contracts for IT services. One is called the Task-Based Informatics Professional Services supply arrangement (TBIPS for short), and the other, the Solutions-Based Informatics Professional Services supply arrangement (SBIPS).
A Supply Arrangement is an unranked list of suppliers that are pre-qualified to provide services to the government. In the case of these two lists, you cannot provide the services considered under those lists unless you are pre-qualified. There's no way around it!
The first - TBIPS - is a way that Canada gets contracts for people to do task-based work. For example, they might bring in a Project Manager and a Business Analyst to do certain tasks on a project, and then they're done (though these engagements usually last an entire project). There are 93 categories across 7 streams available. Find a full list here.
The second - SBIPS - is more solutions-focussed, as the name implies. They are not looking to contract for individuals to do work like in TBIPS, but rather they are looking to contract a Supplier company that can solve an IT problem, such as in Business Transformation or Managed Services. There are 11 so-called "Domains of Expertise." Find a list of here.
Each method has 2 "tiers." If you can qualify as a Tier 1 supplier, you can get access to requirements up to $3.75M. For Tier 2, it's anything above that (see here for TBIPS info, and here for SBIPS).
Both of these lists are refreshed quarterly. As of the posting of this article, the next due date is December 31, 2020 at 2pm. To get pre-qualified is fairly straight-forward.
First, you need access to the Centralized Professional Services System (CPSS) run by PSPC. It's an older system, so be patient with it! You'll need your basic company info, and a Procurement Business Number (PBN) to get signed up. To get a PBN, start here. They ask for basic business info. For a Canadian supplier, it's not too hard. For an international business, there are a few more hoops, but it's doable.
Once you get access, you can log in, and start your proposal in the system.
For TBIPS, among other things, you'll need to have:
Between 4 to 6 (for Tier 1), or 6 to 9 (for Tier 2) references for each resource category you want to offer (e.g. Application Architect, ERP Functional Analyst, etc.).
Evidence that you have billed at least $1.5M in services for Tier 1, or $12M in services for Tier 2.
Financial and insurance information at hand.
For SBIPS, among other things, you'll need to have:
Between $1.5M (for Tier 1) and $6M (Tier 2) of services offered, across 3 projects for each area of expertise you want to apply to. Note that these need to be primarily for IT services, rather than goods (including software!).
All the details about the projects to substantiate that, including what you did, what the deliverables were, why it was a "solution," and other items.
Financial and insurance information
There are a host of certifications and other information required as well, but these items I've listed are perhaps the most complex to get. You will also want to have paper copies (or at least PDF copies) of much of the information ready as well-- in particular certifications and anything requiring a signature. Some of these will need to be emailed in separately, and others may be asked for later.
The last tip I will leave you with is about References. Both need references, and getting these together is very important! It is absolutely critical that you get positive references ready, and that these people are ready and expecting an email or phone call from PSPC. They do check references (part of why it will take so long to get your award when you're done!).
PSPC not being able to contact references is a huge reason why an otherwise perfect bid can get thrown away. So pay close attention to getting this right!
These contracting mechanisms are heavily used in government. If you are an IT services company, you owe it to yourself to be on these lists! And of course, if you have any questions or need any help, always feel free to contact us, and we're always happy to lend a hand!