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What Is Acquisition Planning? Process, Steps, and Systems

Acquisition planning in government procurement  is the part of government acquisition management where government agencies strategize and prepare for the acquisition of goods and services. 

The acquisition planning process involves a systematic approach to identifying the needs of the agency, determining the most effective and efficient methods for fulfilling those needs, and developing a plan to acquire the necessary resources. It is critical for ensuring that taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently, transparently, and in accordance with legal and regulatory requirements, while also meeting the needs of the government agency and supporting its mission.

Key components of acquisition planning in government procurement typically include:

  • Needs assessment. Government agencies first identify their requirements and objectives, including the specific goods or services needed, the quantity, quality standards, and desired outcomes.

  • Market research. Agencies conduct market research to understand the availability of potential suppliers, market trends, pricing, and technological advancements that may impact the acquisition process.

  • Acquisition strategy. Based on the needs assessment and market research, agencies develop an acquisition strategy outlining the approach they will take to procure the goods or services. This may involve determining whether to use existing contracts, conduct a competitive procurement, or pursue other acquisition methods.

  • Solicitation planning. Agencies plan the solicitation process, which includes drafting the necessary documentation such as requests for proposals (RFPs), requests for quotes (RFQs), or invitations for bids (IFBs), as well as determining evaluation criteria and contract terms and conditions.

  • Budgeting and funding. Agencies allocate budgetary resources and secure funding for the acquisition, ensuring compliance with financial regulations and procurement laws.

  • Risk management. Identification and assessment of potential risks associated with the acquisition process, such as legal, financial, technical, or performance risks, and developing strategies to mitigate them.

  • Small business considerations. Government agencies may also incorporate small business participation goals and requirements into their acquisition planning process to promote competition and support small business development.

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Why acquisition planning matters

Aside from the fact that it’s required by law as outlined in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), the acquisition planning process matters because it’s designed to foster government efficiency. The process requires detailed research, encourages competition, and specifies a number of other factors to help government agencies spend taxpayer money in the best possible way.

Acquisition planning is also critical to your chances of receiving better pricing offers from vendors. When you create a request for proposal, the more detailed and well-articulated the requirements, the less risky your contract opportunity seems to vendors. Typically, a less risky contract gets you lower pricing proposals, since your expectations are well defined.

Acquisition planning process: 3 common roadblocks

Any speed bumps in the acquisition planning process can cause issues for your project. The two most significant problems you could be at risk of are:

  • Delays. Inefficiency in the acquisition cycle can keep you from getting crucial goods or services within the timeframe you want or need.
  • Waste. Without proper preparation, your project might unintentionally result in what the FAR aims to prevent, wasted time and resources.

Before you dive into the acquisition planning process, be prepared to encounter these three common roadblocks that could lead to delays or waste:

1. Communication difficulties

Contracting offices receive acquisition packages all the time—and often, unexpectedly. If yours lands on their doorstep and it’s the first time they’ve heard about it, they may not be able to get to it for some time because they weren't able to plan for it.

2. Personnel changes

Since the contracting office is the only group with the authority to purchase your goods or services, you need your contracting officer to push the project through. Unfortunately, if they decide to leave or get reassigned, which is common, you could be facing more delays. Why? Well, if the project manager and contracting officer haven’t mutually documented all agreed-upon process steps, the new contracting officer who takes over won’t know what was agreed on. And you may have to repeat your work.

3. Human error and a lengthy approval process

Although human error can be difficult to avoid, it’s critical that you meet every requirement outlined in the FAR—and that you get it right the first time. A contract package that doesn’t meet the regulation can get stuck in approvals for months as you try to fix mistakes. It’s in your best interest to submit everything correctly on the first go around. Also, the FAR changes often—sometimes quarterly—and you have to keep up with the changes.

4 steps to improve acquisition planning

Does overcoming the roadblocks above feel like an impossible challenge? You might be thinking some amount of delay and wasted resources is unavoidable. But with the right tools and strategies at your disposal, you can perfect your acquisition planning process to get it right the first time, every time—keeping delays and resource waste to an absolute minimum. Both IT and line-of-business professionals in government agencies have an opportunity to make the acquisition planning process much more efficient and streamlined. Consider these lessons learned and best practices:

Prioritize market research

The System for Award Management, or, and other government websites offer a wealth of information when you start the research process. This database can help you identify where agencies have solved similar problems to yours. 

Rather than searching each website separately, a new online tool called ProcureSight builds on these government websites to make accessing valuable information easier. It quickly finds relevant procurements from multiple government data sets and presents them in one centralized view. Using AI, it automatically displays useful insights from past solicitations and awards, such as average time to award, average award amount, and common NAICS codes.

Find past procurements faster, with award and solicitation results in one place. Learn more at

Create a central space for collaboration

You’ll want to document everything that’s agreed upon in your acquisition proposal and make sure the contracting office and other teams can access and approve these documents. Create a digital space where the participants can see what you’re working on and where you can all document decisions. Ideally, your documentation will also be digestible and easy for the contracting office team to navigate.

Loop in other teams early

Give the contracting office advance notice about your project, as much as you can, and when you expect to submit it. One possible roadblock not mentioned above is that you’ll need to involve multiple parties throughout the acquisition process, which could include legal, policy, contracting, a small business representative, a competition advocate, vendors, finance, and more. Having a way to loop everyone in will help you ensure communication is smooth and effective: Acquisition planning tools help greatly here.

Look for a system that can support you

Rather than navigating the FAR alone, consider adopting an acquisition planning tool that can guide you through the process, automating and cutting through data integration hassles. In addition to helping improve communication, here are just a few things a good acquisition planning software can do for you:

  • Identify the documents you’ll need throughout the process.
  • Auto-populate answers based on your inputs.
  • Improve visibility for all participants in the process.

For proven advice on modernizing acquisition, get the guide: Government Acquisition Outlook: Experts Weigh In on the Future of Procurement.

Acquisition systems: 5 criteria to look for

When looking for an acquisition planning tool to streamline the process, look for a technology that meets the following criteria:

  • Centralizes work. A sophisticated acquisition planning system will provide visibility into the requirements management process so that you and other participants in the process can update and execute on requirements from one place. This makes it much easier to share critical milestones, documents, correspondence, and updates with everyone involved.
  • Is adaptable. Since the FAR changes so often, you’ll want to look for a nimble system that can adapt automatically. This way, you won’t have to worry about it yourself, and you won’t hit any unexpected requirements-related roadblocks.
  • Makes it easy to work with data. An acquisition planning tool that can connect to other systems saves you time and solves your data integration problems. For example, instead of having to go to yourself in the research stage, the system can integrate with the site and populate all that data for you. Additionally, a solution that includes a data fabric can connect disparate data sets across the organization, using a virtualized data layer that offers management, speed, and security benefits. (For more on data fabric, read our related articles: How data fabric works and Government Acquisition: How to Address 4 Data Integration Challenges.)
  • Uses automation and AI. The acquisition system should be able to take inputs from you and then digitally guide you through the acquisition planning process. It should eliminate, laborious content-processing tasks and help create documents, speeding up procurements, reducing errors, and improving the acquisition experience.

Learn more about key functionality that can accelerate and streamline the procurement lifecycle. Download AI for Government Procurement: A Practical Guide.

  • Developed by a vendor with experience in the public sector. Look for a solution backed by a vendor with a proven track record of serving the government with acquisition and a history of successfully delivering projects in the acquisition space. Search for a vendor that is compliant with the required government certifications.

Once you do the work to acquire an acquisition planning tool, you’ll never have to go through the process on your own again. Even better, you and your colleagues gain time back to focus on strategic work, while avoiding delays and waste.

Learn more about acquisition planning strategies. Get the eBook: Streamlining Government Procurement with a Modern Acquisition Management Solution.