July 18, 2011 by cs
It all starts with better communication.
Companies wait in suspense for months to hear who wins a contract that’s vital to their portfolios. They’ve invested a lot of money and time into getting each piece of the bid correct. In the end, for one company, it’s good news. The press releases go out and work gets started.
But the work, in fact, can begin too soon, former program managers and experts say. Any miscommunication between the contractor and the program manager from the start of a contract can cause problems to brew.
The world of procurement hinges on how the two interact. It’s so important because too often, the two sides don’t know what each other wants or expects. They may not even know what success really is, particularly on cutting-edge projects.
“There’s got to be a meeting of the minds,” said Jaime Gracia, president and CEO of Seville Government Consulting, who works frequently with companies in the early stages of contracts.
The contract may have just started, but the manager and the contractor might have already taken different paths to get to the goal. And it’s happening more often.
“I’m seeing an ugly trend,” despite the administration’s efforts to stop it through contract management, Garcia said. Busy managers hand things off to companies to take care of. There are too many contractors and managers who don’t sit down with each other in the beginning.
Starting at the award, the contractor and the program manager have close ties. Audits are soon to follow from the inspector general’s office, and possibly the Government Accountability Office or even congressional staff. Even more, transparency is a factor as more data is going online for the public to see. The contractor and managers need to be on the same page.
“Like it or not, once the contract is awarded, they are partners with industry,” said Elaine Duke, former undersecretary for management at the Homeland Security Department and now president of Elaine Duke and Associates LLC.
Contractors in charge of the program and the government managers need a kick-off meeting, experts said. In that meeting, the future of success is laid out.
“Just because you won the contract you still may not understand the performance goals,” said Fred Schobert, former Networx program manager at the General Services Administration and now owner of Acquisition Advantage LLC.
Employees these days complain of too much work and so little time to work. They don’t have time for another meeting. It’s not an excuse though.
“It’s a valid reason, but sorry, I don’t buy it,” Gracia said. He believes a successful contract is worth more than the time for an extra meeting.
The meetings don’t have to be formal, and they don’t have to be long. It depends on the contract. Oftentimes, a firm-fixed price contract won’t have a long, drawn-out meeting. The project is generally clear. More in-depth discussions are needed for a cost-reimbursement contract, which holds a lot of risk for both sides.
The meeting also allows both sides to talk about and prepare for what’s ahead.
“You’re thinking out all of the many scenarios that may arise during the life of the contract,” said Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge office at Deltek’s FedSources business unit. He managed several Air Force development and production programs for command, control, and communications systems at the USAF Electronic Systems Center.
These experts had more suggestions for a good running start on a contract and ways to avoid litigation for bad work.
1. Learn about the program manager’s expectations and goals. Contractor and customer need to figure out milestones that point out progress. Schobert said contractors should be thorough and careful in doing so.
“Your clients may not really understand them themselves,” he said.
2. Establish goals for the program that deal with cost, schedule, and performance with top management based on the contract’s requirements.
3. Get agreements in writing to be clear on issues.
4. Build a solid team in order to meet all parts of a contract. Schobert said look for disciplined coworkers who can deliver their tasks on schedule. More specifically, have a strong financial manager and strong contract specialist. He said that’s often overlooked.
5. Arrange a schedule for meeting regularly, whether in person or otherwise, whichever fits the circumstance.
6. Meet the points of contact in the program manager’s office. Contractors need to develop more than arm’s length relationships. It’s also important to know the chain of command in the program office. Duke recommended getting to know the lower-level employees, who often work on day-to-day operations. They may be able to take care of smaller concerns. The boss doesn’t need to bothered.
7. Realize that bad news doesn’t get any better with age, Bjorklund said. Delaying bad news doesn’t help relationships. A program manager—or anyone, for that matter—doesn’t want to be blindsided with problems.
“Small problems, if you wait too long, become big problems,” Duke said.
8. Grow tough skin. Contractors need to learn patience, and when people get upset, they should take the high road, Duke said. In other words, act like an adult in tense situations and don’t retaliate for what is said.
9. Don’t take comments personally.
“Zone out for a few minutes and let them vent,” Duke said. Once they’re done, “then begin to engage to accomplish things.”
10. Finally, learn from the mistake that were made. Deconstruct the steps that led to the collapse in the contract after it’s happened.
“We don’t need a crystal ball,” Gracia said. “We know it’s happened; now we need to know how to fix it.”
– About the Author: Matthew Weigelt is a senior writer at Washington Technology covering acquisition and procurement. Published 7/6/2011 at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2011/07/05/procurement-contractor-program-manager-relationships.aspx?s=wtdaily_070711
July 7, 2011 by cs
In sports parlance, it’s known as going for the gold. The term also applies in government contracting, as more and more companies are seeking the gold to be found in the large federal indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract vehicles.
“Come July and August, the IDIQs light up like Christmas trees,” said Paul Strasser, senior vice president and general manager of Dynamics Research Corp.’s federal group. “There are task orders going out like crazy because, with the continuing resolutions, agencies are trying to spend the money they have allocated. The IDIQ has become by far the vehicle of choice. So you have to prepare.”
“The smarter smaller companies are looking at the vehicles earlier and seeing what resources it’s going to take to win,” said Mark Amtower, co-founder of the Government Market Master certificate program at the George Mason University School of Management and a Washington Technology contributor. “The large companies have two avenues. They can buy a company that owns the IDIQ or wait until the recompete and try to win it. However, there are no guarantees for the recompete.”
1. Consider M&A to open doors
Paul Bell, president of Dell Inc.’s Global Public and Large Enterprise sector, makes no bones that Dell is taking the mergers and acquisitions route.
He said Dell is still in the early stages of its M&A activity even though the giant hardware and services company has acquired nine companies in just 18 months.
“We think this has been a really good approach for Dell,” Bell said. “Our integration of our very biggest platform, Perot Systems, is going incredibly well compared to a lot of people’s experience in that [government provider] space.”
Dell’s marketing strategy is to serve its federal clients with the unified face of one company, Bell said. “That won’t change even if we add 25 more companies, which is likely in the coming years,” he said but declined to go into specifics about future M&A targets.
DRC’s capture strategy always includes IDIQ contracts. “If you’re not playing on certain IDIQ contracts, you’re really left out in the cold,” Strasser said.
Next: Focus on key markets
2. Focus on key markets
Strasser said DRC has been successful because it concentrates on its five core market segments: homeland security, health, cybersecurity, intelligence and Defense Department strategic programs, and financial and regulatory agencies.
Its IDIQ wins include the Internal Revenue Service’s Total Information Processing Support Services contract, General Services Administration’s Alliant contract, the Army’s Program Management Support Services and Homeland Security Department’s Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge Solutions (EAGLE) contracts.
Strasser said DRC identifies new targets at twice-yearly strategic planning sessions during which the company determines the government’s needs and its funding levels.
Company executives also attend independent analysis sessions and participate in a number of industry associations.
“We have people in key positions to not only be aware of changes in the industry, the legislation and how the money is being budgeted but also to sort of influence those [groups],” Strasser said.
DRC’s fastest-growing market is health care, an area in which the company had virtually no business just five years ago.
Next: Invest wisely in targeted sectors
3. Invest wisely in targeted sectors
Strategic investment discussions, off-site company assessments and peer reviews that began about five years ago led to action plans for DRC to target federal health care contracts.
“Today in the federal group that I manage, we’re going to do over $30 million this year in health-related services and solutions,” Strasser said.
As an example, he cited the $19 million Tricare Evaluation, Analysis, Management and Support, a Military Health System Category 2 acquisition contract that DRC won last year thanks to its management consulting expertise. DRC is helping the Walter Reed Army Medical Center manage its Base Realignment and Closure movement.
“We identified that [opportunity] three or four years ago,” Strasser said. “We said we’re committed to that market. We identified a vehicle we thought we had an opportunity to win. We put resources and investments against that to identify the capture of that vehicle. Once we won that vehicle we invested additional resources to pursue task order opportunities there.”
Although DRC does not have a chief medical officer, its staffing does include clinicians and doctors.
Next: Plan ahead
4. Plan ahead
About a year ago, American Systems Corp., which historically sought smaller contracting vehicles, introduced a plan to create a business development system and pursue some of the larger prime contacts, including IDIQs, President and CEO Bill Hoover said. “And the good news is we’ve actually followed through on that plan.”
Hoover said that after he joined the company in 2006, ASC instituted an infrastructure investment plan to strengthen its five key market targets: command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; acquisition and logistics; readiness; homeland security; and national intelligence.
“We also expanded our recruiting function significantly as well because we knew that was going to be important, too,” Hoover said.
“I would say that probably our back office, which really is the infrastructure side of the business, was probably about 60 or 70 people. And we’ve probably increased that by about 50 percent or so,” he said.
Another goal was to strengthen ASC’s capture management program and establish a project management office to oversee the company’s IDIQ contracts and meet the needed quick turnaround on task orders.
“Although the bulk of the investment was probably back in the 2006-2007 time frame, we continue to invest in our infrastructure to make sure that we can be as responsive as we can possibly be on these opportunities,” Hoover said.
Next: Hire the right people
5. Hire the right people
In addition, ASC is aggressively expanding its pipeline of individuals “so that we have a living and breathing database of candidates for a variety of opportunities in the focused business opportunity areas that we’re interested in pursuing,” he said.
ASC uses that database to strengthen its proposals whether it is pursuing an IDIQ or a large single-award prime contract. To keep the database current and growing, executives attend job fairs and conduct informational seminars.
“We have that database of [potential contract and current] employees that we can very quickly pull together because, on the IDIQ side, you have a very rapid turnaround of proposals, and we can then provide the résumés to go after those faster-turnaround opportunities,” Hoover said.
“We’re constantly looking for individuals with the requisite experience, the requisite customer focus, the requisite capabilities,” he said, adding that this is particularly true when going after an IDIQ or task order from the intelligence community in which background checks and security clearances are critical.
“The name of the game has changed with the government predominantly using some of the larger vehicles,” said Shiv Krishnan, chairman and CEO of Indus Corp., who recently hired Terry Fitzpatrick as vice president to oversee business development and growth.
Next: Build your infrastructure
6. Build your infrastructure
Indus emerged from the small-business program about 10 years ago and positioned itself to go after large contracts, including governmentwide acquisition contracts, known as GWACs, he said.
“If you do not bid on these GWACs, then you’re shut out of opportunities coming through those [awards] and those [represent] billions of dollars of opportunities for the next seven or 10 years,” Krishnan said.
Indus set up the infrastructure to compete for GWACs by meeting government requirements, such as having an earned value management system, a government-approved purchasing system, Capability Maturity Model Integration certification, and positive past-performance evaluations.
“You need to be positioned; you need to be close to the customer,” he said. That’s what Fitzpatrick’s business development team does two to three years in advance, Krishnan added.
Indus was successful in 2009 when it bid for a spot on the 10-year, $50 billion Alliant contract. “That was a feather in our cap and the beginning of our [capture] strategy,” Krishnan said.
For several years Indus tracked the planned EAGLE II, Network Centric Solutions II and National Institutes of Health’s 10-year, $20 billion Chief Information Officer — Solutions and Partners 3 awards. When they finally were announced in 2010, the company was ready to bid on all three, Krishnan said. The company also is adding health IT capabilities.
GWACs and agency-specific enterprisewide acquisition contracts have been popular, he said, because the government does the upfront work of selecting qualified contractors, and the competition to perform the task orders is limited only to those companies.
Next: A word of caution
A word of caution
However, Kevin Plexico, vice president of research and analysis services at Deltek Input., a market research and intelligence firm, cautions against relying too heavily on GWACs, including Alliant and NASA’s Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement.
“We haven’t seen them trend up in five years,” he told a gathering of contracting executives last month. “They’ve been relatively flat while those agency-specific task order-based contracts have been taking off.”
“What we’re seeing is larger agencies are establishing their own task-order based contracts,” he said. “We see that all the military branches have moved this way.”
That trend is expected to continue, effectively reducing the number of prime contract opportunities, Plexico said.
For example, he said, about half of DHS’ IT services go through the EAGLE contract.
“If you don’t have a position on EAGLE, you can effectively think about your opportunity inside DHS as being limited to the other 50 percent that’s outside the EAGLE contract,” Plexico said.
In addition, the growth of task orders has greatly reduced the time frame in which to pursue them compared to the traditional 30-, 60- or 90-day response time for traditional requests for proposals.
Plexico said a Deltek Input study of about 11,000 task orders from 18 contract vehicles found that more than half of them required contractors to respond in less than two weeks.
“So this will challenge even the most agile of contracting and bid proposal organizations to respond,” he said. “This is fundamentally changing how companies are organizing their proposal organizations.”
– About the Author: David Hubler is the associate editor of Washington Technology. Published 7/1/2011 at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2011/07/05/cover-steps-to-big-contract-wins.aspx?s=wtdaily_060711
June 13, 2011 by cs
It is becoming increasingly evident that to be successful in the government contracting market, the thinking, systems and structure that drove your previous business development and growth strategies won’t match up to what’s needed to reach your expectations in these evolving times.
Significant challenges, like those we’re experiencing, require serious solutions and strategy shifts. It’s unfortunate that the business acquisition methodology employed during the recent “good times” in the industry has created growth and survival challenges for some companies now. Successful companies, which not only survive but thrive, will move nimbly to adopt customer relationship processes appropriate for evolving customer needs. Companies must adapt their strategies as customer preferences and needs change.
From our experience, farming for expanded business from current customers or winning re-compete business as the incumbent will only maintain the status quo. Given diminished opportunities, even a proactive strategy with current clients in your usual markets may not be robust enough to achieve the growth you require. To confront this situation, one strategy to consider is making the decision to stand up a corporate Strike Team of Super Hunters. A business development strike team can be used as the catalyst to propel organic revenue growth by hunting and delivering strategic, mission-critical new services to new clients to drive organizations to the next revenue level.
By definition, a strike team is a corporate strategic asset group with the mission: to find, qualify, fill and drive the pipeline with new opportunities from new customers. Additionally, they also can be charged to tackle corporate “must win” initiatives with considerable impact on the pipeline to efficiently propel organic revenue growth.
A business development strike team’s objective is to approach prospective clients early in their buying cycle, establish trust and confidence, and foster understanding of problems and available solutions. They proactively assess customer needs and craft solution criteria so their organization is clearly positioned as the best choice technically to meet customer requirements. Traditional thinking and shorter-term performance drivers have usually focused on hunters and farmers. While these dynamics do result in traditionally achievable organic growth rates, in this new environment the strike team should be focused upon the toughest area, new offerings to new customers. As mentioned, a strike team can also be responsible for delivering large corporate “must wins” which have a substantial impact on the backlog and revenue growth.
Regardless of the outcomes of the shifts in the federal government currently being experienced, the upheaval in the contracting industry will be driven by budget directives. So, if you’re waiting for industry conditions to revert to the gushing revenue days, you’ll be greatly disappointed. For the foreseeable future, Government customers will have less money to spend to perform their missions. This reality makes the selection and winning of trust with those customers that will continue to buy services much more critical over the next few years as the country struggles to lower the national debt.
If you make the decision to proactively confront the “new normal” of business acquisition in government contracting and determine that creating a business development strike team is a strategic fit for your organization, then do it now and strategically position your organization ahead of the curve. The gusher may have been turned off, but there are new waves of opportunities to capture. Act now to seize the strategic advantage.
A leader who overcame adversity, embraced opportunity and faced far greater burdens than revenue growth once shared two observations:
- “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
- “Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.”
- Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
– About the Author: Bill Scheessele is chairman and chief executive officer at MBDi, a business development professional services firm. This commentary was published by Washington Technology on June 8, 2011 at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2011/06/06/insights-scheessele.aspx?s=wtdaily_090611.
June 10, 2011 by cs
When the current director of the CIA Leon Panetta takes over as President Obama’s next defense secretary his top priority will be cutting the defense budget — but he should do it in a way that reshapes U.S. defense strategy, according to an analysis by Wired magazine’s “Danger Room, ” a blog concentrating on national security.
The plus for contractors in the IT space is that such a shift will put more emphasis on cyber and information dominance.
Critics of outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates complain that his emphasis on efficiency savings doesn’t address fundamental questions about what the U.S. defense strategy should be.
Strategy needs to be the driver, if budget cuts are to make sense, Spencer Ackerman writes in “Danger Room.” Read this article now at: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/06/panettas-excellent-pentagon-adventure-cut-cash-rewrite-strategy/#more-48572
– June 8, 2011, Washington Technology
June 1, 2011 by cs
Each year, Washington Technology magazine compiles a list of the 100 businesses receiving the largest dollar value of federal contracts. This year’s list was just published and, as usual, it’s worth looking at.
The list reveals three major trends in the market:
- Competition is becoming fiercer because many segments of the federal budgets are flat or shrinking.
- Customers are pushing for solutions to help them become more efficient.
- The leading companies are reshaping themselves to lower costs and emphasizing their capabilities in areas where there is growth.
Lessons like these are relevant to all businesses. And examining the Top 100 list can provide insights into who’s found the winning strategy. The list also can be helpful to subcontractors in the hunt for successful prime contractors.
You can find the complete list at http://washingtontechnology.com/toplists/top-100-lists/2011.aspx.
For an analysis of how the leading contractors responding to a tough market, visit http://washingtontechnology.com/GIG/washingtontechnology/Articles/2011/06/06/Overview-top-100-government-contractors.aspx.
For lessons learned by the Top 100, read http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2011/06/06/editors-note.aspx.
And for detailed profiles on the Top 20, go to http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2011/06/06/landing-page-top-100.aspx.
The annual Top 100 rankings are compiled by Washington Technology through an analysis of data from the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS), which collects agency reports on prime contracting obligations.
May 20, 2011 by cs
A new web portal launched Monday by the Federal Communications Commission, aims to increase broadband use among U.S. small businesses at the same time it ramps up those businesses’ cybersecurity savvy.
The site lists 10 basic cybersecurity tips for small businesses, including installing secure firewalls and antivirus software and creating unique log-ons for all employees.
The site also touts FCC resources for small businesses looking to increase their broadband use, such as a series of workshops and a mentorship program the agency sponsors in cooperation with a small business nonprofit group.
The new portal was announced at a cybersecurity roundtable at FCC headquarters, connected with the government’s Small Business Week, according to Fedscoop, a media company focusing on government information technology.
The small business portal appears to be connected with the FCC Encyclopedia, an A-to-Z listing – Accessing Spectrum to World Radiocommunication Conference, actually – of important cyber definitions the agency has been collecting since 2003.
“FCC Encyclopedia” appears at the top of the page, but the main Encyclopedia page doesn’t link back to the small business page, which appears to be only available through its own URL.
– by Joseph Marks – NextGov – 05/17/11 – at http://techinsider.nextgov.com/2011/05/new_fcc_site_pushes_broadband_on_small_businesses.php
May 13, 2011 by cs
As is typically the case in IT, the primary challenge of developing or optimizing an automated business development and capture management process relates to people, not technology. However, overcoming cultural resistance is easier by following these steps.
- Think big picture. Business development is everyone’s responsibility, said Scott Campbell, senior executive consultant at Robbins-Gioia, a program management consulting firm. “It doesn’t mean that there aren’t official roles and responsibilities associated with business development, but there needs to be a mindset that pervades the company’s culture,” he said. “Employees, no matter their role, ought always to be thinking about how the company can provide greater value and looking for customer pain points.”
- Take the lead. That culture needs to start with top executives, who need to take the opportunity to understand their business capture capabilities and gaps, keep a hand in the development of a good process and pound the pulpit on business development. In all communications vehicles, they need to impart the messages that identifying and capturing new business is critical to the overall success of the company and territorialism won’t be tolerated. They should emphasize that all leads and information are company assets that are to be valued, shared and managed effectively. “Generally, it’s the leadership that sets the tone, and when they do, they can expect much better results,” said Bill Scheessele, president and CEO of Mastering Business Development Inc.
- Know thyself. Many employees are subject-matter experts in their own narrow subjects. To get better at identifying business opportunities, companies should train employees on all of the core capabilities of the company and how they work in tandem to provide value to potential customers. “If you don’t have that context, it can be hard to recognize business opportunities when they present themselves,” Campbell said.
- Know your customer. By the same token, employees should be encouraged to understand the vision, mission and tasks of customers and potential customers.
- Simplify whenever possible. As companies go about defining and setting up a process to collect, share and track business development opportunities, they need to make sure that the process aligns with how their personnel work and isn’t so cumbersome that already-busy people refuse or fail to use it as part of their daily tasks. Require the minimum number of steps to be effective.
- Accept help. When possible, companies should consider investing in dedicated resources to manage the business development process, Campbell said. “In this current environment, where people are going a million miles an hour, making this extra investment will help keep the company’s eyes above the treetops and maintain that broader visibility on the opportunities that are out there,” he said.
- Train, train, train. Whatever tools are chosen, whether commercial, customized or homegrown, employees — across the enterprise, from top executives to administrative staff members — need to be educated on how to use them in the context of the company’s individual business development process, said Robert Lohfeld, founder and CEO of Lohfeld Consulting. In time, as the process and tools are tweaked, training should be updated and refreshed.
About the Author: Heather Hayes is a freelance writer based in Clifford, VA – as published 5/3/2011 in Washington Technology at http://washingtontechnology.com/Articles/2011/05/02/STRATEGY-Top-Contractor-tools-sidebar.aspx?p=1.
May 9, 2011 by cs
It’s no secret that there are fewer new opportunities in the government market, thanks to looming budget cuts and an increasing trend away from the use of new contract awards in favor of established governmentwide acquisition contracts.
However, companies can increase their ability to compete and even boost their win rates and revenues if they invest in and optimize their business development and capture management processes and tools.
“More companies are fighting for smaller pieces of business out here in the market, but those companies that invest and work hard to build and optimize their processes will do better in competition,” said Robert Lohfeld, CEO and founder of Lohfeld Consulting, a proposal services consulting firm, and a columnist for Washington Technology. “It’s a lengthy journey to creating and optimizing them, but once established, these processes become the economic engine the drives the company. They can really raise your win probability up to where you’re capturing between 60 and 80 percent of the deals you pursue.”
Making the decision to invest is easy, but implementing it is not, said Bill Scheessele, president and CEO of Mastering Business Development Inc., (MBDi), a firm that provides assessment and consulting services. Scheessele also is a Washington Technology columnist.
“The world has changed considerably in government contracting to the point that there are only two options in this competitive space now,” he said. “You’re either on the front end of developing relationships and gathering human intelligence and staying on top of your opportunities, or you’re on the back end: reactive, dependent, chasing, selling.”
The life cycle involved in identifying a business opportunity and the time frame involved in going after it has been compressed considerably and is much less contingent on a Rolodex approach to business development and more reliant on cooperation and information sharing within an organization. Adjusting to these changes requires a shift both in how companies think and how they operate during the very front end of the business development process.
It can be difficult, but it is necessary if companies are to remain in a competitive position. “Managing a pipeline today has become equally important as all of the history around compliance,” said Jim Rogers, vice president of government contracts marketing and product strategy at Deltek, which provides tools and software to support the business development life cycle. “Compliance in the past has always been the key to government contracting, and there’s been a tremendous focus and investment on compliance, but pipeline management now rivals compliance as a fundamental business area of investment.”
With time and competition pressures at an all-time high, companies that don’t invest in streamlined, effective processes will lose out on — and potentially go out of — business. “For a contractor to be able to identify an opportunity, build a team, look at their past performance, get the right resumes in place, build a proposal, get their costs right and win it within days to weeks is a tremendous process,” Rogers said. “You simply cannot expect to go about business as usual in today’s environment and survive.”
Investing across a life cycle
Companies do have choices in how to go about designing better business development and capture processes. They can do their own research and build their own in-house intelligence management systems around individuals and intelligence, or they can hire outside consultants that specialize in helping companies document and streamline their processes to confront and cope with organizational and cultural challenges. There are also vendors that can help companies decide what IT tools to apply and still others that can help oversee the process.
Although there are variations in how the business development life cycle is defined, it essentially has three phases, and companies can choose from a variety of tools and approaches to help streamline and optimize their efforts during each of those phases.
- Business development involves identifying and qualifying new business opportunities and then determining which to pursue. This information is often derived through market research firms, such as Input and FedSources — both now owned by Deltek — but companies can also root out potential business by doing their own market research and contacting customers formally and informally.
- Capture management is where companies begin positioning themselves to pursue and win business opportunities. That means putting the data and human intelligence that has been collected on each opportunity into an accessible, shareable repository; detailing the requirements; developing a solution; researching and understanding the competition; creating a win strategy; creating a teaming strategy; creating a pricing strategy; and then overseeing that process. A good capture process will also provide easy-to-access management reports that note, among other things, how many proposals have been submitted, how many are in the evaluation stage and how many are coming up for bid. To help with this kind of pipeline management, many companies use a customer relationship management tool, which can collect and maintain data relevant to various opportunities and track opportunities over time. The dominant ones in the marketplace are GovWin CRM from Deltek, Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamic CRM. Some companies, Lohfeld said, also use homegrown tools that aren’t nearly as sophisticated but might work well for the needs of a particular company.
- Pursuit involves choosing and going after a qualified business opportunity and can be broken down even further into three subphases: preproposal development, proposal development and postproposal submission. That essentially involves moving the capture assets on the chosen opportunity and potential client into the creative phase, as personnel move information into the strategies and tactics that will be included in the final proposal and then, once an RFP has been put in place, to make a full-scale effort to deliver a winning proposal. The submission will also involve oral presentations, final responses and then, if a contract is awarded, negotiations and other tasks associated with closing the deal. Some of the tools that companies can use during this time include Sharepoint from Microsoft and eRoom, which can be used as a knowledge repository in which companies map the capture activities to the proposal activities, and Privia, which is integrated with Salesforce.com.
In some instances, the business development, capture and pursuit processes can be streamlined into a single end-to-end strategy. For example, Deltek provides life cycle tools and processes within a subscription-based, software-as-a-service offering that automates the workflow through the various steps, while Lohfeld Consulting offers a solution called Capture Command Center that helps companies integrate the process seamlessly between whatever CRM capture tools and knowledge repository they’ve chosen to use.
It’s the people, stupid
Although the business development, capture and pursuit tools available to companies are highly automated, functional, dynamic and convenient — even mobile — they are not a panacea for the larger cultural problems that can hamstring a company’s efforts to identify and win new opportunities, said Nicholas Coppings, senior vice president of consulting and general manager of MBDi.
“This is really not an IT problem,” he said. “The best upfront business development systems are built around an internal process, where the company has developed the process themselves and then they’ve had somebody come in and customize it and apply some IT tools.”
No tool, no matter how effective, can overcome a poorly defined process or lazy and untrained business development professionals, he said, noting that any company that’s had a salesperson leave suddenly, taking their contacts and files with them, understands the potential dangers involved.
“I’ve seen companies succeed and get along quite well using an effective process and Outlook, and I’ve seen bad people hide behind GovWin and fail,” Coppings said. “You need an IT process that mirrors an effective business development process that actually disciplines the business development staff to get the information that’s required and enter it into the process.”
Companies — whether small, medium or large — that recognize that need and invest effectively in training, process development and IT can succeed despite an increasingly tough contracting marketplace, according to business development experts.
“We always talk about people, process and technology being the key to everything we do in this industry and that’s certainly the case with business development — now more than ever,” Lohfeld said. “But if you get all three working in this area, you’ve got a company that’s destined to be successful. If you don’t, you’re running a handicapped race.”
About the Author: Heather Hayes is a freelance writer based in Clifford, VA – as published May 2, 2011 in Washington Technology at http://washingtontechnology.com/Articles/2011/05/02/STRATEGY-Top-Contract-Tools.aspx?s=wtdaily_090511&p=1
May 3, 2011 by cs
If your business is woman-owned — and you’re interested in doing business with the federal government — you probably have been following developments surrounding the Small Business Administration’s Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) set-aside program.
(For a quick recap of the new WOSB program, please read http://gtpac.org/2011/02/sba-releases-wosb-certification-forms-and-implements-repository.)
As you may know, there are two ways that a WOSB can become certified to partipate in this new federal program: go through a third-party certifying body or self-certify.
Most WOSB’s wanting to get on-board with the program quickly are opting to self-certify. (Update: It was not until 7/8/2011 that the SBA announced its approved list of third-party certifiers. This information may be found at http://gtpac.org/2011/07/sba-names-third-party-wosb-certifiers.)
Self-certification is a viable option for all WOSB firms, but knowing what information must be submitted and learning how to upload this documentation to SBA’s website are keys to getting self-certification done.
The Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) is making two resources available to assist WOSB’s in understanding the WOSB program and the self-certification process.
- First, GTPAC is continuing to conduct workshops, both in classroom and on-line, on the subject of the new WOSB program. You can find these workshops and register for them on the training page of the GTPAC website — http://gtpac.ecenterdirect.com/Conferences.action. When you visit the training page, just type the term “WOSB” into the Keyword Search box, and then hit the “Search” button. All upcoming WOSB training sessions will then be displayed.
- Second, GTPAC has now posted a PowerPoint tutorial on-line which explains and walks-through the SBA’s on-line Repository uploading process. The tutorial specifies what documentation a WOSB must upload to the Reposity in order to become self-certified, along with instructions on how to establish an account and actually upload the documents. This tutorial can be found at http://gtpac.org/useful-links/downloads. Once you are on that page, just click on the link marked “Uploading WOSB Docs to SBA’s Online Repository.” You’ll find many other resource documents on that same page, including the WOSB certification application forms.
If you need help with any step in this process, please feel free to contact your nearest GTPAC Counselor. All contact information for the GTPAC team can be found at http://gtpac.org/team-directory.