August 6, 2012 by cs
The Georgia Department of Administrative Services (DOAS) recently published an article highlighting two mistakes most often made by bidders on State contracts. The article is reprinted below in its entirety.
We know: Successfully competing for statewide contracts is not easy!
However, you can improve your chances, regardless of the form of business and the type of solicitation.
Here are two of the most common setbacks to successful submissions and their fool-proof remedies:
Setback #1: Waiting Until the Last Minute
Procrastination is one of the leading culprits to unsuccessful bids. Rarely are extensions to solicitation deadlines allowed. State law deems incomplete bids unacceptable.
Time and time again, suppliers don’t begin to post their response until minutes before the solicitation closes and more often than not, they are unable to place a bid. Typically, suppliers are just unfamiliar with the system or with the procurement processes and required documents.
Bid posts and any number of changes are permitted, but only before the bid closes. All suppliers are encouraged to allow a full week for initially submitting their bid and then up to the last hour before the bid closes for edits or changes. This method should give ample time for inputting error-free responses and ensuring that all required documents are uploaded and burning questions are answered.
Setback #2: Neglecting Your Profile
Once a supplier registers in Team Georgia Marketplace™, it can be easy to forget about maintaining your profile. However, this simple mistake can have a huge impact on a supplier successfully bidding and acquiring a state contract.
Staff come and go, but if the right organizational representative and his or her contact information is not in the system, you are leaving it up to chance as to whether you will be able to make timely submissions for contract bids. Team Georgia Marketplace™ will only send electronic bid notices to persons with registered emails.
Similarly, Team Georgia Marketplace™ will only send electronic bid notices for registered NIGP codes. When your business’ product or service lines change, update your profile. Regular profile maintenance will ensure that you don’t receive invitations unrelated to your business or miss receiving appropriate bids altogether. Don’t miss business opportunities because you failed to receive the invitation to bid. Update your profile every six months to a year.
Believe it or not, there is another added benefit to maintaining your Team Georgia Marketplace™ profiles. DOAS tracks Georgia spend with resident small businesses and reports this information to the Governor’s Office. Small business spending statistics are used by Georgia legislators in making important decisions. All suppliers are asked to review their profiles for accuracy and to update as necessary, especially if they meet the state’s new definition of small business.
(The State of Georgia’s small business definition: A Georgia-resident business that is independently owned and operated. In addition, such a business must either have fewer than 300 employees or less than $30 million in gross receipts per year.)
August 3, 2012 by cs
Contracting officers oversee many moving parts in the complex procurement process. But perhaps no other element of contracting strikes fear into their hearts more than the debriefing.
For most procurement awards, contractors that were not selected can request to receive information on why they did not win, either in letter form or a sit-down meeting. Contracting officers worry that in-person debriefings, in particular, might disclose information that would trigger a bid protest. Managing debriefings is a tricky balance, but doing it right can save agencies time and money.
Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/management/management-matters/2012/08/post-game-review/57135/?oref=voices-top.
August 1, 2012 by cs
If you want to successfully pursue a government contract, it is essential that you register your business in the federal government’s vendor database. In fact, you may have received an advertisement from someone who is offering to register your business – for a fee – in a vendor database.
Before you rush to register – and certainly before you pay someone to register for you – you should learn what the registration process is all about, and how you can do it yourself.
The federal government’s vendor database was known as CCR – Central Contractor Registration. But on July 30, 2012, CCR went away. It’s been replaced by SAM – the System for Award Management. If you were registered in CCR, your information has migrated over to SAM. This migration covers even firms whose CCR registration information hasn’t been kept up to date.
You can access SAM at https://www.sam.gov.
But before you start the SAM registration process (or modify your existing record), it is very important to “get ready” by thoroughly acquainting yourself with SAM’s purpose and the information you’re expected to know in order to register properly.
We don’t want you to learn the hard way that registering in SAM with incorrect or incomplete information is worse than not registering at all.
The Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) provides advice to Georgia businesses every day on the subject of proper vendor registration. In the course of providing this assistance, our Procurement Counselors review many existing registrations and registrations in progress. Based on our reviews, GTPAC estimates that at least 20 percent of the 600,000 firms presently registered in SAM have errors in their records. The mistakes range from misspelled words to empty data fields, to incomplete entries, to selection of incorrect procurement codes, and other flaws. As a result, these vendors miss-out on government contract opportunities either because they are screened-out for not exhibiting attention-to-detail or – because of incomplete information – they cannot be identified by government buyers.
SAM is the federal government’s primary source for identifying potential vendors. Every federal agency, both civilian and military, utilizes the SAM database. Many federal contract officers initially determine whether a contract should be set-aside exclusively for 8(a), HUBZone, or service-disabled small businesses based on firms identifying themselves with these designations in SAM. Prime contractors also use SAM to identify potential subcontractors and suppliers, with emphasis on the various small business socio-economic categories like those just mentioned plus women-owned small businesses, veteran-owned businesses, and small disadvantaged businesses. Even state and local governments sometimes consult the federal database to find potential vendors who are interested in the broader governmental marketplace. In addition, businesses and non-profits must be registered in SAM in order to receive federal payments and disbursements against contracts and grants.
Are you beginning to see proper registration in SAM in a new light, including what an important tool SAM is to effectively market yourself to the government? Truly, SAM is much more than a mere task to quickly get out of the way!
In preparation for registration in SAM, there are several steps you should take.. Among these steps are:
- Obtain a TIN/EIN for your business from the IRS. (Even if your business is a sole proprietorship, it’s important — because of identity-theft considerations — that you do not operate your business using your Social Security number.)
- Obtain a DUNS number for your business. (Don’t pay anyone for this; a DUNS number can be obtained from Dunn & Bradstreet — D&B — at no cost via the web within a day or two.)
- Research and identify the PSC/FSC and NAICS codes most appropriate to your business. (Every product and service is classified by these federal numbering systems, and it’s essential that you identify the codes that are applicable to your business.)
- Determine whether your business meets the SBA’s small business size standard. (Virtually every federal contract valued at less than $100,000 is awarded to small businesses, so you need to know if you qualify.)
- Write a brief capabilities statement. (You must have a grammatically-correct, short description of what your company does.)
- Identify “key words” associated with the nature of your business. (These words should be crafted from a government buyer’s perspective; in other words, think about what the government might ”call” what it is you do or sell.)
- Make a list of business references. (Be prepared to provide company name, contact person, dollar value, and date range of work.)
These are not all of the preparatory steps, but they are the most important ones. Plan ahead! It can take up to five days for your SAM registration to take effect because the SAM database must synchronize with D&B and IRS databases before activating your registration.
If you have questions or need help with any aspect of SAM, please consider taking advantage of GTPAC’s services in a comprehensive way. GTPAC provides assistance to help Georgia firms get ready as well as find and pursue contracting opportunities in federal, state, and local government markets. This assistance is provided at no charge. Complete details on how to access GTPAC’s services can be found on our ABOUT US page.
And a great way to learn about how you can develop each of the 7 items listed above is by attending GTPAC’s “Introduction to Government Contracting” class or “Fundamentals of Working with the Government” briefing. Click here to see the dates and locations of these no-cost training opportunities.
One more thing: As this article is being written on Aug. 1st, SAM is just being rolled-out. There is a record number of vendors, coupled with a record number of contracting officers, who are visiting the SAM website to validate and update records. As a result, SAM is running slowly, and the on-line system is not always responding as it should. Be patient, is our advice. Try accessing SAM late at night or on the weekend when there are not so many users trying to access SAM data. Over time, the new SAM system will smooth out and offer more advantages than CCR ever did.
For the latest news involving SAM, please visit: http://gtpac.org/tag/sam
© 2012 Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center – All Rights Reserved.
July 26, 2012 by cs
The U.S. government is the world’s largest single purchaser of goods and services. According to USAspending.gov, the federal government spent $536 billion on contracts in fiscal year 2011 with outside providers of goods and services. Within that figure are not only prime contracts awarded to businesses large and small, but also many subcontracting successes for small businesses.
A new report looking at the extent to which small businesses are pursuing subcontracting opportunities has recently been published by American Express OPEN. Subcontracting and Teaming: Important Avenues to Procurement Success finds that nearly half (48 percent) of active small business contractors have contributed products and services as a subcontractor, deriving an average of 25 percent of their procurement revenue from subcontracts.
Teaming and Other Findings
Teaming (banding together with fellow small business owners on a more or less equal basis to pursue larger prime contracts than any could compete for alone) is pursued less frequently. Just over one-quarter (27 percent) of active small contractors have had some procurement revenue from teaming, garnering 9 percent of their procurement revenue from this activity.
Other key findings from the analysis include:
- Small firms in two industries—the information sector (software, data processing) and professional/scientific/technical services (computer systems design, engineering, research)—are the most likely to be engaged in both subcontracting (62 percent and 65 percent, respectively, compared with the average of 48 percent) and teaming (42 percent and 40 percent, respectively, compared with the average of 27 percent).
- Women and minorities are equally active in subcontracting as the average small-firm contractor, but minorities are more likely than average (35 percent compared with 27 percent) to be engaging in teaming.
- Nearly one-third (29 percent) of active small-business contractors have experienced the oft-discussed phenomenon of being shut out by large prime contractors, meaning that they participated in a winning bid as a subcontractor, but subsequently did not participate in the fulfillment of that contract. The likelihood of this happening to a business rises with level of procurement experience.
- On the flip side, nearly one-quarter (22 percent) of active small-firm contractors say that they have gotten other subcontracting opportunities after being recommended to a large prime contractor by a prime that they had performed successfully for in the past. This, too, is more likely to have happened to larger, more experienced small firms, as well as those in information and professional/scientific/technical services.
While engagement in subcontracting and teaming rises with business size and procurement experience, the share of revenue from these two activities declines as small firms grow—mainly due to increased success in obtaining prime contracts. Firms that have been in the federal procurement marketplace for three years or less derive half of their contract revenue from prime contracts; that share rises to 60 percent among small firms that have been active federal contractors for a decade or more. Thus, pursuing subcontracting or teaming can be an excellent way for small-business owners to gain procurement experience, expand their networks, and improve their chances for contracting success.
Read the full report “Subcontracting and Teaming: Important Avenues to Procurement Success.”
For resources and tips on how to pursue federal government contracting opportunities, visit http://www.openforum.com/governmentcontracting. And to learn more about this and other reports focused on small business challenges and successes in federal contracting, click here.
Julie Weeks is the president and CEO of Womanable. This article was published on June 19, 2012 by the American Express OPEN Forum at http://www.openforum.com/articles/who-gets-government-contracts?om_rid=NtsB5y&om_mid=_BQCYVxB8rLzo-0&om_lid=naxp4.
July 24, 2012 by cs
Effective 11:59 pm on Tuesday, July 24, 2012, no new vendor registrations can be submitted to the federal government. Central Contractor Registration (CCR) is closing and will become part of SAM — System for Award Management — on Monday morning, July 30, 2012.
Thus, until the morning of July 30, 2012, vendors will not be able to initiate a new registration or modify an existing one.
Any registrations in process will be on hold until SAM goes live the morning of July 30, 2012. If a firm is in the middle of a registration, the data submitted will be migrated to SAM.
Similarly, all existing vendor registrations — both active and inactive — will be migrated to SAM.
When it is time to renew a registration, vendors should go to SAM.gov, create a SAM user account, and follow the online instructions to validate and update the information. Vendors only need to register for a user account in SAM when it is time to begin updating their current registration. Vendors do not need to do anything right away.
If a vendor’s CCR record was scheduled to expire between July 16, 2012 and October 15, 2012, the government is extending that expiration date by 90 days. Vendors will receive an e-mail notification from CCR when their expiration date is extended. Vendors will then receive standard e-mail reminders to update their records based on their new expiration date. Those future e-mail notifications will come from SAM.
CCR is just the first federal database to be transferred to SAM. Federal Agency Registration (FedReg), the Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA), and the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS) also will be migrated into SAM. One advantage to the creation of SAM is that it will reduce the number of passwords users need to remember, reduce the number of systems needed to enter and interact with, and reduce data redundancy by sharing the data across the award lifecycle.
July 16, 2012 by cs
Do government purchasing departments drown prospective vendors and contractors in paperwork and procedures?
“I certainly believe there is too much red tape in selling to the government, which is driving up procurement costs on lower ticket items, which is the core of our business,” Steven Bosio, president of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based MarketLab, told Industry Market Trends (IMT). MarketLab is a direct-mail catalog supplier of specialty products and services for health care professionals.
Keep reading this article at: http://news.thomasnet.com/IMT/2012/07/10/cutting-through-red-tape-in-government-procurement/
April 27, 2012 by cs
We’re frequently asked how to improve a company’s overall win rate, and I outlined these in the article I wrote in my January 2012 column “How to Raise Your Win Rate by 20 percent” using our seven-factor model. Since then, we’ve been surveying companies to see how well they perform in these seven factors and to identify areas where companies can make immediate improvements.
In this article, I’ll share some of the survey results and show you immediate actions you can take to help raise your company’s overall win rate.
In February and March 2012, we conducted two surveys – one with the Association of Proposal Management Professionals and the other with the Deltek GovCon team. The surveys asked proposal managers, capture managers, and business development professionals to rate how well their companies performed in each of the seven factors. We used 28 questions in the survey to measure performance and to pinpoint areas where companies could make improvements to raise their win rates. Based on the survey, here are six quick fixes that most companies can make to improve their win rates.
1. Capture and Proposal Training: Only 52 percent of the companies surveyed provide career development and professional training for their business development, capture management, and proposal development staffs.
Every company should have career development plans for its employees and offer professional development training for its management, key employees and especially for those people involved in business development, capture management, and proposal development. They should also provide training in proposal writing for technical and managerial professionals to help them write more compelling proposals.
Companies can develop these training programs internally or contract the training to companies that provide such specialized training. However you do it, some training is better than no training. By offering this kind of training, you can immediately leapfrog half the companies in your market.
2. Business Acquisition Process: 54 percent of the companies surveyed have not documented their business acquisition processes.
It is an indisputable principle that having a well-structured business acquisition process increases business acquisition effectiveness and reduces cost, yet half the companies surveyed compete using undocumented processes. Documenting these processes is the first step in raising the maturity of the business acquisition process. All companies of any reasonable size should have defined, repeatable businesses acquisition processes covering the business development, capture, pre-proposal preparation, proposal development, and post-proposal submission phases of the business acquisition life cycle. These processes should be fully supported by management and used for all new business acquisition.
3. Capture Management: Only 33 percent of companies review their capture progress and use these reviews to make management decisions about pursuing or continuing to pursue new business opportunities.
Companies should evaluate every new business pursuit monthly and make an affirmative decision to continue, delay or suspend the pursuit. If no reviews are conducted, then every new business opportunity remains in play, even when it is clear that the company can’t win. Proper capture management reduces the effort spent on opportunities that are likely to be losers and focuses effort on opportunities with a better chance of winning. Measuring capture progress and making associated management decisions also are essential parts of the business acquisition process and necessary for increasing your win rate.
4. Management Decisions: Only 45 percent of companies surveyed use gate reviews as part of their business acquisition process.
The purpose of gate reviews is to ensure that management makes timely decisions about continuing to invest in a new business opportunity and to provide an opportunity for executive management to coach the capture team on how to raise its win probability. These gate reviews are fundamental to effective and efficient acquisition of new business.
5. Annotated Outlines: 70 percent of proposal writers begin writing their assigned sections before management has approved what they are going to write.
Annotated outlines or storyboards probably are not used. If they are used, they are not reviewed and approved by management. No wonder there is so much rewriting involved in completing typical proposals.
6. Proposal Quality: 37 percent of companies surveyed said their proposals suffer from errors that could cause them to lose bids.
Professionally developed proposals do not have these problems. They are always compliant, compelling and responsive. Major improvements in proposal quality are still need by many companies.
Compete survey results are available on our website.
About the Author: Bob Lohfeld is the chief executive officer of the Lohfeld Consulting Group. The article was published by Washington Technology on Apr. 23, 2012 at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2012/04/23/lohfeld-7-quick-fixes.aspx?s=wtdaily_240412.
April 12, 2012 by cs
Ask business development professionals what’s the key to determining whether or not to bid on a federal contract, and the one word answer you’ll hear most often is “knowledge.”
As Bob Lohfeld, CEO of the Lohfeld Consulting Group and a Washington Technology contributor, puts it, “the best informed win.”
“The single-most important factor in making a bid decision is how well we understand the customer, the customer’s requirements and objectives,” Lohfeld said. “The better we understand the customer, the more likely we are to win.”
Jerry Hogge, senior vice president of business development at QinetiQ North America, said, “To me, the most controlling factor in making business development pursuit decisions is how well we know the customer, how well we understand their requirements, both expressed and intangibles, and what kind of credibility or experience we’ve had with that customer.”
Equally important, you need to know the competition and its capabilities, Lohfeld said.
In other words, “You have to fight in your own weight class,” said Tony Crescenzo, COO at IntelliDyne LLC, a mid-size government consulting company. “Certainly if I get in a fistfight with Northrop Grumman or Lockheed [Martin] or SRA, I’m going to be picking up my teeth with broken fingers.”
“Playing the law of large numbers does not work for small and mid-size companies,” he said. “If you shoot at everything that moves, first of all you’re not going to hit a lot. And second of all, there’ll be a negative perception of you with the contracting shops that clearly you’re not well positioned.”
But small businesses especially might be tempted to use the scattergun approach as a way to join the industry. That was the thinking of Sandra Corbett, CEO of InCadence Strategic Solutions, a government consulting company she founded almost three years ago.
In this tight budget climate, she said new small businesses like hers should invest in a solid infrastructure and bid on as many contracts as they believe they could possibly win.
“The biggest pitfall is to make the mistake of not going after opportunities,” she said. “I feel we can’t afford not to.”
Corbett uses three key indicators in deciding whether to put her company’s time and resources into a bid effort. They all involve knowledge.
“No. 1, do we understand this work?” she said. “Do we have the current talent on staff to understand this technology? No. 2 is do we know this customer? Have we worked with this customer before? Do we understand what their mission is and the direction in which they are going?”
The third crucial determinant is bandwidth. “Is this a small proposal effort that we can accomplish with our internal team? Or is this a massive IDIQ set-aside for small business? If so, do we have the team in place to provide a compliant, compelling proposal?” Corbett said.
“If we don’t have those, it’s a pretty easy decision that we won’t go after it as a prime,” Corbett said, adding that she might however pursue the award as a subcontractor as part of another prime’s team.
“For me, bid decisions are made not as a single decision but as a series of decisions,” Lohfeld said. To help companies make rational decisions, he has created a scorecard, or check list.
“First, the opportunity has to fit our company strategically in the sense that there are certain things that we want to accomplish as a company,” he said. “Indeed, the opportunities that we pursue should be building blocks to help us accomplish our strategic objectives – not procurements that are one-offs and take our company in a different direction.”
Other check-off factors include: Do we understanding the client’s requirements? Can we create the right solution to meet the client’s objectives? Do we have the right teaming partners? Do we have the right management and technical teams in-house to carry out the work? How does the customer feel about us as a bidder? Do we know the competition and can we beat them? Will pursuing this contract help us achieve our financial objectives as a company?
If the bid process moves along successfully, “when the RFP is released it’s really a perfunctory exercise to make the bid decision,” Lohfeld said.
But contractors must be ready to shut down the process if the capture team is not making technical progress toward a viable bid and never take on a project that appears to be risky. The biggest warning sign of trouble is when “you just can’t get inside and understand what this customer wants. You’re unable to get insight,” he said.
So Lohfeld advises contractors to be “risk averse” by being sure you have the right solution and that you’re well acquainted with the client and its needs.
Uncertainties also must be factored in, such as changes in mission or budget or customer leadership, said Dale Luddeke, senior vice president and chief growth officer at systems engineering firm TASC Inc.
“In each instance you should be able to identify how you’re going to answer that uncertainty and mitigate that risk,” Luddeke said. “To the degree that you can answer the uncertainties and mitigate the risks, then you’re at a point where you can say, ‘Okay, this is something worth going after or not.’ ”
Gary Loyd, CEO of Centurion Research Solutions, said his consulting company has created an analytics model based on Davenport and Harris’s 2007 book, Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning, that factors in tight federal budgets and other changes such as lowest price-technically acceptable awards to help make an objective bid-no bid decision early in the procurement process because of the intense competition in the federal market.
Loyd said contractors should be especially careful not to be lured into bidding on the basis of a high dollar value or the opportunity of moving into a new market. “That’s a risky strategy if that’s where you’re putting all your eggs,” he said.
When there are several bid opportunities to consider, Loyd said an objective approach is essential to quickly eliminate the two or three that offer the least chance of winning.
“To make a subjective qualitative decision isn’t going to help move the ball forward in winning more deals,” Loyd said. “To be objective, you have to have relevant business intelligence; you have to have facts and a disciplined approach.”
Speaking of pitfalls, QinetiQ’s Hogge warns not to fall prey to the trap of “incumbentitis,” which can lull incumbent contractors into thinking they have perfect information that also “perfectly informs the capture or pursuit of a new piece of work.”
For new work, Hogge said pitfalls include misjudging the actual requirements of the contract and your strengths and those of the competition.
“Trying to put an objective measure on those things so that you get the proper insight into what is the real probability of success on an opportunity generally are the pitfalls that trip teams up,” he said.
A final bid decision involves the entire QinetiQ senior management team and comes at the intersection of requirements and capabilities, Hogge said.
“At each stopping point along the way, where we make a review, reassess our decisions and decide is this a business decision that is prudent to continue to invest in the opportunity, a pattern of understanding emerges that’s either favorable or unfavorable that ultimately weighs into the judgment call,” he said.
An overall bid strategy facilitates recognizing opportunities and what the company needs to pursue them, Luddeke said. “Do I need to partner with somebody, team with somebody? Maybe there’s a particular individual with a skill set I need in order to qualify myself and make myself viable for this kind of opportunity.”
“You have to be intellectually honest around what are your parameters around the bid process, what are the go-no go guidelines you’re setting and stick to them,” Luddeke said.
If you don’t, you’ve got to change your expectations of the expected outcome, he said. “Every time you change that, you have to reset your client’s expectations,” he said. “I think a lot of times people forget that.”
Luddeke warned that by making changes the client isn’t on board with, “you may be creating for yourself more risk and uncertainty down the road.”
“Do not walk away from risks and uncertainties without first understanding how you’re going to address them,” he said. “The second thing is don’t assume anything. When you assume something, that introduces an unnecessary risk.”
If something unforeseen and critical happens, don’t be afraid to change your bid status, he said. “Don’t be afraid to say, ‘I can’t prime this, I should go sub it. Or, it’s not worth me going after this job because even if I win it, I won’t be able to work it.”
Luddeke adds, “It’s okay to get through a bid cycle and say, ‘You know what? This is just a bridge too far. I can do much better for my client by going after a different opportunity.’”
About the Author: David Hubler is senior editor of Washington Technology. This article appeared on Apr. 4, 2012 at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2012/03/12/business-bid-no-bid-feature.aspx?s=wtdaily_050412.
April 6, 2012 by cs
Austerity is here, it’s real and it will be the rule of the road for several years. The president’s fiscal 2013 budget request for defense will likely be about $260 billion less, over the next five years, than the top line projections of just one year ago. The civilian agencies, many of which have been facing fiscal quagmires for several years as a result of a non-stop diet of continuing resolutions, also face real pressures today and further reductions for fiscal 2013, likely in the 3 percent to 5 percent range.
And if sequestration happens, the challenges will be that much more significant. What is not yet clear is what all of this means for both the effective functioning of government and, of course, for the industry that plays such a critical role in supporting it.
Recently, the Professional Services Council, along with the Aerospace Industries Association and the National Defense Industrial Association, submitted to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other top DOD leaders a report on the anticipated impacts of the defense spending reductions. They included job losses, reductions in company-funded research and development, investments in people, and the potential loss of key suppliers.
In addition, it is clear that, dosuring the next few years, an already highly competitive market will become even more competitive. With fewer contract opportunities, the number and range of competitors vying for those opportunities will be even greater than they are today.
While the fiscal environment is an unavoidable reality, there are a number of actions companies can and should take to help ameliorate at least some of those impacts. Indeed, these strategies and actions were prominent in discussions with the secretary of defense, the deputy secretary, and the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, following submission of our industrial base impacts report. These strategies also have applicability across the government.
Key among them is an intensified focus on performance—at all levels. This includes not only programmatic performance, which should always be the principal objective, but also a renewed focus on the financial side, such as fostering a proactive dialogue to help customers identify areas for cost savings—even if those savings might impact company revenue—and tightening company overhead as much as reasonably possible.
At the same time, the government customer must also think and act differently. Despite the budget reductions, the government will nonetheless be spending a huge amount of money through contracts for goods and services. To ensure that those expenditures deliver optimal benefits in both the short and long runs, it is crucial that the government, as the DOD and Office of Management and Budget leaders have said, focus on value and other meaningful value discriminators in the acquisition process. Indeed, DOD leadership has said that given the times, they will be focusing more intently than ever on those discriminators.
Unfortunately, the No. 1 issue identified by our member companies in our report was the government’s growing propensity to do just the opposite, even when buying complex services, including those that generate the kinds of innovation that lead to performance improvements and sustainable efficiencies.
Likewise, government teams must be open to eliminating non-value or limited-value contractual burdens. And the government must get away from its habit of using margins—too often arbitrarily set at unreasonably low levels—as a key cost savings tool. Margins should be linked to the complexity and risk associated with the work being done. Here too, a disconnect between the leadership’s objectives and the field’s implementation is clear and must be addressed.
For every company in the federal market, this must be a time of internal and external reassessment. The same is true for our government colleagues. There are some things that are well beyond either’s control. The key is to focus on those things that we can control and to turn an era of challenge into an era of innovation and opportunity.
About the Author: Stan Soloway is president and chief executive officer of the Professional Services Council. This article was published on Feb. 27, 2012 by Washington Technology at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2012/01/30/insights-soloway.aspx.
April 4, 2012 by cs
Winning enterprise-wide government contracts is no easy feat, but when you do win it is critical to capture lessons learned. In many cases organizations are part of a larger team that typically includes a mix of products and services that must be delivered in an integrated manner. When managing an enterprise-wide government program there are many things that can be done to ensure success. Here are five lessons learned from my experience:
Keep your eyes and ears open
Typically there are all kinds of different personalities and geographical and structural logistics involved. To maximize value for the customer, you should continually conduct assessments of future users to get a strong read on expectations. Establishing a total awareness of how the solution will look and feel with respect to the user experience is critical. The more they know about what they’re going to get before they get it, the better they will adjust once it’s there.
You should also be cognizant of bottlenecks users have run into in the past, and try to make sure those are not repeated. You discover what pain points exist – and really understand those intricacies – before moving forward.
One of the larger challenges we faced in a recent enterprise deployment is that each site location was used to conducting their own business, setting their own standards and meeting site-specific requirements. Part of deploying the solution for this customer is to bring cohesion and unity for users and administrators across the enterprise.
Keep your vendors involved as well. Read their white papers and product reports. Allow them to visit on site while the work is getting done to gain their input. The only way they can help you (and the customer) is for them to have a hands-on understanding of the whole solution.
Steady as you go
For a complex undertaking like this, you don’t want pedal to the floor activity periods and then others that are fairly quiet. That’s when you end up needing 30 hands on deck one week and then just three the next. It simply isn’t a good work model for large enterprise and international deployments. So it is critical to pace enterprise deployments with very even-keeled, consistent workloads, to make the best use of everyone’s time, resources and investment.
Another important task is requirements gathering from the customer and understanding those requirements. The customer provides their requirements; we, in turn, provide them with a design that meets those requirements. This precipitates changes within the deployment plan as well as on-site to account for all design requirements.
Both of these tasks take a fair share of pre-project planning, but it’s worth it. Otherwise, you’re spending an enormous amount of time coordinating on the fly. That could make for a negative customer impression, and impact the certification and accreditation process. This process is something you should think about every step of the way. Because if you stumble, the entire effort is tossed for a loop – possibly indefinitely.
With training, timing is everything
The training experience means so much with respect to success. So be careful about when you schedule this. You can’t host training sessions at the last minute, because the sense of immediacy may lead to a bit of user panic. You want to give users a chance to familiarize themselves with the new equipment and system before it is thrust upon them. On the other hand, if training is conducted six months in advance, they will likely forget everything they learned by the time they have to make the transition.
To users this is a simple solution that they truly enjoy using. To administrators it brings together several already complex components into a single environment. In order for the enterprise to embrace and support the new technology, the administrators require vendor-level advanced training and hands-on experience after training.
That said, we have learned that retention is enhanced if participants are allowed to determine the training method. So offer up a number of options – in person, online, PowerPoint, simulations, etc. – and you’ll get better results/retention.
There is a period of time that the technology needs to transition from us to them. That period of time should be determined by both the customer and the solution designer, and is based on the experience of the on-site administrators. It is critical that the customer understands the importance of allocating the proper time and resources to achieve a smooth transition. There is no cookie cutter approach when handing the keys over to the customer, but rather open and honest dialogue always makes for a successful transition.
Even with a game plan in hand, keep in mind that circumstances will change. Requirements will shift. Schedules will get revised. There is always someone in the room that says, “We can’t change that, it is not part of the design”, or “the documentation says this.” Yes, there are cases in which you have to redo major designs. To stay on top of these shifts, maintain an active, open dialogue with the customer to understand the true requirements that your team must address. Remember that as requirements evolve or are discovered it is our job to help the customer understand changes are necessary and expected. The original design can be amended and documentation can be updated – ultimately resulting in a better overall solution.
Document your experiences
I have learned that being involved with large-scale enterprise deployments isn’t just a job. It’s an opportunity to learn how to effectively support a large customer. So it is important to capture your experiences in working documents that summarize, “lessons learned” so it can be passed on to the next location.
About the Author: Douglas Norton is a senior manager for professional services at Raytheon Trusted Computer Solutions. This article was published by Washinton Technology on Mar. 26, 2012 at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2012/03/26/lessons-enterprise-deployment-advice.aspx.