How to handle today’s austere times

April 6, 2012 by

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.

Respect for People: Raising the value of your most important assets

March 22, 2012 by

Join Georgia Tech for the annual Lean Consortium event and learn about the evolution of lean from the factory floor to human development. This year’s seminar focuses on becoming more competitive by incorporating the Harada method into your organization through linking the development of people to your organization’s success.

Lean Consortium Event Details:

Respect for People
 Date: Thursday, May 10, 2012
 Time: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (registration begins at 9:00 a.m.)
 Location: Atlanta Airport Marriott Gateway
 Price: $295*
 Keynote Speaker: Norman Bodek

*If you have 5 or more from the same company, the group rate is $240 per seat. Contact Tim Israel to secure multiple seats at this rate.

Seminar Topics:

 The Harada Method: strengthening leaders to inspire employees to develop success goals and work out the detail plans necessary for attaining them
 Understanding and Incorporating the human side of Lean
 Turning managers into active coaches to build a winning team

Benefits of Attending:

 Understand ways to grow employees to make your company more competitive
 Learn to empower and involve employees in the improvement process
 Discover ways to enhance communication throughout the organization

Speaker:

After 18 years working with Data Processing companies, Norman Bodek founded the publishing, consulting, and training firm PCS Press Inc., where he is working to broaden the implementation of lean from the production floor to the entire enterprise. He is an author of over 100 Japanese management books on tools for continuous improvement. Norman is an accomplished presenter, having led numerous seminars, conference sessions, and training events on many continuous improvement subjects. He is also co-founder of the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence.

Here’s how to raise your win rate by 20 percent

January 11, 2012 by

All executives want to increase their win rate. If you could raise your company’s overall win rate by 20 percent, the payoff in additional revenue, earnings and shareholder value could be huge. Company revenues would increase, earnings would increase by the marginal profit rate on the new revenue, and shareholder value would increase proportionally to your increase in earnings.
But knowing which investments to make and predicting the payoff is the challenge. Here’s how to choose your investments and predict the resulting increase in win rates.
First, let me make sure everyone understands that we are talking about the investment you make to improve your company’s overall win rate. This is the average win rate on all proposals your company submits, not your win rate on a specific proposal. (We use a different model to predict the outcome for individual bids.)
7-Factor Model
To predict increases in overall company win rates, we use a 7-Factor model. Since we are not aware of any other models that do this, we’ve called it the Lohfeld 7-Factor Company Win Rate Model.
While the model predicts overall company win rates, more importantly, it also predicts how a company’s win rate is affected by changing investments in these 7 factors—and that’s what we’re after. If we can predict how the win rate is affected by changes in the 7-Factor score, then we can make investments with confidence, knowing that we can predict the resulting win-rate increase.
The 7-Factor score is based on:
  • People: The skills and experience of the people involved in creating proposals.
  • Business acquisition process: Business acquisition maturity covering the five stages of business acquisition lifecycle.
  • Tools: Proposal infrastructure and personal and productivity tools.
  • Management decision-making: Qualification and bid decisions.
  • Solution competitiveness: Competitive solution with good features and customer benefits.
  • Proposal quality: Quality proposals that are always compliant, responsive and compelling.
  • Winning culture: Winning culture with good work/life balance.
We assess each of the seven factors using four yes/no questions. Each yes answer contributes one point to a company’s overall score. A perfect assessment scores 28 points and, by the way, we have never seen a company earn all 28 points. Each question takes 15 seconds to read and answer. With seven factors and 28 questions, it takes seven minutes to complete the assessment to see how your company rates in each factor.
Here’s an example of how the assessment works. The first assessment factor is People. Skilled people write better proposals than those who are not so good at it. To assess the skill and experience of the people working capture and proposals, we ask four questions. The answers are based on the skill and experience of your internal staff as well as consultants you use.

RELATED MATERIAL
To take the full questionaire and receive a presentation that explains the 7-Factor Model, click here.


The first question is, “Does your capture and proposal core team include your best and brightest professionals, and do they know how to create winning proposals?” You get one point if your answer is yes and zero points if the answer is no. You get a second point if you answer yes to the question, “Are your Proposal Managers always well matched to their assignments and do they always have the right leadership qualities and experience level for the assignment,” (or if you don’t have the right person available from your in-house team, you go outside your company for proposal management support). You get a third point if you have a career development plan for your proposal professionals, which includes professional development and skills training. You get a fourth point if you can readily add additional proposal resources to augment your team to accommodate fluctuating workloads.

Answer each of these questions with a yes or no. Each yes gets one point, and each no gets zero points. If your answer is somewhere between yes and no, give yourself a half point. Once you complete your 7-Factor Assessment score, you’re ready to begin looking at investments.
Selecting investments to raise your win rates
Your strategy is to make company investments that will raise your 7-Factor Assessment score. The higher your assessment score, the higher your overall win rate will be.
To see which factors to improve, plot your scores on our Lohfeld 7-Axis Diagram. The Lohfeld 7-Axis Diagram provides a graphical representation of your assessment scores and shows at a glance those factors that need to be increased via investments. Invest in factors with the lowest scores first since generally they have a greater variety of investments that will raise your score. Make the least costly investments first with the objective of investing the least amount of money to get the highest increase in scores.
Let’s assume that a company wants to make investments to raise the People factor. If the scorers went back to their assessment scores, they might find that one of the contributing factors to the low score was that they didn’t have a professional development training program for their capture and proposal staff.
Since the company can implement such a program inexpensively, this should be their first planned investment. Similarly, they would use their assessment scores in the Process and Tools factors to guide them in selecting appropriate investments to raise their scores for these factors.
Using this approach, the company would build a plan of investments to raise its 7-Factor scores systematically and thereby raise its win rates.
Calibrating the model
To measure how much a company’s win rate increases with increases in 7-Factor scores, we worked with the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) and had 45 proposal managers assess their companies and correlate their assessment scores with win rates. We did this exercise at the APMP Nor’easters Chapter Fall Symposium 2011 and the APMP Southern Proposal Accents Conference. Our survey results solidly confirm that companies with higher 7-Factor Assessment scores had higher win rates.
From the APMP data, we found that government contractors with a 20 percent increase in their 7-Factor Assessment score on average yielded a 20 percent increase in their win rate. Clearly, government contactors should strive to increase their 7-Factor scores since the modest investment can produce large payoffs in new business revenue.
We also found that on average companies in the government market had 17 percent higher 7-Factor scores and 28 percent higher win rates than companies in the commercial space.
Perhaps government-market win rates track more closely to the quality of capture and proposal work, whereas commercial proposals are more broadly influenced by brand marketing.
Predicting Your Return on Investment
As a general rule, your win rate percentage will increase point for point with the increase in your 7-Factor score. This rule applies to companies that develop enough proposals each year that they have a good proposal team, some established processes and are doing reasonably well winning their share of bids.
Your company needs to have enough proposal volume to produce an economic payoff for making the investments. Your company also needs to have a reasonable win rate established as a starting point.
If you have a very low win rate, there may be other serious problems that need to be fixed before you fine tune your business-acquisition efforts.
Here’s what a typical company might expect. (Stick with me because there is some math here, but I promise nothing more complicated than multiplication and division.)
A typical government contractor graduating from the small business program might have $40 million a year in revenue, a 30 percent win rate, and a 16 for its 7-Factor score.
Let’s assume the company must generate $20 million in replacement revenue just to stay even and wants to grow revenue by 20 percent ($8 million) next year. To do this, the company must have $28 million in new revenue next year.
If awarded contracts have a nominal 5-year period of performance, then the company has to win $140 million in new business. If its win rate is 30 percent and the win rate doesn’t drop after graduation, then the company has to bid $466 million to produce $28 million in new revenue next year.
Now assume that the company selects investments that will raise its 7-Factor score by 20 percent with the expectation that this will result in a 20 percent increase in its win rate. Increasing the win rate by 20 percent means the win rate will go from 30 percent to 36 percent. This will produce additional revenue equal to 6 percent of all bids the company makes.
In this example, 6 percent of $466 million is an additional $30 million in revenue. If the marginal profit rate is 5 percent, the investments would drop $1.5 million to the company’s bottom line.
From a shareholder perspective, the additional $30 million in new business spread across a 5-year period of performance would bump up revenue by $6 million next year and could increase shareholder value by the same amount, assuming shares are valued at 1 times revenue.
Now compute the ROI. Assuming our example company needs to make $200,000 in investments to raise the 7-Factor score by 20 percent, and the revenue increase produced an additional $1.5 million to the bottom line, then the ROI ratio would be 7.5 to 1. I believe this is called a no brainer.
Make the investments and move on to enjoy your new-found prosperity.
About the Author: Bob Lohfeld is the chief executive officer of the Lohfeld Consulting Group. E-mail is moc.gnitlusnocdlefholnull@dlefhol.trebor. Published Jan. 5, 2012 by Washington Technology at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2012/01/04/increasing-your-win-rate.aspx?s=wtdaily_060112.

How one small business chipped away at the market and captured a $75M opportunity

December 22, 2011 by

Contrary to its name, marketing and communications company LeapFrog Solutions didn’t immediately leap into the government market.

That happened in 2002, when Lisa Martin’s company won three small consulting contracts from the Federal Railroad Administration, Voice of America and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Others modest government awards followed from the Secret Service, National Credit Union Administration and Office of the Currency.

Martin said she quickly realized that, like commercial entities, many federal agencies had websites that were not in sync with their mission statements. Also, activities such as direct mail, trade show appearances and ad campaigns also were disjointed because each operation was the responsibility of a different domain.

So for the government market, she said, “Our very ambitious goal was ‘make the message matter.’ Whether it was online, offline, we wanted to make the message consistent.”

LeapFrog’s big leap into the government arena began in 2008, when the Federal Emergency Management Agency set aside its marketing and communications contracting as a small-business award.

Following Hurricane Katrina and other ensuing natural disasters, FEMA managers in 2010 decided they needed a public campaign to publicize how citizens could protect their homes and possessions from flood damage through government-sponsored insurance.

FEMA then created the National Flood Insurance Program Integrated Marketing and Advertising and Public Services contract.

About 30 small businesses answered FEMA’s request for proposals, which included managing the agency website, its publications, direct mail, conference appearances and advertising.

“We’d been watching for [the RFP] for a while,” said Mark Nelson, LeapFrog’s business development and communications manager, who joined the company in 2010.

“Our challenge was putting together a strong proposal in response to the RFP and corralling all the [partner] elements,” he said. “For example, we don’t do large-scale media buying so that’s why we enlisted Spurrier Media Group out of Richmond.”

And although LeapFrog does some web design, it doesn’t do the more complex back-end coding that is required, so it brought in Blue Water Media as a partner.

This past March the LeapFrog-led team won the five-year, $75 million FEMA contract to publicize and market government-sponsored flood insurance under the National Flood Insurance Program.

The LeapFrog team of Blue Water Media and Spurrier Media Group also includes Bender Consulting Services Inc. and former incumbents ad agency JWT, once known as the J. Walter Thompson agency, and Ogilvy Public Relations.

Among other tasks, LeapFrog manages the FEMA website FloodSmart.gov and collates the data from the agency’s call center queries.

“If you go to FloodSmart.gov, you can type in your address it will show you what your [flood] risk level risk is and give you a ballpark figure of what a policy would cost,” Nelson explained.

“FEMA actually has done a really good job,” he said. “They’re in the process of redoing a lot of the flood maps around the country using more digital and interactive tools.” Martin’s team also is tasked with spreading the word about FEMA’s flood insurance assistance through trade shows and by disseminating information to local officials, insurance companies, contractors and others.

LeapFrog Solutions is leveraging its work with FEMA at other government assistance agencies including the Homeland Security, Health and Human Services and Interior departments as well as the Office of Personnel Management.

“We’re also working at VA because of all the health care initiatives; also the military heath care system under DOD,” Martin said.

As a result of the FEMA award and its other government and commercial contracts, LeapFrog Solutions has grown to about 25 employees and the company, which began in Martin’s basement in 1996, will be moving into new, larger offices within the next few months.

“We’ve probably doubled [the staff] within the past two years,” she said. “As we’re growing, one of the things that we’re finding is that communications really need to be more and more refined.”

She said the advent of new social media and the growth of a tech-savvy government work force require companies like LeapFrog to be up on the latest technologies and be able to communicate their benefits. That includes keeping abreast of what the young generation of government workers wants and needs, she added.

At the same time, Martin sees health care initiatives becoming a big part of LeapFrog’s future.

“There’s a huge opportunity there,” she said, citing new opportunities at VA, HHS and NIH, where LeapFrog has secured a blanket purchase agreement.

But “it’s not enough just to be able to build and maintain a website. If you have a solution, you really have to show results,” she said. “When we go into an agency, we’re looking at what we can measure. What gets measured gets results.”

About the Author: David Hubler is senior editor of Washington Technology. This article was published Dec. 19, 2011 at http://washingtontechnology.com/Articles/2011/12/19/LeapFrog-FEMA-contract.aspx?s=wtdaily_201211&p=1.

SBIR solicitations open until Jan. 11

December 20, 2011 by

The Department of Defense’s 2012 SBIR solicitation is now open and accepting proposals until January 11, 2012..

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) is a government program, coordinated by the Small Business Administration, in which 2.5 percent of the total extramural research budgets of all federal agencies with extramural research budgets in excess of $100 million are reserved for contracts or grants to small businesses. Annually, the SBIR budget represents more than $1 billion in research funds. Over half the awards are to firms with fewer than 25 people and a third to firms of fewer than 10. A fifth are minority or women-owned businesses. Historically, a quarter of the companies are first-time winners.

In addition, Congress established the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program in 1992. It is similar in structure to SBIR and funds cooperative research and development projects with small businesses in partnership with not-for profit research institutions (such as universities) to move research to the marketplace.

The SBIR/STTR Programs are structured in three phases. Phase I (project feasibility) determines the scientific, technical and commercial merit and feasibility of the ideas submitted. Phase II (project development to prototype) is the major research and development effort, funding the prototyping and demonstration of the most promising Phase I projects. Phase III (commercialization) is the ultimate goal of each SBIR/STTR effort and statute requires that Phase III work be funded by sources outside the SBIR/STTR Program.

During the solicitation period, communication between small businesses and topic authors is highly encouraged. For reasons of competitive fairness, direct communication between proposers and topic authors is not allowed during the Open period when DoD is accepting proposals for each solicitation.  However, proposers may still submit written questions about solicitation topics through the SBIR/STTR Interactive Topic Information System (SITIS). In SITIS the questioner and respondent are anonymous and all questions and answers are posted electronically for general viewing until the solicitation closes. All proposers are advised to monitor SITIS during the Open solicitation period for questions and answers and other significant information relevant to their SBIR/STTR topics of interest.

Topics Search Engine: Visit the DoD Topic Search Tool to quickly and easily find topics by keyword across all DoD components participating in this solicitation.

IMPORTANT DATES:

  • December 12, 2011 – Solicitation opens and DoD begins accepting proposals
  • January 4, 2012 – SITIS closes to new questions
  • January 11, 2012 – Solicitation closes to receipt of proposals at 6:00 AM EST

Complete details on DoD’s 2012 SBIR solicitation may be found at: http://www.acq.osd.mil/osbp/sbir/solicitations/sbir20121/index.shtml.

To be added to the DoD SBIR List serv: ten.ribsdod.vrestsilnull@tsilribs.

5 secrets of better branding for government contractors

December 8, 2011 by

There’s a good reason Vangent was named government contractor of  the year at the 9th Annual Greater Washington Government Contractor  Award gala.

Vangent delivered great results and had a strong brand. Over its  fifty plus year history, the Vangent brand grew from a small business  unit of NCS, to a $90 million operating division of Pearson PLC, to a  $700+ million stand-alone company owned by Veritas Capital that was  ultimately acquired by General Dynamics for $960 million on Sept. 30,  2011.

My paramount focus for Vangent’s brand over the past four and a half  years was to grow awareness and recognition as a powerful, effective and reliable partner for federal government agencies seeking a services  provider to support and answer questions about broad-reaching government programs. These programs included Medicare, military health care,  disease control and prevention, student loans and Cash for Clunkers, to  name a few.

In today’s government services market, where lowest price and  technically acceptable often trumps best value and best solution, and  where companies big and small, old and new, are jockeying for a slice of dwindling federal dollars amid an austere budget environment, an  effective branding strategy is critical to a company’s success.

Vangent’s growth and market strength were the result of great  customer service but also a strong focus on brand value, both internally and externally. Without a strong brand, many government services  providers look exactly alike. With a solid and recognizable brand, a  government services provider can come to stand for something valuable  and important for its employees, customers, investors and the citizenry  it serves.

Here are five rules of branding I practiced at Vangent which are  essential for any company looking to enter the government services  market, expand their market share or to re-position for new growth  opportunities:

1) Focus on outcomes, not offerings. You can put a  marketing brochure or a website of Company A next to Company B and cover up the names and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Many  companies feel compelled to list every capability or skill they offer in a ‘laundry list’ fashion without any context as to what problem or  challenge they help their customers overcome. A much more compelling way to communicate what a company does differently is to promote the  outcomes or results it accomplishes for its customers – in plain  English. Vangent built a successful branding campaign on the fact that “four out of ten Americans connect with Vangent, but never know it.” We  combined this powerful and memorable factoid with a unique result it  helped its customers accomplish. One example was how Vangent helped a  customer enable better information sharing among multiple agencies which saved time and money – reducing processing time from eight months to  just one day and shaving 30 percent in operating costs. Using that kind  of differentiator will make your company stick out from the rest of the  pack and allow you to stake claim to a result which you can build your  brand around.

2) Equip your employees with the tools they need to be effective brand communicators. In the government contracting world, employees are your most valuable  brand ambassadors. But the reality is that most employees who work for  government services providers can barely recite their company’s mission  or vision statements, let alone their menu of service offerings. The  reason is simple: Mission statements too often are too long and full of  over-used industry jargon. Make it easy for your employees by giving  them the tools they need to not only memorize the meaning or essence of  your company’s brand, but to internalize the brand so that they can  effectively explain what your company’s brand represents. When Pearson  Government Solutions was rebranded as Vangent in 2007, it created a  “brand playbook” given to every employee and helped them understand the  importance of branding, the words to describe Vangent’s brand and  examples or “proof points” that helped them explain what Vangent’s brand represents. The brand playbook was an essential part of Vangent’s  on-boarding program for new employees and was reinforced with a short  and impactful video shown to all employees.

3) Create an emotional feeling about your brand. It’s OK, really! Companies marketing products we buy and use every day  are masters at creating an emotional connection with consumers. They  want you to feel good about buying and using their product. That’s why  today’s consumer marketing focuses on how you feel versus how much the  product costs or whether you need it. Why can’t we apply that same rule  to the government services market? Vangent showcased its experts and  thought leaders on video in a series of conversations about some of the  most pressing challenges facing its customers. What’s the point in  keeping their faces and thoughts hiding behind nondescript bios or  ho-hum descriptions of your company’s services? Bring your company to  life and create an emotional connection with your target audiences by  storytelling. Showcase your company’s talent in rich content, quality  photos and compelling videos. You’ll offer your customers, teaming  partners and new recruits a glimpse into your company before they‘ve had the chance to meet you in person.

4) Your brand is your culture and culture trumps strategy any day. The first question asked by any new employee is about the company’s  culture, not about the company’s strategy. They’ll want to know what  it’s like to work at your company, what the environment is like and the  opportunities to advance their careers. Many companies in the government services industry struggle in communicating their company culture and  instead give employees lists of customers, names of contract vehicles  and a list of company locations. Does that really answer an employee’s  need to understand the company culture? Hardly. Vangent focused on its  six core values and one in particular: We do meaningful work. Employees  understood the impact they had on the lives of millions of people every  day. This powerful value permeated throughout the company in employee  communications, external communications in the forms of media relations, investor relations and marketing and recruiting campaigns.

5) Invest in your company’s brand no matter how much and don’t be ashamed about it. The old saying “don’t be penny wise and pound foolish” certainly rings  true today in the government services industry where pressure on top and bottom line growth has squeezed out marketing, communications,  advertising and branding budgets. During an era of dwindling resources  in the federal government where blatant promotion is frowned upon, how  do you distinguish your company and justify precious resources? In a  down economy like the one we’re experiencing today, it’s more important  than ever to up your game and take advantage of new and inexpensive ways to showcase your company. At Vangent, I implemented an integrated  marketing program which focused on valuable content and compelling  videos. I also used social media tools including Twitter, YouTube and  LinkedIn to drive Vangent’s brand directly to the audiences it aimed to  reach. Vangent’s powerful messaging platform was on display at industry  events, conferences and trade shows.

Yes, employees, customers and investors do notice which companies  have got it going on and which companies are stuck in the past.

About the Author: Eileen Cassidy Rivera is former vice president of communications and investor relations at Vangent, a General Dynamics company. In December, she joined KeeganSilver as senior health marketing strategist supporting Booz Allen Hamilton. This article was published by Washington Technology on Dec. 1, 2011 at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2011/12/01/marketing-tips-government-market.aspx?s=wtdaily_021211.

A good IT idea for government could win you $50K

June 16, 2011 by

Money talks. Or in this case, the sponsors of a new contest to find “the best idea to fix government,” hope it will persuade people far and wide to submit viable technology solutions to improve federal operations.

The Merit Awards contest, sponsored by MeriTalk, which describes itself as an IT community network of contractors, federal employees, and others, is accepting ideas until 6 p.m. Aug. 1. The program includes eight categories: citizen engagement, defense, emergency response, entitlement reform, workforce management and motivation, back office operations, results achievement and waste.

The contest is open to virtually anyone — individuals or teams, government employees or contractors, says MeriTalk’s Mark Meadows. What’s more, entrants may submit ideas however they see fit — from full-blown theses to Twitter messages. That should certainly make things interesting for the judges.

According to MeriTalk, judges will include Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va.; former Republican congressman Thomas M. Davis III; Mark Forman, the first administrator for e-government and IT at the Office of Management and Budget; Vivek Kundra, the federal CIO; Vint Cerf, Google executive and Internet pioneer; and MeriTalk’s founder, Steve O’Keeffe.

O’Keeffe, who described Washington as “an innovation wasteland,” said in a statement: “Let’s sic the power of good ol’ American ingenuity on Uncle Sam. And, let’s go further. Innovation knows no borders — nor does it need a green card. We invite Chinese, Indian, any nomination from the four corners of the globe.”

MeriTalk will announce the winner Aug. 23, at the Innovation Nation Forum in Washington.

– by Katherine McIntire Peters – NextGov – 06/13/11 07:16 am ET at http://techinsider.nextgov.com/2011/06/have_a_good_it_idea_for_government_you_could_win_50000.php?zone=NGtoday

Navy official to small businesses: There are opportunities in Defense cuts

June 9, 2011 by

The future drop in defense spending should not deter small businesses and innovators from putting forward new ideas, a top U.S. Navy official said June 6, and the coming changes could, in fact, provide opportunities.

“It is going to be tough over the next couple of years to get this right,” Under Secretary Bob Work said of the defense cuts. “We’re going to have many more impediments than defense planners have had in the past.”

Among those challenges, he said, is that the military will still be engaged in the war on terror even as those cuts are made.

“Although it is a challenging time, for small business I see a lot of opportunity,” Work told a luncheon audience at the Navy Opportunity Forum held just outside Washington.

“There’ll be a period of turbulence, without a doubt,” he said. “But no matter what, we’re going to have to rely on the small business community in ways we’ve never relied on them in the past, because we’re going to have to really do things less expensively.”

The annual Navy forum brings together small business technology innovators with Pentagon program managers and industrial prime contractors. Those in attendance include a large number of small businesses – companies with only a dozen or so employees are common – who have completed the initial stages of bringing forward new technologies and are looking to take their ideas to the next level.

“It’s a very good time to be a small business innovator,” Work said. “We want to capitalize on your ability for quick adaptation.”

Work acknowledged the challenges of cutting spending while continuing to meet military commitments around the world. Speaking afterward to reporters, he outlined the way ahead, starting with a major Pentagon effort now underway to determine where cuts can be made.

“The Comprehensive Strategy Review is a pre-Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR),” he said, referring to the study conducted every four years that underpins the country’s military requirements and strategies.

“We’re going to do another full-up QDR in 2013 regardless of the administration” elected in 2012, Work said. “At that point, we will really start to make the final decisions.”

The Comprehensive Strategy Review will “try and make the case on what we think the strategy will [be] over time, 2017 and beyond,” he said.

The review will also enable the White House to come up with an amount for the annual defense budget this fall.

“The way [outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates] has described it is: We’re going to be given a number in 2012 that is largely driven by politics,” Work explained. “We’re going to be given a number in ’13 that is probably driven by math. And by ’14 and out, it’s going to be driven by strategy.

“So what we want to know is, let’s make sure that when we start making procurement decisions in ’12 and ’13, they support what we think we’re headed towards,” he said.

Work declined to provide any specifics about what programs might be cut.

“Every single program is on the table,” he declared. “The fact that we’re not talking about anything right now is because the Comprehensive Strategy Review hasn’t been completed and we don’t have our final top-line numbers.

“Anything I would tell you about a program would be just pure guessing,” he continued.

The Navy Opportunity Forum continues through Tuesday and Wednesday in Crystal City, Va.

– by CHRISTOPHER P. CAVAS – June 6, 2011 – Defense News – appeared at  http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?i=6726155&c=SEA&s=TOP#.Te_meUhi0cI;email

Central Georgia companies and organizations partner to implement lean projects

June 5, 2011 by

EI2 has launched an initiative in central Georgia to help smaller manufacturers implement lean principles, a set of tools widely used in manufacturing to help identify and steadily eliminate waste from an organization’s operations. So far, four manufacturers, a hospital and a non-profit charitable organization are enrolled in the Group Lean Implementation Project, also known as GLIP.

“GLIP is a good way for smaller organizations to pool their resources and learn from each other,” said Paul Todd, a lean specialist with EI2. “Manufacturers and non-manufacturers alike can learn how to eliminate non-value added activities and at the same time find out what works for them in their continuous improvement process.”

The following organizations are participating in GLIP:

  • Advanced Metal Components in Swainsboro,
  • Duramatic in Glennville,
  • Easter Seals of Middle Georgia in Dublin,
  • Hollingsworth & Vose in Hawkinsville,
  • Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia and
  • SP Newsprint in Dublin.

As part of the new initiative, EI2 lean specialists Todd and Danny Duggar have led lean overviews, assessed where each organization is in its lean journey, and developed value stream maps, which are diagrams used to analyze the flow of materials and information required to bring a product or service to a consumer.

As part of GLIP, group members rotate hosting events at their facilities, working on specific projects and discussing challenges and successes to date. Already, the team has conducted projects in single-minute exchange of die (SMED) techniques, which shorten the changeover time to reduce production lot sizes and improve flow. The team also applied 5S – a method for organizing the workplace – that stands for sorting, straightening, shining, standardizing and sustaining.

Not only do participating companies benefit from the lean implementations, but they can also take advantage of the Georgia Retraining Tax Credit, in which a company’s direct investment in training can be claimed as a tax credit. Training programs must be approved by the Technical College System of Georgia, and the tax credit can be used to offset up to 50 percent of a company’s state corporate income tax liability. To be eligible, the retraining program must be for quality and productivity enhancements or certain software technologies.

“By utilizing Georgia Tech assistance, we get ideas from professionals who are very well trained and adept in what they’re doing. The other group members bring fresh ideas from organizations with different cultures, backgrounds and types of work that we can take and apply to our companies,” said Daniel Smith, industrial engineering manager for Duramatic Products. “It gives all of us a chance to get out of our comfort zones and see how other companies manufacture so we can use it as a benchmark to improve what we do.”

– by  Nancy Fullbright, Georgia Tech- June 1, 2011.

Georgia Tech-based startup wins business competition

May 27, 2011 by

Pindrop Security, a new company based on technology developed by School of  Computer Science researchers to verify caller ID, has won the 2011 GRA/TAG  Business Launch Competition.

Cosponsored by the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) and the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG), the competition facilitates connections between the younger entrepreneurial community and more seasoned entrepreneurs. Pindrop,  founded by primary researcher and Ph.D. student Vijay Balasubramaniyan, beat out three other finalists to claim the $50,000 cash first prize, as well as more than $200,000 in donated services from the Atlanta business community.

Originally called “PinDr0p,” the technology works by analyzing audio imprints left on calls by the multiple networks—cellular, voiceover IP, public switched
telephone networks—through which they travel. It uses these imprints to positively identify the calling phone with high accuracy. Equally important is
that the identification is made within 15 seconds of initial call placement.

Balasubramaniyan developed Pindrop in collaboration with School of Computer Science and Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC) faculty, including Assistant Professor Patrick Traynor and Professor and GTISC Director Mustaque Ahamad. Earlier this year, TAG named Pindrop Security a Georgia Top 40 Innovation Company, and it also finished second in the 2011 Startup Riot.

“Winning the prize feels great, particularly because there were 88 other great companies competing for it,” Balasubramaniyan said. “It provides great
validation for the technology, the efforts of the team and the market potential.  Georgia is a great place to start and build a security-focused technology
company, and we’re pleased to work with the local community to support economic growth and development as we expand our reach into the financial services, government and consumer markets.”

“GTISC researchers are leaders in understanding emerging cyber security threats and in developing innovative techniques that can provide effective
solutions for real-world problems,” said Ahamad. “Pindrop is just another example of this, and it will help maintain Atlanta’s reputation as a security
industry hub.”

Balasubramaniyan said the company’s next step will be to use its GRA/TAG competition winnings to hire staff, with plans underway for the next software
release in the fourth quarter of this year.

– published May 26, 2011 – For more information contact: Brendan Streich, Georgia Tech College of Computing, Office of Communications - ude.hcetag.ccnull@hciertsb – Related links appear below: