Archive for Federal Government Contractors

WinCenter v3.0 Launched at APMP 2014 and Hits on Best Practice Shifts

apmp

Earlier this month, our partner Lohfeld Consulting Group launched WinCenter v3.0 at the APMP 2014 conference in Chicago. It was big news for practitioners of complex business development.  I was there to support Lohfeld.  In this article, I’ll talk about how the product was received and how it reflects the changes in the best practices of practitioners.

WinCenter Background

WinCenter is a software system for integrated capture and proposal management.  It is built using CorasWorks and runs on Microsoft SharePoint.  It is purpose-built for Federal Government Contractors, but, can also be applied to complex commercial business development.  Unlike database systems or document management systems, it is process-centric reflecting the phase-based process used by Federal Contractors or commercial organizations.

Up until now, the activities of capture and proposal development have been served by separate tools – largely, CRM for capture and document management for proposal development.  With WinCenter, these activities become part of one system, driving and reinforcing the well known process of business development.  The benefits in productivity and win effectiveness are dramatic.

APMP Practitioner Experience

The majority of APMP practitioners work with the Federal government.  However, this year there was about 30% of participants that manage complex RFP responses for commercial organizations.  For both groups, WinCenter is the first off-the-shelf product that provides integrated capture and proposal management.  The best practice (on paper) is a phase-based process that integrates the two activities.  So, practitioners were very interested to see how it all comes together in a software system.

The experience differed depending on the role of person that we were demoing.  If the person was a BD exec, they quickly got the value of an integrated tool. They fully know the pain and loss in productivity of having separate teams and tools with little visibility.  If they were a capture person or a proposal person they would initially come from their perspective.  Importantly, they didn’t necessarily know what the other group did or how they impact their work or are impacted.  Through the demo they started to get a feel for the full process, their role within it, and, how they could work better.

An important part of WinCenter’s design is that while it is one process, it is role based.  So, users can see the full picture, but, their work is presented to them in an optimized way.

APMP and Increased Capture Emphasis

Historically, APMP has focused on proposal work which is why APMP stands for Association of Proposal Management Professionals.  Yet, this year there was an increased emphasis on capture.  This is being reflected (or some say driven) by the local APMP Chapters.  This evolution is simply the industry recognition that winning is the real driver and winning requires both capture and proposal activities that are good and coordinated. Clearly, WinCenter addresses this situation.

Phased-Based Process for Commercial

In addition, there are changes in the commercial world.  Much of commercial business is now complex solution selling.  The practitioners in the Federal space have a well defined phase-based process.  Increasingly, this phase-based approach is being adopted by those pursuing commercial business.  A phased-based approach to business development is very different from using a CRM like Salesforce in a classic database, transactional mode.  It is about guiding, driving and automating the work that drives an opportunity through the phases of the process.  WinCenter addresses this also.

Old and Young – Old School and New School

The APMP practitioner crowed has many older people and a whole new crop of young people.  It is good to see the younger people coming into the profession.  And, APMP does an excellent job of promoting mentoring relationships between people and companies.

The “old school” folks still see BD as a people game.  The “new school” sees winning as the results of a defined process that is optimized.  They are looking at software tools to drive efficiency and competitiveness.  BTW, just because some people are older age-wise doesn’t mean they are old school.  Some of the most enthusiastic people driving new school change are older people who have spent years wanting to drive towards a more automated, integrated system and fully know the pain of the old way.  The younger people are very quick to pick up on the next generation of tools like WinCenter, so there is an army to work with.

william

WinCenter Business Case: Embed your business acquisition process within an integrated capture and proposal management system

It’s been a very busy couple of months since the release of WinCenter in January.  With this next generation solution we are addressing a business-critical problem of Federal Government Contractors in their business acquisition process.  This article is written to support those that are re-evaluating their business situation and presenting our solution to their executive management.  At the end, I have a list of questions you can use to validate the strength of your current business case.

Very Good, Industry Standard, Business Acquisition Process (“BAP”)

Over the last 10 years, I’ve worked within a lot of industries dealing with many different business processes.  The Federal Government Contractor community has a very well defined, well understood, and, well supported end-to-end business acquisition process (“BAP”) – at a conceptual level.  Every leading FGC organization I’ve worked with has adopted a “flavor” of the core process and modified it to their needs.

The standard BAP looks like the diagram below. (Click on image to see full size)

lohfeld bap3

The core aspects of a BAP are:

  • a Phase-Gate based process
  • standard set of Federal customer milestones
  • use of a standard set of Decision Gate reviews
  • use of structured Color team reviews as milestones for process activities
  • a standard set of Capture, Proposal, and Supporting Departmental activities that drive the above process

The leading FGC’s know the standard BAP above very well.  Their experience has shown that IF and WHEN they can get their team and organization to understand their flavor of the process and follow it (varying the details to the opportunity) then they are more effective at winning business.

The Problem: Cost of Legacy and Lacking Tools

The business acquisition process is in good shape – conceptually.  The problem is that that the legacy tools available to most organizations are lacking to make this an efficient and effective process.  Below is a schematic of what we typically find in most organizations.  These tools are siloed, disconnected, often old and/or proprietary software, missing key elements, not process-driven, and thus, require a great deal of manual effort and activity to augment them in order to follow the business acquisition process.  The result is that getting people to do what is best to win business is too costly.  So, often what should be done, is not.

Legacytools

The most obvious deficiency is that the existing tools are usually not process-oriented.  They are document oriented, databases, or manual.  But, the industry has a well understood end-to-end process.  Where is it?  What tool is used to drive the success of the process?

In addition, most organizations have a vast separation between the Business Development/Capture people and their tools (usually an opportunity/CRM database) and the Proposal practitioners using document management systems. They live and work in different worlds.  The supporting departmental processes (HR, Finance, Legal, Engineering, Pricing, etc.) are also separate and disconnected.  But, the documented business acquisition process is an integrated end-to-end process where users can benefit greatly by visibility and collaboration with others throughout the process.  The means to make this occur is simply not reflected in the set of tools available to the organization.

WinCenter: Integrated Capture and Proposal Management

The solution?  Rather simply, WinCenter is a process-oriented system where we have embedded an industry standard BAP framework into an integrated capture and proposal management system.  In summary, it brings all of the participants together, to work in an integrated system, that is designed to work in accordance with the organizations’ standardized business acquisition process.

WinCenter was created from the ground up through the partnership of Lohfeld Consulting Group, a leading capture and proposal business consulting firm, and CorasWorks, with our flexible, Work Management System.  So, it reflects the process that is the standard of practitioners.

With WinCenter you get:

  • an integrated capture and proposal management system
  • supporting the industry standard business acquisition process
  • that provides the visibility and collaboration amongst all process participants
  • that automates the users work and provides consistency and efficiency
  • and that runs on the Microsoft SharePoint platform.

This solution addresses the need of the market.

And, it goes a step further.  Because it is designed and built using CorasWorks, it is uniquely flexible. This means that organizations are able to customize, enhance, and extend the solution on their own using our industry leading Work Management platform (in version 11) and our business user friendly Application Configuration Wizards.  This next generation capability drives a completely different result from the two legacy options of a) relying on proprietary, custom coded software vendors for changes or upgrades  and b) relying on costly and risky and untimely internal or external custom development.

Validating your Business Case

Here are some business and technical questions to answer to validate the current strength of your business case for WinCenter:

  • Do you, your team and execs believe that if your organization follows a standard business acquisition process you will win more business at lower cost?
  • Do you have a standard business acquisition process in your organization (on paper, whiteboard, documented)?  If not, do you want to?
  • Does your existing toolset look like the one above? Or even less?  What is the cost of supporting that toolset?
  • Do you see the benefit of embedding your BAP within your software system to drive your process?
  • Do you believe in the benefit of an integrated capture and proposal management system? Do your capture and proposal managers also believe in the benefits of this visibility and collaboration?
  • If you had the system to use to drive your team to follow the process how would it impact your Win rate?
  • How would it reduce your costs by increasing your efficiency and visibility?
  • How would it eliminate your risks of missing key elements of your business acquisition process?
  • Do you use Microsoft SharePoint as a platform within your organization?
  • Will you need to integrate with some legacy systems such as a corporate CRM or custom system?
  • Will you need to change your system, innovate, and do you want control over your pace and requirements for system changes?
  • How much will you reduce direct costs in legacy software maintenance and IT (internal or external) support people by investing in an off-the-shelf but flexible system?  How quickly?

Of course, we welcome the opportunity to work with you to answer the questions above.

william

Lohfeld WinCenter(TM) – integrated Capture and Proposal Management software for Federal Contractors

Bringing the best together.

Yesterday, we announced our partnership with Lohfeld Consulting Group and the new Lohfeld WinCenter(TM) software product.  WinCenter provides Federal Government Contractors (GovCon) with an integrated system to manage opportunities across the capture and proposal life-cycle.  It is integrated in a number of ways.  In this article, I’ll talk about the integration of process and technology and how it came together.  And, I’ll provide you with other resources.

As you all know, CorasWorks provides its own CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management solution as part of its Federal Government Contractor solution set.  Over the last year, we have supported customers that were using CorasWorks on SharePoint and that also had adopted a Lohfeld based capture and proposal methodology (or similar model such as Shipley).  We started embedding their process into our solution during implementations.  It was kind of a “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup moment”.  You take the process methodology, best practices, artifacts, guidance etc. and embed it in the software and automate the work.  The result is a system that works the way C&P professionals think about their work, that automates their work, that literally guides them through the process and the activities, and that provides exceptional visibility across the full life-cycle for all participants.

You’d think that this would already be a no brainer.  But, there is a big chasm between consultants/professionals that have the deep process knowledge and the software vendors providing the tools.  So, normally that great process is in people’s heads, on the wall, in 300 page manuals, and in some documents somewhere and users have to figure out how to use various tools to do different parts of the work. The potential productivity and effectiveness just gets lost.

So, working together, we’ve developed WinCenter.  It combines the standardized best practices of the industry for the Capture & Proposal process with the power of the CorasWorks work management platform on SharePoint.  It is an enhanced version of our Capture and Proposal Management solution.  Its seamless integration of all aspects of the process sets a new bar to drive productivity and win effectiveness.  It is available from Lohfeld and from CorasWorks.  And, it is designed to be very customizable to fit your particular modified C&P process and way of working.

I’ll leave the product details to the following resources and future articles and information.  Here are some resources to get you going:

william

CorasWorks Work Management vs. CRM Database System (3 Part Series)

apples and oranges

This month I wrote a 3-part series that provides a comparison and discussion of CorasWorks Work Management system vs. a CRM database system.  This discussion was triggered by a Federal Government Contractor customer demonstration I attended and the discussions between IT and the Business Users of our customer.

The point of these articles is not an argument for why you should buy a CorasWorks Work Management system vs. a CRM database system.  It is about explaining how they are different and play different roles in your enterprise work environment.

In sum, the CorasWorks work management system provides you with a flexible, business user friendly way to optimize your productivity while the CRM system is an enterprise system of record.  Knowing their proper roles, which is best for what purpose and having them work together can yield you big dividends without the pain of unmet expectations and needs.

The articles are as follows:

william

Providing a secure BD extranet for partners and customers using CorasWorks on SharePoint

Lockdown

All Federal Government Contractor customers of our Business Development solutions will at some point face the need to provide secure access to their Partners (Vendors, Suppliers) and Customers.  This month, Steve Evangelista, one of our Lead Architects wrote a series of three articles that cover securing and hardening of your system for this scenario.  We use all of these methods in our BD solutions.  You can also use them in your own CorasWorks solutions.

The articles are:

Part 1: Securing & Hardening SharePoint Sites for External Users: Basic configuration using CorasWorks to support working with external parties.

Part 2: Securing & Hardening SharePoint Sites: How to modify SharePoint Master Pages to security trim common native pages (All Content, native web part pages, etc.).  This is a SharePoint best practice.

Part 3: Securing & Hardening SharePoint Sites: Leveraging CorasWorks to create a secure proxy account to tightly secure what external users can see and do.

Comment: Design for Multi-Party Usage

It is very common for people to design systems in a classic way in which we think about all users sharing the same user interface, with security as a back-end system issue.  However, in most collaborative systems and certainly BD systems, it is a better design approach to think of your groups of users as having separate interfaces.  CorasWorks and SharePoint easily support this approach.

So, imagine your employees, your partners, and your customers each having their own user interface.  It is their place to go.  This interface is then optimized for them.  It supports their role.  You may even get more granular so that you have interfaces for Executives, Managers, and Doers internally or different types of partners or partners in different roles.  Yet, effectively, all of these users are working off of the same data.  This design makes it far easier to manage the security by role in a different interface.  This makes it more secure.

william

Empowering business users to have it their way (Part 3)

This is a third is a series of articles posted today that all relate to how the CorasWorks Work Management system compares to CRM systems.  The first talked about our work automation and how it increases business user task productivity 30x.  The second addresses the difference in design between work management systems and CRM systems and why this enables your business users to be optimally productive.  This article will talk about how CorasWorks empowers business users to have it their way.  It ties into the previous two articles.

If you read my first article, I related a story about a demo I had today.  A business user (in Business Development of a Federal Government Contractor) was showing their application to IT and explaining how it helps them manage their work to win business.

Here is the back story…

I arrived early for the demo and was sitting with the business user.  They wanted to set up the demo for IT.  They were showing their production system so they didn’t want emails firing off to real workers.  They spun up our Action Wizard and modified the email notification to instead ping people from IT.  Then, they went into our Display Wizard and changed the display to use the new action.  Then, they decided to change the time when a site was auto-provisioned, so they changed a field in an action.

Now, remember this is a business user who was preparing their demo for IT.  And, it was a BD Manager (think Sales Manager).  Even that is a bit of a change up – right?

So, we did the demo and had a discussion.  During the meeting, the business user showed IT how easy it was to change things using the CorasWorks Wizards.  At the end of the meeting the business user was going to have a meeting with IT to talk to them about changes they wanted in their CRM system.

They were going to have the normal business user-to-IT type of meeting.  They were going to meet with IT and a CRM developer and detail their requirements.  The upshot would be that IT would put the changes into their project queue which would then go into their project schedule, assuming they had the budget and time.  Then, at some point in the future the business user may have their changes.  Then, most probably they’d have to go back through the process to make changes to the changes to get what they really wanted.

Two Points, One Observation, One Question

First, is that with CorasWorks the business user is empowered.  Note that they were using our Wizards to modify their business process and educating IT about the tool, the ease of configuration, and, the business value.  It seemed so natural, yet, in reality it was a startling role reversal.  In addition, IT was fine with it.

Second, IT is guarded about their CRM – for good reason.  The CRM is a single system.  IT wouldn’t allow a business user to make changes directly.  They could mess it up for everyone else.  The skill level required is too great.  It needs to be controlled.  It is a costly, time consuming process.

What I find interesting is that the application of our business user is a business critical application that is used to drive revenue.  It is their IDIQ Task Order Management system.  It is the way they actually do their work to drive business.  The CRM system is a database that our Business Development person “has to update”.  It seemed to be natural that the business person would be empowered to control what they deem to be business critical yet IT would control the corporate system that needs to be updated.

So, in this scenario things are as they should be.  But, I wonder if organizations go far enough to empower business users with the tools they need and want to produce better outcomes vs. corporate systems that support management.

william

Why you can do more for less using CorasWorks Work Management vs. your CRM system (Part 2)

I just posted an article that works through the numbers of comparing the productivity improvement using the CorasWorks Work Management system vs. a CRM system.  The impact is a 30x increase in productivity at the task level.  It adds up – big time.

You would think that you could achieve productivity improvements and better business results by leveraging a CRM system.  At a base level, like reporting productivity, perhaps.  But, in general, business users are challenged to get real work productivity improvement.  The reason is that there is a fundamental difference in design between a Work Management system like CorasWorks vs. a CRM system.  In this article, I’ll discuss the difference.

Most CRM systems are designed as a database system.  They are organized by content.  You have Accounts, Opportunities, Contacts, Products, etc.  Items are related in parent/child constructs.  If you read my article you see that with CorasWorks it is easy to automate work tasks.  Technically, you may be able to do this in a CRM but at a much higher cost.  But the killer difference, is that it just doesn’t work for users.  In reality your CRM is a system of record.  Fundamentally, the user experience of CRM systems is not designed to support a variety of business activities in different business contexts. Yet, this is really the work of business users.  They are always working in a context.  They really don’t wake up in the morning thinking about having to update a database, they think in terms of the work they need to get done.

The Difference of Business Context Design

Let’s take a Federal Government Contractor.  The work that is done consists of things like this:

  • IDIQ Program Management
  • Task Order Management
  • Gate Reviews
  • Capture and Proposal Management
  • Contract/Program Management
  • Contract Administration
  • Partner Surveys and Expressions of Interest
  • Partner Subcontract Statement of Work and Agreements

With CorasWorks, each of these are applications (or think of them as discreet processes or activities).  Each is self-contained, providing the user with an optimized user experience.  Each is configurable.  Each automates the work that the business users do in that particular context.  And, all of them are actually part of a single integrated work environment running within a SharePoint context.  Thus, while each has its own business context they are natively integrated.

Now, think CRM.  How would you overlay the work of these 8 very different activities on top of your CRM? What is the user interface that puts them in the right business context? How would a user use the system?  How would they know what to do?

In most cases the answer is something like – when you need to Log a Bid Decision go to this place, change these fields, update this, send these emails, etc.  It is a document requiring training.  it relies on the user to get it right or else bad things happen.

You could individually try and add bells and whistles to your CRM to automate some portion of the 200 or so user tasks across the 8 processes above.  But, where is the business context.  How do I, the business user, know what context I am in and have the information I need along with the work automation to get it done.

With the unique flexibility of CorasWorks it is easy to spin up applications that automate work for a specific purpose.  Thus, you end up with the ability to make the users very productive because they have all of the information and automation at their fingertips to get done what they need to get done.

The key difference is that CorasWorks allows you to automate the work in the business context.  It makes a big difference in the results that you achieve.

Overlaying Work Management on CRM

But you say… “my CRM is my system of record. I need it updated”.  That may be correct.  So, the optimal approach works like this.  You use CorasWorks to serve as the front-end to your CRM (or any other system like ERP or HR system).  CorasWorks has a framework that let’s us connect with just about any external system and do reading and writing on behalf of the user.  Thus, you organize the business user work by “application” in CorasWorks and automate it such that as they do the work the information is updated in your CRM or other system.

The result is that you get the work results you need via CorasWorks and maintain the data integrity you want from your CRM or other system.

william

Increasing productivity using CorasWorks Work Automation over a CRM database system – by 30x(y) (Part 1)

NOTE: This is Part 1 in a 3 part series comparing CorasWorks Work Management to a CRM database system. They all relate to the same customer story. See part 2 and 3 that follow on the same blog day.

I was in a demo today where a business user within a customer was showing IT how they use CorasWorks.  The business user was showing and explaining how CorasWorks helps them be productive.  The IT folks were used to a CRM database.  So, I provided them with a comparison of CorasWorks Work Automation vs. what someone has to do using a database.  Below I’ll share the particular example I used.  I’ll detail the productivity numbers and scale them for a broader perspective vs. other ways of getting work done.  The numbers really add up to make a sizable impact on your business.

Specific Scenario

The scenario is simple.  In Federal Government Contractors, they manage responses to RFPs through a process that is a set of Stages.  At a stage often known as Pursuit, the Contractor needs to make an Initial Decision to Bid or Not to Bid.  Then, the decision needs to be recorded, people informed, next steps initiated, etc.

In the meeting I asked the business user what they would have to do if they were using the CRM system.  They said it would work like this:

  1. The decision is made.
  2. A user then goes to the CRM system and locates the opportunity.
  3. They then need to manually update at least 5 fields (Bid Decision, Decision Reason, Decision Date, Who/How Decided, Stage When Decided, Next Step).
  4. If it is a No Bid decision then they need to update some more fields to close out the opportunity like End Stage, No Bid Date, Reason for No Bid.
  5. In general, they will then go to email to send an email to the Capture/BD team informing them of the decision.
  6. If a partner is engaged, then they will send them an email.
  7. If it is a big deal, they may also inform management via email.
  8. If it is a go-forward bid decision, they need to go to another system to create a task or send out an email for users to then begin the next steps to work on the bid.
  9. Somehow, they should record the activity – that they actually took the action and what they did, by making a comment.

On average, getting the above steps done (say 1 to 2 emails) takes about 5 minutes of work.  In addition, this assumes that they get it all done in the first pass.

I then asked the business user to show how they did it in CorasWorks.  It went like this:

  1. The decision is made.
  2. They then goes to the CorasWorks BD app and locate the opportunity.
  3. They run the CorasWorks action called Bid Decision, a simple form pops up with 2 fields (Bid Decision and Decision Reason) that they modify and then click Okay.

This action takes about 10 seconds.  CorasWorks does all of the work.  It updates fields of information.  In understands what emails need to go out to whom and does that.  It knows what related tasks need to be created.  It documents the activity.

Time Difference 1 Item

NOTE: In my comparison, I am assuming in both cases the time it takes to go into the system and locate the record is the same.  However, in CorasWorks you have all of the opportunities in this stage already at your fingertips.

  • Manual CRM Database/Email – 5 minutes.
  • CorasWorks – 10 seconds
  • Productivity Improvement – 30x.

Impact for this One Task During a Year

Well, you might say that this is just one little task – exactly!!!  This little task is done about 1,000 times a year for most of our customers.  Using the comparison for single items the numbers are:

  • Manual CRM Database – 5,000 minutes (83 hours)
  • CorasWorks – 166 minutes (2.8 hours)

Impact on Average of 50 Tasks

In a normal Capture and Proposal Management process for Business Development there are at least 50 “little” tasks like this.  Things like promoting from Stage to Stage, assigning writer tasks, scheduling reviews, recording release of RFPs, creating requests for contract administration, etc.  So, let’s multiply the above times 50 to see the impact for this one process.

  • Manual CRM Database – 250,000 minutes (4150 hours, 518 days of work)
  • CorasWorks – 8,300 minutes (140 hours, 17 days)

But I have 10 Processes like this?  That means…

Yes, it does.  Your people are constantly switching between apps or doing things manually.  This assumes they even know what they should be doing.  If you apply the math the impact of CorasWorks across 10 apps/processes like this one are:

  • Manual – 5,180 days of work (20 people)
  • CorasWorks – 170 days of work (.7 people)

The upshot is that there is a tremendous amount of manual “work” going on in your organization that is costing you a tremendous amount of time and money.

What about consistency and data quality?

The productivity benefits are really important.  But, the consistency and the resulting data quality are very important for your effectiveness.  Bad things happen when the data is bad.  In the CRM scenario, we are assuming that each user is trained really well and does all (100%) of the things required (a mess occurs if they forget to update that one field with the Bid Decision date).  They also need to follow the business rules on who to update with what information.  In general, this does not occur.

With CorasWorks, the system gets it right the first time and every time.

But it’s not apples to apples…

Ah, you caught me.  You might say that you could go into a CRM system such as Salesforce or MS CRM or Deltek GovWin CRM and program workflows and build custom forms and you might be able to accomplish something similar.  We use Salesforce.  To accomplish this one task, partially, would probably take 40 hours of development by an IT professional.  Assuming you the skills, time, budget, requirements, etc.

With CorasWorks, it would take about 30 minutes – all done with our magical configuration wizards.  And, the work could be done and modified by a business user.  They can also change it when they need to.

So, here is what happens.  In a CorasWorks world all 50 of those work automation tasks for this process are automated because it is so easy and cheap and fast to do.  And, the 9 other specific processes are also automated.  Whereas in the CRM world only a few special items are automated, if any at all.

So, the “developer” productivity of CorasWorks means that 1) you get automated whatever you need to and 2) it is really easy and fast to change so you stay current and innovate.

It is the reality

The above numbers reflect what is actually happening.  Most of us think that because we have some database system or custom app we are more productive.  The reality is that we often don’t have enough time and resources to take it to the right level.  These legacy systems aren’t really designed for Work Automation like CorasWorks.  I cannot underestimate the positive impact that CorasWorks has because of the ease of automating the work of the business user.

Usually, it is not a question that something is not technically feasible.  It is the cost, skill and time it takes to innovate.  If the bar is too high, as it is with most other legacy software, it just never happens.  Thus, most organizations numbers actually look like the ones above.

william

Using software to improve your capture competitiveness in 2014

execs-at-the-starting-line

Next week the 2014 Federal Government Contractor race begins.  The competitive landscape will just get more intense.  Last week, Bob Lohfeld, CEO of Lohfeld Consulting Group, wrote the article 2014 realities force companies to change tactics in Washington Technology.  They surveyed 300 Federal Contractors to assess where they are today in their capture process and where they plan to invest in 2014 to improve their capture competitiveness.  The article tells you why change is needed by most and what most intend to change.  In this article I address the how – as in how you can actually get to where you need to be and beyond.  I explain how software, the new generation of Work Management systems represented by CorasWorks, can be a differentiator in this increasingly competitive marketplace.

First, a few key takeaways from the Lohfeld article:

  • Only 22% of the 300 companies surveyed felt that they had a competitive capture process that was a) defined, b) repeatable, and c) well-managed.
  • 49% of the survey respondents planned to invest to improve their capture process.
  • Another 24% believe they need to improve pricing methods and 22% need improvement in the quality of their proposals.

In summary, most Federal Contractors have a lot of room to improve the effectiveness of their capture process, capture analytics, and pricing approaches to be at a top competitive level.  It starts by defining your process, including the phases, activities, methods, and decision making approaches.  But, to be competitive in 2014 you have to ensure that you not only have a process but ensure it is standardized across your company, is repeatable, is flexible enough to tailor as things change, is measurable, and provides good management visibility to enable educated decision-making. Translating this defined approach into software systems that drive the process and support its management will accomplish this. The new generation of Work Management systems like CorasWorks makes this practical and raises the bar.  The mix of people, process, and technology as applied to the capture function of Federal Contractors is in a big state of transformation.

Let’s look at where most competitors are in terms of their systems to support their capture process…

The Situation

Based upon my many discussions with Federal Government Contractors, here is what I would define as the norm for mid-size to larger organizations:

  • They have a commercial CRM/Opportunity Management system.  The most common are Deltek GovWin CRM, Microsoft CRM, Salesforce and Oracle Siebel.  For small businesses, Zoho CRM is up-and-coming.
  • They have a “modern” document management (DM) system.  They are off file shares.  The most common are SharePoint, Documentum, eRoom, and Alfresco. I estimate that half are using SharePoint as their primary DM system.
  • The majority use their DM system to manage Proposal Development, basically to store documents.  Each proposal is usually siloed.  A smaller portion also have a commercial, proprietary Proposal Automation system such as Privia or VPC.
  • Reporting is all over the map, pulling from different systems.

Limitations of the Status Quo

The current status quo noted above is limiting and constraining.  Here are the realities of this situation:

  • Siloed, mostly proprietary systems – the core systems noted above are greatly siloed.  The systems aren’t usually connected.  Even within systems, like the DM systems, the information is in silos. In addition, within the same organizations they often have different systems or instances of the system for the same purpose. The glue for capture activity is ad hoc email, excel, and navigation links. It is everything except a unified, manageable system to support a defined capture process.
  • The process is not embedded in the software – if they have a defined process it is usually on the whiteboard, in a 100+ page manual, and, in people’s heads.  At best, they might have broken the activities of the process into sections stored as documents or web page narratives. The capture process, the activities, the work to be done is not “instantiated” in a software system that structures the process, captures the activity, drives the results, and measures progress.
  • No Phase-Gate based process system – the religion of capture is by definition a Phase-Gate based process. The best processes have systems to track the activities and automate the work. Yet, most organizations don’t have a process-based system to use for capture. Instead, they tend to leverage CRM databases or document management to do parts of the work. Then, to address process needs they do a great deal of manual work.  They simply lack a process-based system.
  • Lack of Work Automation – the day-to-day work is still incredibly manual vs. automated which results in lost productivity and inconsistencies in results.
  • Little Real time Visibility – given the above, the real-time visibility of executives, managers, and contributors into capture is limited. In most cases organizations invest a great amount of effort to manually put information together for gate reviews, executive reviews, and briefings, often repeatedly “repackaging” the same data (hosted in myriad documents) into templates or formats du jour—an unbelievable waste of time.
  • Advanced Management Tools are missing – capture process analytics, portfolio optimization, real-time reporting, capture M&S/B&P burn-down, resource allocation management – largely doesn’t exist. The core data for capture activity isn’t captured in a way to drive these management capabilities.

If the above sounds a bit like where you are, that is okay because 60-70% of your competitors are also in that place. The question is how to do better.

How to Get Ahead of the Pack

The design of software systems has greatly changed over the last 5 years to accommodate collaborative processes such as capture. We provide software, particularly Work Management software that, when combined with good capture process definition, will get you ahead of the pack. Our approach is simply different than the databases, document management systems and proprietary applications of the past.  Here are the core elements…

  • Purpose Built, Off-the-Shelf Solution – We put the capture process front and center. We have a purpose-built, off-the-shelf base solution called CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management. It is built specially to address the full life-cycle of capture. This provides an out-of-the-box integrated system. It brings all of the core parts of the capture process together.  But it is— by design—just the start.
  • Phase-Gate Based Process System – Our solution is designed from the ground-up to support the full capture life-cycle. This means that at its core it is designed to support a collaborative Phase-Gate based process and to automate and track the capture activity. Our design gives you the foundation for your process.
  • Unique Flexibility - Our solution is built using the CorasWorks Work Management platform which runs on Microsoft SharePoint. This platform approach makes the solution open (vs. proprietary) and uniquely flexible. Thus, organizations are able to easily embed their defined process, their language, their data to capture, and their activities into the system. In fact, it is so open, flexible, and non-proprietary that our customers are able to customize it and enhance it on their own, and even, create new features and completely separate applications that support the capture process. As a result, organizations are able to create a capture system that is a competitive differentiator.
  • On and Within SharePoint – As above, our solution and our platform runs on SharePoint which we use for data, security and administration. If you already own SharePoint, then we leverage your existing investment and skills and lower your costs. In addition, it means that it is a native part of your existing work environment on SharePoint and can natively connect to and interact with other existing information and applications.
  • Work Automation Drives Consistency and Analytics – With the above, a great deal of the work becomes automated. By automating the user actions and activities based upon your defined process, the work is done more efficiently, in a consistent way, and you are then empowered to have real-time visibility, reporting, and analytics.
  • The Glue for Capture – Our Work Management platform contains a comprehensive integration framework to integrate with external systems such as your CRM, HR, ERP, Contracts and Program and Project Management systems. This puts your CorasWorks based Capture system in the middle of the activity serving as the glue to bring it all together. For instance, many Federal Contractors leverage Deltek products.  A common integration for capture processes is with Deltek GovWin IQ and GovWin Capture Management (their CRM, read a case study of this in Leveraging CorasWorks to integrate Deltek GovWin CRM with SharePoint-based Capture and Proposal system).

Quick ROI and Continuous Improvement

There are two practical benefits to adopting a CorasWorks-powered approach for capture: Quick ROI and Continuous Improvement.

The pricing and cost of our software and solutions is incremental so you have a low cost to start. You can also get up and running very quickly, usually faster than proprietary systems and way faster than custom development.  And, the flexibility of our software allows you to decide where and when you want to address needs.  The result is a Quick ROI from the start.

In addition, in the past, when you had to buy proprietary software or invest to custom develop it, you were locked in. Improvement was too hard and costly. Where CorasWorks really excels is empowering you to continuously improve your process (now instantiated via software) and the results you get. The unique flexibility of CorasWorks means that you can have it your way to start, learn, then easily and cost-effectively change the software to get better.

People, process, technology – have the right mix and you’ll be on top.

william

Managing CDRL deliverables for Post-Award IDIQ Contracts and Task Orders

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I just posted an article about the use of CorasWorks to enhance a large Contract/Program Management system to support the CDRL deliverable process.  This was a custom enhancement to their post-award Program Management system.  It is a broad and big system.  However, many of our customers using the CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management solution also require this capability within a more specific scope.

The capability to programmatically interact with Customers for CDRLs and other purposes could be part of a corporate system.  However, usually this concern rests with Program Managers that are managing a specific IDIQ program.  They are fully responsible for the whole life cycle of the IDIQ and Task Orders from winning the task order through delivery and task order completion.  So, they often want this capability for just their IDIQ.

As part of the Task Order post-award work, the Program Manager or designee often has to provide CDRL deliverables or other information for a customer of the Task Order.  In addition, the Program Manager needs to provide CDRLs or other information to the Contracting Officer for the IDIQ.

This CDRL deliverable capability is just an extension to the basic IDIQ Task Order Management system.  It is usually implemented in a similar way to which we implement the Partner Portal and Partner Work Consoles.   The main work process is very similar to that described in the article above.

A good way to think of how you are working is the metaphor of an airplane.  Your CorasWorks IDIQ Vehicle Management site is the middle of the airplane (the fuselage).  On one side you have your Teaming Partners (a wing).  On the other side, you are now adding a wing for your Customers to interact with you.  Working in this way you are able to manage the work in one place and interact with your Teaming Partners and Customers.  They have there place to go to See, Contribute, and Act with information that you determine.  You have the ability to control the flow from one place.

It is a better way to fly…

william