Archive for Capture and Proposal Management

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

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

Leveraging CorasWorks to integrate Deltek GovWin CRM with SharePoint-based Capture and Proposal system

  A common scenario is to use CorasWorks to integrate work management on SharePoint with external CRM (customer relationship management) systems.  In this article I’ll review how one customer did this to integrate their Capture and Proposal Management system with Deltek GovWin CRM (a popular CRM for Federal Government Contractors).  I’ll also give an example of how you can go beyond just integration and use work automation to get more work done, more easily and more consistently.

The Situation

Our customer is a $200M Federal Contractor.  They use CorasWorks for their Intranet and many of their work management applications.  They are using Deltek GovWin CRM as their CRM.  They had created a Capture and Proposal Management system using the Lohfeld Consulting Group’s Capture Command Center solution and methodology on SharePoint 2010. So, you had CorasWorks in the middle, the Lohfeld solution running in a siloed area of SharePoint, and, the CRM system running in its silo elsewhere within the enterprise.

They wanted to eliminate the silos and make work more efficient and consistent.  They wanted one seamless work environment.

The Solution

They started by upgrading the Lohfeld solution using CorasWorks to enhance the UI and automate the work.  Viola, one seamless work environment using CorasWorks on SharePoint.  Then, they turned to the integration of the Capture and Proposal Management solution and their CRM system.

The schematic below shows how the resulting system lays out.

image

In addition to the end user work management features, the CorasWorks platform comes with robust integration middleware.  This part of the platform allows you to integrate CorasWorks-based work management solutions with just about any external system – database, web service, cloud service or app.  CorasWorks supports two-way integration.  It is also all done via configuration, without requiring custom compiled code.

In this situation, they decided to use the CorasWorks capability in a one way scenario.  Within the enhanced Lohfeld Capture Command Center they created a virtual directory of opportunities.  When users come in they see all of the opportunities organized by their capture stages.  If they are in a specific business group then they see only the opportunities for that business group.  The virtual directory information is coming from the CRM system yet surfaced within the SharePoint environment and in the context of the user.  The user can then drill down into the working proposal site or into the CRM record.

The Result

This simple solution goes a long way to eliminating the silos and seams of the system.  The benefits are as follows:

  • The users have a structured way to see the opportunities and drill down into where they need to do the work.
  • The CRM remains the “source of truth” about the opportunity data.
  • They eliminate the seams and any need for duplicate work.
  • The virtual opportunity directory is dynamically updated in real time.
  • It is context sensitive so that users will see what they should see based upon their business group.

Getting Better: Let CorasWorks Do More of the Work

Now, this is a great beginning.  But, they can do better by allowing CorasWorks to do more work for the users.  This customer uses CorasWorks Actions to automate work within Capture and Proposal.  They could extend this use to also have CorasWorks automatically update the CRM system for key changes – two way integration.

Let’s imagine that an opportunity is in the Pre-Proposal stage.  The RFP is now released and you need to do some things and move it into the Proposal Development stage.  The user would run a CorasWorks Action and it would do the following:

  • capture a few fields of information about the RFP in a single task specific form
  • update information in SharePoint
  • move the opportunity from Pre-Proposal to Proposal Development
  • update the corresponding fields in Deltek GovWin CRM
  • log the action for tracking and reporting in the work management system
  • send emails out to the Proposal Team, Capture Owner, BD Owner, and business unit manager
  • spawn a couple of pre-defined tasks to kick off the Proposal Development effort such as scheduling a Gate Review, Color Review, Kick Off Meeting, or, task to develop a Compliance Checklist

All of these activities are done by CorasWorks with just one action by the user.  Clearly it would increase the user’s productivity by eliminating work.  It also means that the user doesn’t have to leave SharePoint to go over to the CRM and do data entry.  Accordingly, it insures that all of these pre-defined important items get done – fully and correctly.  Once instructed, CorasWorks doesn’t forget what needs to be done or get distracted.  It just gets it done.

The organization gets the same seamless result as they did before, and, they also get the productivity benefits and consistency of CorasWorks work automation. 

william

Add Top-Down Capture & Proposal life-cycle management to enhance your SharePoint Proposal Environment

A great number of Federal Government Contractors use SharePoint for proposal development. Primarily, they use it to manage proposal content in individual SharePoint sites.  This works pretty well.  What is typically missing is the ability to programmatically manage the life cycle of opportunities from capture through proposal submission with a top down view.  The need for top down and full life cycle process has been trumpeted for years by consulting organizations such as Lohfeld Consulting and Shipley Associates.  In this article I’ll describe the situation and propose how you can drive value by just dropping in the CorasWorks Capture & Proposal Management Center – and keep your existing proposal sites as they are.

The Typical Situation

Very simple, SharePoint is widely adopted for proposal development.  Organizations create a site for each proposal.  These sites have proposal content in libraries.  They help users share content about proposals and manage versions.  However, the sites are siloed.  There is usually no provision for top down visibility and the ability to manage the life cycle of opportunities from capture through proposal submission. There is little support for managing and tracking key decisions and actions along the way.  Reporting out on activity, progress or comparative data is usually a manual process and one that is nearly impossible because the actions and decisions were not programmatically tracked.

Below is a schematic that depicts this typical situation.

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The “Management Center” Solution

The solution is to add a top-down, process-oriented, management capability to your existing environment that auto-magically connects to your existing SharePoint proposal sites.   You can now easily accomplish this by dropping in the CorasWorks Capture & Proposal Management Center.  This is a single module from our Capture & Proposal Management System and possibly all that you need.  You just drop this module into your SharePoint environment.  It adds the management layer above your proposal working sites.  It gets wired up to your existing SharePoint sites and templates.  Here is what you now have:

  • A Management Center that provides top down visibility to all opportunities throughout the C&P process.
  • The ability to programmatically push opps through Stages and Gates and track the activity.
  • The ability to automate the key process steps (like Bid No bid decisions, Gate Reviews, Team Updates, Proposal Health Status, Updates for RFP release, PWIN calculations, Color Reviews) and drive notifications and approval workflow.
  • The ability to auto-magically provision new proposal sites and link them into the system – using your own standard proposal templates.
  • The ability to have a master calendar of key events like color reviews, gate reviews, due dates across all opps/proposals and the life cycle.
  • The ability to drive supporting activities for each opp and track them (like Organizations Conflict of Interest, Staffing Requests, Subcontractor SOWs, and ad hoc organizational tasks)
  • The ability to see opportunities by Stage, Customer, Practice/Capability, Events, Reviews and easily drill down into proposal working sites.
  • The ability to raise issues and get visibility (like the need for a resource or decision)
  • The ability to report on the C&P opportunities across the process life cycle and slice and dice the information just how you want it via tabular reports and pivot charts – and of course export to Excel, PDF, and Word.
  • The ability to quickly and easily change your process or top down way of working without affecting the ongoing proposal development efforts.

Easy to Get Better

The situation described above is common.  The CorasWorks Management Center module is new. It is now very easy and cost effective to add this to your environment and put these value capabilities at your fingertips – without disrupting ongoing work.

william

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See additional articles for Capture and Proposal Management in this blog.

Visit CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management for product information.

Overview of CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management solution v2.1

Version 2.1 of the CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management (CnP) solution for Federal Government Contractors has been released.  Over the next few weeks you’ll see articles, press releases, webcasts, and customer case studies for the solution.  This article will provide you with an overview of the solution to get you started.

Background of the Solution

Over our 10 years, we have supported many customers that have leveraged the CorasWorks Work Management platform to create custom Proposal Management solutions that run on SharePoint.  Over the last year, as we’ve built our Federal Contractor business we’ve found considerable demand for a Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) solution for Capture and Proposal Management running on SharePoint.  Version 2.1 delivers this COTS solution as a comprehensive, integrated, and flexible way to master the full life cycle of Capture and Proposal Management.  Its flexible design (technically and via pricing) enables it be leveraged by small and mid-sized businesses and the largest enterprises.

Overview of CnP v2.1

CnP v2.1 is a 3 module system.  It is designed to allow you to get started quickly with a COTS, comprehensive, integrated solution that can be easily customized, enhanced and extended.  The schematic below depicts the core three modules.

Modules of CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management

Capture and Proposal Management Center – this module is the center of the system.  It allows you to manage all opportunities/proposals through a structured Stage-Phase-Step life cycle.  It provides you with the top down visibility and overall management of your proposal pipeline.  Typically, customers configure this module to reflect (visually and functionally, see screenshot below) their custom Shipley/Lohfeld/APMP process model.  CorasWorks then automates the work of the users to manage the process.

Proposal Working Sites – this is where the collaborative work takes place for each opportunity/proposal from capture through post-proposal.  It is full of CorasWorks enhanced Work Management features to organize and automate the work with integration with all CnP system features, native SharePoint and external applications and systems.

Proposal Asset Library – a key part of the system is the availability of the Proposal Asset Library (PAL) to manage assets such as Past Performance, Forms, Policies, Boilerplate, Graphics, Resumes etc. Leveraging the integrated nature of this solution these resources are made available to users as they work in proposal sites.

Below is the home page of the CnP Management Center.  In this implementation, a customers’ 4 Stage, 8 Phase, 22 Step “baseline” process is depicted visually to show where everything stands.

[Click on the image to enlarge]

Capture and Proposal Managment Home - Stage-Phase-Step: Shipley-Lohfeld process

Key Features of the Solution

Below I’ll highlight key features of the CorasWorks CnP v2.1 solution.

  • Support for custom Stage-Phase-Step Process -  flexible Stage-based process management and the ability to embed the solution with your customized way of working
  • Auto-provisioning and configuration of Proposal Working Sites
  • All Documents Work Management – special display allowing users to go to one place to see and act on all documents related to a proposal across multiple libraries
  • Color Review Workspaces – special workspaces for proposal color and gate reviews supporting review and commenting
  • Master Calendaring – central master calendar of events such as color reviews across all proposals in the system, editable and accessible from within each proposal working site
  • Pinpoint Search and Fetch – ability for users to search and fetch information from Proposal Asset Libraries while working within a proposal site
  • Writer Assignment Management – automation of the assignment, notification, and management of writer tasks
  • My Work – enable users to see, contribute and act on work related to them as individuals from across the system
  • Support for Role-Based Work Consoles – ability to create work consoles where users of a certain role, such as teaming partners, can go and work with information from across the system
  • Configurable reporting – off-the-shelf you have configurable reporting in Tabular Reports with one click to print, to Excel, PDF, and Word.  You also have configurable Pivot Charting.
  • Integration of third-party CRM Systems – ability to integrate the solution with the leading CRM systems  (Deltek GovWin, Salesforce, MS CRM) and just about any other external system (ERP, HR, Custom, SAAS app)

CnP v2.1: Flexibility to Accommodate and Innovate

If you are using any of the COTS legacy proposal management solutions in the market you are constrained by their proprietary, fragile, and custom coded design.  If you are using SharePoint that is heavily customized by IT or a proprietary system, while this may mean that it could be modified, the cost, risk, and time is so high that change is constrained.  If you use native SharePoint or Alfresco or file shares, you are probably working with tools that are feature constrained, relying on manual content-driven work, siloed document libraries, siloed proposal sites and an environment where assets like proposal asset libraries are siloed.

With CorasWorks CnP v2.1, you are in a different world.  The COTS solution is feature rich but is really your base solution.  As a solution on the CorasWorks Work Management platform, it is unusually flexible and unusually easy to change – so easy that it is normally business users that customize, enhance, and even extend the solution leveraging the market leading CorasWorks Configuration Wizards.  This flexibility enables organizations to get what they want today, change things on the fly to accommodate specific work needs, and to innovate as their needs change.

A new choice

Now, with CorasWorks CnP v2.1 you have a new choice.  If you have little in the way of formal CnP tools or are using native SharePoint, you don’t have to just make do.  Our affordable pricing model allows you to move up the value stack to a COTS solution on SharePoint with a rich feature set to optimize your work and stay competitive.  Or, if you are heavily invested in a legacy, costly system you can replace them or enhance them with just what you need often at less than it costs you to maintain them.

No matter where you come from, the key is that you are not switching to a locked-in COTS system.  CorasWorks CnP is open, flexible and will allow you to decide where you want to go from here.

For more information:

 

william

Getting to a Competitive Capture and Proposal Management system on SharePoint

We just published a case study about an implementation of our new Capture and Proposal Management v2.1 solution for a $30m revenue, 200 person, Federal Government Contractor who is graduating out of small business into the free and open market.  The driver is their need to get up to a full and open competitive level.  They wanted the next generation solution (vs. legacy proposal management solutions), they wanted it their way, they didn’t want to spend a lot for it, and, they wanted control over their future.

The case study gives you the general overview of the situation, the solution and the results.  It is a great story.  I recommend that you read it before reading this article.  Here, I’ll take a different perspective and drill into the details of the implementation that made it successful.

The reason that I am writing this article is that I believe that a Capture and Proposal Management solution is one of those types of solutions that require a strong dose of mind-melding of people.  It involves process at a high level and very detailed task activities.  You don’t just install the software.  You need a good implementation methodology and the right people to be really successful.  In addition, this article will point out the importance of the flexibility of CorasWorks software when it comes to this solution – it makes a big difference to the customers long term success.

As written in the case study this was a five week implementation.  That means that it happened over 5 weeks.  However, the budget included just 5 days of CorasWorks Professional Services.  And, we stuck to the budget.  This is impressive given that this was a soup to nuts implementation including a completely new SharePoint infrastructure and migration of 300 proposals from file shares and Alfresco into the SharePoint environment along with a very custom solution and a lot of empowerment training.

Getting it Right, Getting it Done

So, how did we all manage to get a comprehensive, very customized, rather large, fully integrated, Capture and Proposal Management system, up and running with trained, empowered business users from scratch with 5 days of our services?  Here are some of the elements that made it successful.

  • In our pre-sales, we showed them different “flavors” of our Capture and Proposal Management solution implementation enabling them to narrow down their approach in advance and be familiar with how it would look and feel and what could be customized.
  • Their IT people were very efficient to spin up the infrastructure in advance based upon our best practices (this was a new SharePoint environment) and then they got out of the way
  • The Business Users drove the solution implementation.  Thus, they knew what they wanted and were motivated to get it right and done quickly.
  • The Business Users came to the kick-off meeting armed with 3 core documents: 1) their modified Shipley 22 step “baseline” Stage-Phase-Step process, 2) a comprehensive information architecture for their system (basically top down all of the features/information to be captured and its logical structure), and 3) key dashboard reports with metrics they manage by.
  • The customer made their core business team available and they were able to commit to multiple weekly sessions to get this done.
  • The project had executive visibility from day one of pre-sales.
  • We stuck to our standard Walkthrough/Workout implementation approach.  Basically, we start by implementing our base solution.  Then, we conduct 1-2 hour sessions where we walk the customer through using the system.  Then, they take control and workout the solution following a prescribed process and we note desired changes.  Many of the changes are made real time.  Then, we work it out again.  This approach moves the custom solution forward very quickly and keeps the business users fully engaged and learning.
  • They were reasonable about where they had to get to because they knew that they were also being empowered to take control, customize the solution and move it forward on their own.
  • They began formal CorasWorks “essentials” training half way through the implementation and by the end they were making the changes and doing the work with us just advising them.
  • We set up a semi-automated migration onramp system and their business users did the rest.

Of the elements above, the most significant is that the core team of business users were directly involved and driving the implementation.  Often, we find that these users are “too busy” to be directly involved.  That is a key mistake.  You need to educate them in advance about the new possibilities with CorasWorks configurable solutions if you want them engaged and want to succeed like this customer.  If they understand what they can get and how the process works, then, they will not be too busy.  It helps to do multiple 1-2 hour sessions so that they can fit the work into their schedules.

End of the Beginning

Yes, the implementation is done.  However, it is really the end of the beginning.  They had what they wanted at the end of 5 weeks.  But, a week later we had our Engagement Review/Lessons Learned session and they had already enhanced and extended the solution quite a bit further.  They are rapidly perfecting and innovating on their own as they do “workouts” with other business teams and teaming partners.  (Yes, the business users are now conducting the workouts and making changes.)  This is really the key to long term success and the value of CorasWorks as a competitive platform for them – they are empowered to innovate.  As a growing and maturing business, over the next couple of years this one solution will go through many phases.  If they had gone with some fixed, legacy, proprietary solution or a native SharePoint approach that required expensive custom IT involvement – they would be stuck.

Instead, they are empowered to compete today and get better over time.

William

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See additional articles for Capture and Proposal Management in this blog.

Visit CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management for product information.

Mastering the Core Federal Government Contractor Work-Stream

Its been almost 3 months since my last post.  No, no vacation.  Instead, I’ve been heads down supporting implementations with our Federal Government Contractors.  I’ve also been working on a suite of solutions being launched over the next few months that focus in on the core activities of Federal Contractors.  Sure, you’ve probably heard about Sequestration and Federal budget cuts.  This is putting even more pressure on our FC customers to get more efficient and effective.  So, we are helping by “productizing” solutions and pre-integrating them to increase the competitiveness of our customers.

In this article, I am going to cover the 3 activities that make up the “core work-stream” for the folks in this industry.  A work-stream is a set of “loosely coupled” activities that build on each other. They are independent activities but necessary elements to deliver the result.  Even if you are not a Federal Contractor you might find it interesting since at the heart of any industry, its participants have a set of solutions/activities that represent their core work-stream for success.  So, as you read this, think about what your core work-stream might look like.

Now, to Federal Government Contractors.  Below is a graphic depicting the core work-stream.  It consists of three activities (the ones in blue).  If you do them well, you’ll succeed; if you don’t, you hurt your chances of success.  They are different.  They are usually managed by different people.  They have different outputs.  They are managed by different metrics.  Yet, effectively, in this industry, they represent the critical path that transforms opportunities into money in the bank.

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Over the last year, we’ve worked with customers to build out each of these three activities as separate “productized” solutions that can be part of one, integrated work environment. Below I’ll list each solution as it relates to each of the three activities of the core work-stream:

CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management v2.1

This solution is used to manage the process of capturing business including the development of the proposal and the maintenance of all of the Proposal Assets that support the process.  It is a Stage-Phase-Step process that can be managed to be most effective.  This is the key first piece to get you going.

CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management v2.1

About a third of Federal Contractor business now comes through IDIQ/GWAC vehicles.  If you won a single award contract or a multi-award IDIQ, you then will want to process those task orders that come in.  With multi-award IDIQs you have to respond quickly, often with Teaming Partners, in order to really win the business.  You need to master the art of collaborative work that is fast, efficient and effective.

CorasWorks Project, Portfolio and Program Management for Delivery v3.2

So, now you have won the business.  You need to deliver on it.  This is where our PPM solution comes in.  Our solution focuses on helping the users to get the work done in a collaborative manner.  The key is the solutions flexibility which enables users to modify the solution to do very different kinds of “project” work.  Some may have tasks and classic GANTT.  While others may be just about collaboration and reporting or represent Programs of multiple activities by customers, employees, and partners.

The Core and the Supporting Activities

The core activities are the core.  You must do these well.  Surrounding these are a host of other activities that help to make you successful.  A very small list might be:

  • working with HR for recruiting
  • working with Contract Administration to get SOWs with teaming partners
  • managing an overall CMMI or ISO set of policies
  • integrating with CRM that is your database of opportunities and contact tracking
  • working with Legal
  • Partner Engagement
  • Customer Engagement
  • training
  • knowledge management and open collaboration
  • marketing activities
  • solution innovation management
  • executive and management dashboards, reporting, and drilldowns
  • integration with Financial systems/ERP

Using CorasWorks each of the above can also be added to your environment as supporting activities.  Each adds value.  However, to say it again, you need to get the core elements working properly to make money.

What Shape is Your Core In?

Most people can use some help with their core work-stream.  Many can use a lot of help.  Those that have been around for years usually have good practices, but, aging systems.  The possibilities for systems/tools have changed over even just the last 5 years.  With flexible systems such as CorasWorks on SharePoint you are able to extend and enhance existing systems or replace them quite quickly and cost effectively.  If you have the feeling that you are stuck with legacy, fixed, custom coded systems and may be missing the boat to staying competitive – then, there is a good chance that this is the reality.  If you are young and growing but need to put core work-stream systems in place, then, you can step to the front of the technology stack.  However, you will still need to go to work on learning and developing the right processes and practices.  It helps to have systems like CorasWorks’ where you can get started with a simpler approach that is also cost-effective and then change the system to adapt as your people and organization grow and learn.

No matter which situation you are in, with the competitive pressures of today and the foreseeable future, it is critical to continually make sure that your core is in good shape.

william