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…
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.