Tag Archive for Federal Contractor

Shared Contract Work Order Management System for Federal Agency and Contractor

How can we make the work on contracts more efficient and effective?  One powerful way is to enable people from the Federal Agency and the winning vendor Contractor team to work together in a shared environment to manage the work.  In this article, I’ll review a work management system that we just delivered that does just this.

The story is about how we were able to take our off-the-shelf IDIQ Task Order Management solution and rapidly apply it to meets the custom requirements of an RFP from a Federal Agency for a shared Contract Work Order Management System.  The story is partially about our solution, but, it is also about how a Federal Contractor can leverage CorasWorks (software and people) to outdo the competition, win business, and, stay close to their customer.

Situation

A civilian Federal Agency released an RFP as a small business set aside valued at about $100M over its term.  It is an outsourcing contract for IT-related Services.  The format of the contract is a single-award IDIQ with general Task Orders and specific Work Orders supporting about 30 core work areas.  The Work Orders are the primary method for getting the work done.

The new wrinkle is that the agency required, as part of the proposal, that the vendor provide a shared, collaborative, online work management system enabling the participants from the Agency to work with the participants from the Prime contractor and their team.  The system had to support the release of specific Work Orders that would come in as Agency requests, get released for estimates, get estimates, and drive the approval process.  In addition, the system had to support visibility into the work in progress including planning, tracking the work, ongoing collaboration, issue flagging, and reporting.

The big practical challenge for the Prime contractor and team was that the Agency required the vendor to have the system up and running on the date of submittal of the proposal.  It would be a live system, accessible by the Agencies review team during the proposal review phase and would then be migrated post-award.  This was a major compliance challenge that could have doubled or tripled the cost of submitting the proposal.  And, whatever system they proposed, they were going to have to live with for the duration of the contract.

Approach

A member of the Prime bidder’s team was a Top 10 Federal Contractor that is a CorasWorks customer and was familiar with our IDIQ Task Order Management solution that runs on Microsoft SharePoint.  This solution is designed for use within Federal Contractors, primarily in a multi-award situation, to manage the process of responding to task orders.  Upon review, it was decided that this solution would be the base for the required Work Order Management System.  The primary reasons were:

  • the core off-the-shelf feature set is very close to the needs of this contract work order management system
  • the configurability of CorasWorks would enable the team to deliver the required demonstration environment at a very reasonable cost and on time
  • CorasWorks is an open application environment, ie., not a proprietary code base, and thus, it be custom-configured, enhanced, and extended, by the Contractor team, to meet ongoing needs.

Solution

The solution was implemented by CorasWorks with our bidding team of the Prime Contractor and subcontractors.  We started with our off-the-shelf IDIQ Task Order Management solution running in a CorasWorks provided online environment.  We then applied it to the Agencies requirements.  This work took a couple of weeks of configuration and testing. Some key requirements for the system were:

  • The system was designed to support Federal Agency participants and Contractor participates within a common, online collaborative work environment requiring appropriate control of permissions and work action authority.
  • The system was setup up to support two workstreams (distinct stage-based processes).  One for Work Orders that cover the core contract work areas (the bulk of the work).  The other for new Task Orders that would be released to expand the scope of the contract.  Each workstream was a bit different.
  • Each workstream had to support 2 work Phases.  One was the Approval Process with the key stages of Request, Review, Estimating, and Approval.  The other was for approved work orders, Work In Progress, covering Working Planning, Work in Progress, and Closeout.
  • The system needed robust reporting to show process metrics and exception reporting across the life cycle of work.
  • Each work order or task order has its own Workspace that contains the detailed information for the item across its life-cycle and supports the collaborative activity required to drive the item forward.

Result

The system was delivered within cost and exactly on time which was objective one for compliance and is now in ongoing support mode.  The system met the compliance requirements of the Agency and included an interactive checklist to make it easy for the Agency to validate compliance.  While this system is not the core reason why the Agency will award the contract to a vendor team, it was perceived as a major reason why a team would be knocked out of the competition.

In addition, after working with the system, the Prime Contractor is now in process to procure CorasWorks for internal use and to leverage this Contract Work Order Management system to create a standard way of working on each of its major single-award contracts and for use for its IDIQ task order management.

My Comments

It is not uncommon for CorasWorks to be used to bring up collaborative work environments that bring together participants from Federal Agencies, Prime Contractors, and, contract teaming partners.  In fact, this particular agency has had experience working in similar CorasWorks-based environments for two other major contracts/programs with another Top 10 Federal Contractor (see Large Federal Contractor Drives Customer Intimacy and Value with Dedicated Program Workplaces on SharePoint).

However, this particular application of our IDIQ Task Order Management system was new.  Instead of focusing on winning the work, as in the typical multi-award IDIQ scenarios, it is all about getting the work done with visible participation of all members (Agency and Contractor).  Our existing solution provided 90% of the base system allowing the team to get where it needed to be very quickly.

I can see the use of CorasWorks for Contract Work Order Management in three scenarios.

  • One where a Federal Contractor uses it just within their organization and working with teaming partners to manage work requests on their single-award contracts.
  • Another is for a Federal Agency to manage their request processes within the Agency and the interaction with their vendors.
  • The third is an integrated, shared work environment as in this scenario.

I believe that this last scenario, the integrated work environment, is the top of the food chain in terms of driving efficiency and effectiveness of the work delivered on Federal Government contracts.  We’ve seen it before and it is proven.  However, you need an enlightened agency and a contractor that can handle the transparency to make it work.  Like any collaborative process, it takes the team some time to learn how to work together and how they work will continually evolve as they learn.

William

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See additional articles for IDIQ Task Order Management in this blog.

Visit CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management for product information.

New IDIQ Prime Contractor Leverages CorasWorks to Jumpstart BD Operations Center

You are a multi-billion company selling sophisticated systems.  You do more than $1Billion/year in Federal business.  Now, your customers buying model shifts to multi-award IDIQs.  You could get locked out or marginalized.  You have to become an IDIQ Prime Contractor almost overnight.  You’re starting from scratch.  Here is the story of how one of our customers rapidly made the transition leveraging the full spectrum of CorasWorks resources and our ecosystem.

Situation

The customer is a multi-billion dollar provider of communications systems to commercial and federal customers.  Their Federal business is more than $1B/year primarily providing systems to the Military.  Up to now, their Federal business was obtained via single award prime contracts and as a sub-contractor to other primes.  Over the last couple of years, key customers have begun moving their procurement into new multi-award IDIQ vehicles.  In particular, one customer was creating an IDIQ Vehicle with a maximum of $10B over five years that would cover a good portion of their existing business.  The company decided to become a Prime Contractor for multiple IDIQs in order to maintain control over their customer opportunities and to expand their opportunity set for overall systems integration and solutions for many customers.

To support the new IDIQ Prime business, the customer required a very different approach to Business Development/Capture Operations.  They were now going to be in the Solution drivers seat integrating in elements from close Teaming Partners.  They’d have to turn around task order proposals in 30-90 days vs. a year.  Their objective was to support many IDIQ contracts as a Prime so they needed a flexible solution that would optimize the results for each IDIQ, yet, work as a single integrated system. This new system would be a dedicated Extranet that would tightly integrate Teaming Partners into the work-stream. In addition, since this was a new way of working they were looking for guidance from people who had done it before and they needed to get going in a matter of months.

Solution

The customer surveyed the market for solutions considering various COTS products that would need to be heavily customized and integrated.  They also considered designing and building what they needed from scratch.  They decided to go with CorasWorks for a number of reasons:

Collaboration Needs – they realized that this solution would be heavily collaborative amongst internal players and partners and saw the value of leveraging Microsoft SharePoint infrastructure

Trust of CorasWorks – they had been using CorasWorks on SharePoint for general internal operations for 3 years and trusted the software and company support

CorasWorks IDIQ Solution Framework – CorasWorks has a vertical practice in Federal Contractors and had existing customers leveraging it for IDIQ/GWAC Systems and could provide a solution framework to accelerate the project, reduce the cost, and, reduce the risk

CorasWorks Software Flexibility – they wanted the solution to be theirs.  It would enable a significant competitive advantage.  They wanted to be able to enhance, extend and maintain the software on their own as needed.

CorasWorks Ecosystem – the customer was able to leverage CorasWorks Professional Services and was able to tap existing CorasWorks customers for IDIQ operational guidance and CorasWorks partners for hands-on subject matter expertise

Less Time, Cost, Risk – based upon the above, they believed that their project could be delivered within the time and cost and at lower risk than other approaches and their cost to support and extend the solution was less than alternatives

Getting There

The core “build” project was scheduled for 8 weeks.  It would be a brand new Extranet environment built from the ground up.  It would include the standard CorasWorks IDIQ framework modules supporting IDIQ Program Management, specific IDIQ Vehicle and Task Order Management, Task Order-Proposal working sites, Partner Portal and partner working sites, and integration of shared master knowledge (Past Performance, Policies, Pricing, Forms, System information, etc.).  The approach was to focus on delivery a system supporting the first IDIQ ($10B over 5 years), yet, use a system design that would support many IDIQs.

Because of the strategic nature of this initiative, the customer did a few things differently.

Started with CorasWorks Training – before the project began the customer had 3 people from IT attend a custom CorasWorks training session.  They learned how to build with CorasWorks and how to leverage the CorasWorks IDIQ solution framework.  This prep work was important to make informed technical decisions and to provide the knowledge to reduce project cost and time and allow them to enhance and maintain the system going forward.

Tapping Customer IDIQ Operational Experience – the customer engaged an existing CorasWorks Federal Contractor who had been using a CorasWorks-based IDIQ/GWAC system for 7 years to manage 18 vehicles and 5,000 task orders.  From them, they gained the operational guidance and best practices to lay the foundation for their operations.

Joint Delivery Team – They created a joint delivery team consisting of CorasWorks Professional Services, a CorasWorks partner with hands-on experience with IDIQs in Federal Contractors, their trained internal IT, and, the business users. This team was to work on-site, for 6 weeks, in a focused, joint effort.

The Project Results

The 8 week build project went as planned.  They got the top down guidance they needed.  They used an iterative approach starting with general requirements, leveraging the CorasWorks IDIQ framework to lay down the base modules, and then, iterating it to satisfy the needs of the users.  Within 10 weeks the solution was in place, tested and accepted, and ready for operations.

The actual operations for their first IDIQ were not scheduled to begin for another 3 months.  They then turned to implementing their second IDIQ which is to go operational at about the same time.  This time, with the knowledge they had gained, they added the new IDIQ vehicle which was slightly different than the first and did the customization on their own over a the course of a few weeks.

Summary

It was a tall order.  This customer had to go from basically nothing to best-of-breed operational capabilities with a multi-IDIQ, tightly integrated, operations center, in a matter of months.  To get there, they leveraged CorasWorks to bring together the people and technology to meet their objective.  This is a solid start.

The reality is that this customer will learn a tremendous amount about running the IDIQ capture business as a Prime over the next 6-12 months.  That is where the real value of CorasWorks software’s flexibility comes in.  They will be able to take those lessons learned and best practices and enhance and extend the system to enable them to just get better and better at delivering results. In 12 months it will really be their system, and, serve as a core part of this new way of winning business.

William

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See additional articles for IDIQ Task Order Management in this blog.

Visit CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management for product information.

Using Stage-Gate Processes for More Effective Collaborative Work

Stage-Gate processes have been around for many years. They grew up to serve the needs of Product Development.  Over the last few years, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of customers opting to use this type of design for their applications across many other functions (vs. role-based application design and classic workflow).  The main driver of this new adoption is that organizations are finding this type of design to be more effective for purposeful, collaborative work.  It lends itself to bringing a group of people together to collectively drive the results of the process.  In this article, I’ll look at the overall design of a Stage-Gate process, provide examples of different uses, and talk about how it drives effectiveness for collaborative work processes.

Stage-Gate Process Design

It starts with people aligning on the high-level Stages an item will go through.  Each Stage is then represented visually to make it easy for the group to see where things stand.  Within each Stage there are a set of activities, which must be completed for an item to pass through the Gate and progress to the next Stage.  This is really the power of this design in that the activity is separated from the top-level Stage flow.  The activities can change, but it doesn’t affect the Stages or the Gate.

Below is a screenshot of a standard CorasWorks-based Stage-Gate application.  It is used to manage an IDIQ (Indefinite Delivery – Indefinite Quantity) contract, which is a business development vehicle most often used by Federal Contractors.  The Contractor gets a contract.  The government then issues Task Orders, each of which is bid on by a number of contractors.  Each Task Order goes through a set of Stages along its life-cycle.  Decisions are made and work happens to drive the Task Orders forward.

 

IDIQ Program - New Task Order - ITES - annotated

 

Above we are showing the New Task Order stage.  The Task Orders come in here and are reviewed and prepped.  When ready, they are pushed to the Bid Assessment stage where the team decides whether to bid on the Task Order.  The key elements of the design are:

A. Stages – lay out your stages as you want them

B. Stage Management Display – where you see the items in that Stage and can access information, report, slice, dice, and take action

C. Actions/Activities – custom set of actions to be used in the Stage to get the work done that needs to be done

 

An important part of the design is considering what is actually moving through the Stages.  It is common to think of each item above as a record of information (list/database).  However, with CorasWorks you can associate related information and sites that act like folders.  For instance, in the example above when a new Task Order is entered, a related Task Order collaboration site is automatically provisioned.  This site is where the detail information is and the detail collaboration happens.  In other scenarios, it might be a project site.  Or, an item might just have related information from within SharePoint or external data sources which is surfaced as a virtual workspace.  The upshot is that you have a simple top-level process to track the flow through the stages, but you have access to a very deep set of supporting information and activity for each item.

 

Examples of Stage-Gate Processes

Now let’s look at examples of different types of stage-gate processes and how they might differ.

 

R&D Innovation Process for Consumer Products

This is a classic application.  One customer is using this design to manage the full-life cycle for molecules it creates to be used for fragrances and flavors in consumer products.  The molecules are created in a lab and go into the process.  They go through a multi-phase process with many detailed activities (more than 50 activities are individually tracked).  The process takes about 3 years and they have about 700 molecules at a time.

 

e-Policy Management for HR

One customer uses this design for their corporate policies.  They have converted more than 600 corporate policies from documents into living, digital articles.  Each policy is submitted, reviewed, and published through a series of Stages involving Finance, Legal, Admin personnel, and more.  Users are empowered to ask questions, rate the articles and make comments that can be used for revisions.

 

Demand Management: New Project Initiation for Everyone

This is a common use of stage-gate.  The objective is to have a visible, collaborative review process BEFORE projects are initiated.  It is part of the evolving approach for Demand Management.  We have a standard solution for this where projects are proposed and then put through the stages leading to an approved process.  When approved, this information is used to kick off the actual project management site (a downstream activity).

 

Application Development for IT

A stage-gate process is great for application development.  You have your basic stages of the application development process that can span the full life cycle from proposal to completion or that might just cover the development process itself (because you are using the New Project Initiation process above as an upstream activity-right!).  When the project is approved you can have a project management/collaboration site that is used to manage the development work and the related information.  This site is effectively what is going through the stages.

 

Proposal Development for Business Development

Many BD organizations, particularly our Federal Contractor customers, use a standardized Stage-Gate process (originated by a company named Shipley) to manage business development.   This is very high level.  In addition, each Proposal they are working on has its own Stage-Gate process using a standardized system for color reviews.  Thus, in this scenario, you have a system with two-levels of Stage-Gates.  The top level is the overall BD process with each “opportunity” being managed.  Then, each opportunity that has made it to the Proposal Development stage has a collaborative site for the actual proposal work.

 

Effectiveness for Collaborative Work

The power of the Stage-Gate design is that it gets a group of people on the same page of where things stand and what needs to happen to achieve desired results.  It is simple to understand and easy to use.  The key is that the people involved will be aligned on the top stages.  From there, the systems empowers all of the people involved to work together collaboratively to achieve the result.

CorasWorks has built in a number of features over the years that enable effective solutions for stage-gating.  They enable the core solution and the ability to flexibly support the many different types of activities and changes to activities to support the process.  In addition, with CorasWorks on SharePoint you have the ability to engage “external” people in the process for upstream, downstream and supporting activities.  Ultimately, the effectiveness of a stage-gate process comes by having the visibility, input and the work coming from different people, but, aligned on the core objective of your process.

Full Service Proposal Center of Federal Contractor Driving $250 Million a Year in New Business

Many SharePoint users make use of team sites to manage individual proposals – primarily leveraging basic document management.  Most don’t get much further.  This leaves a vast untapped potential for driving Business Development results and efficiency waiting to be exploited.  Using CorasWorks, leading companies are making it happen…

One of our customers is a billion dollar plus Federal Government Contractor.  A few years ago they acquired a company that came with a proposal management system built with CorasWorks on SharePoint.  They adopted it and have since enhanced and extended the system to serve as a full service Proposal Center supporting 400 proposal projects per year, in a 24/7 operation, that drives $250m/year in new business.  In this article, I’ll provide an overview of their Proposal Center system, the business impact, and, how they are taking it even further.

 

The Proposal Center System

The original system was built using CorasWorks on SharePoint 2003.  It went live in 2005.  When our customer bought the company that built it – they got it.  It was decided that this system would become the core for a new Proposal Management Center that would offer their service to all business units of the company and that would provide a flexible set of services to meet varying business needs.

NOTE: This decision was surprising.  At the time our customer was a complete SAP shop – even for their Intranet/My SAP portal.  The company they acquired used CorasWorks/SharePoint for their Intranet and many other operations.  Our customer killed everything SharePoint from the acquired company, except for this proposal system. This one app has kept the SharePoint flame burning in the organization which over the years is now starting to more broadly adopt SharePoint.

At the core of the Proposal Center is a good solid proposal development system based upon SharePoint.  Each proposal or proposal project is a SharePoint site (at least one) managed as part of an ongoing portfolio of work.  The native SharePoint capabilities have been enhanced with CorasWorks to automate many aspects of the proposal life-cycle and flesh out the system to support a range of different levels of business development capture and proposal projects and information resources as follows:

- Standard RFP Responses – The standard proposal project is a full response to a government RFP using internal resources.  For this, they use a standardized color review process.  The system structures the work, manages the content, and, keeps everyone up to date via email notifications and workflow.

- Smaller BD Projects – It also supports smaller projects.  Sometimes a business group may only require input on the Executive Summary, a short response to an RFI, Past Performance information, or work on a Pricing matrix.

- Managed Knowledge Resources – In addition to managing the projects, the Proposal Center has become a central source for standardized information such as Past Performance, forms, policies, proposal snippets, pricing information, etc.  People working on proposals can “fetch” relevant information from various managed KM repositories and pull it into the working site.  Over time, the Proposal Center has built up an extensive set of knowledge that is reusable as well as knowledge about the process and results of all Business Development operations activity.

- Large Teamed Responses – Further, the system is designed to also support large proposals involving a broad number of teaming partners.  Leveraging CorasWorks and its “secure separation” design each teaming partner is able to interactively participate within the system but only sees the information that they are supposed to see.  Yet, the core company proposal team gets a holistic view of all of the activity.

- IDIQ Task Order Responses – Last year, a new module was added to the system to support IDIQ Task Order Management where they serve as the Prime contractor.  The Task Order responses are managed through the system.  As IDIQ Task Orders, these have unusually short deadlines, such as 10 days, and require an expedited process.

All of the different types of projects are managed via overall portfolio dashboards and work consoles that allow the business development managers to see, act, and contribute as needed.  It provides extensive real-time reporting across the system for business development executives, program managers, and, overall executives.

There are also many unique features to the system that were created to drive productivity within the specific operating environment of our customer.  One of these is the integration with the customers’ SAP HR system.  Our customer responds to a large number of service-oriented RFPs that are dependent on people. Thus, easy access to resumes and integration of vetted individuals into the proposal is a big productivity boost.  Using CorasWorks, the customer integrated with their SAP HR system which allows them to locate people/resumes, which when selected are dynamically formatted based upon pre-defined templates to be incorporated into their proposals.

NOTE: CorasWorks v11, our latest platform release, contains an advanced toolset enabling customers to integrate with Deltek Costpoint, Deltek GovWin CRM, SAP, Oracle Siebel, MS CRM/Dynamics, Taleo HR, Peoplesoft and most other enterprise CRM, ERP, and HR systems used by Federal Government Contractors.  It supports read/write integration, business logic, and is done without custom development leveraging CorasWorks adapters.

 

Impact on Business

When they first began, they were running fewer than 100 projects through their nascent proposal center using very manual processes.  The Proposal Center’s impact and scope of services has grown considerably over the last two years.  They are now running at 400 proposals/projects per year.  The output is currently driving $250M of new business for the organization each year.  The range of services continues to expand and help drive up the quality and consistency of organizational BD output as well as mitigate the risk of ad hoc activities. Using CorasWorks, non-developer business people in the BD operations groups (vs. IT) are able to maintain the system and enhance and extend it to meet evolving requirements.  This drives down costs and makes continuous innovation practical and efficient.

 

Next Steps

The customer is currently in the process of migrating the system to SharePoint 2010 and expanding its capacity.  In addition, they are enhancing the system to be a broader Business Development system that manages the full life-cycle with proposals as a core process.  To support this breadth, they are moving the overall design to a broad stage-activity-gate approach to give them 360 degree visibility across the life-cycle.  They will be building up and out their IDIQ/GWAC capabilities to create a full service Center of Excellence.    In addition, the system is going deeper to provide additional supporting processes working across other staff functions such as Organizational Conflicts of Interest, At Risk Authorizations, Finance requests and approvals, and Risk Management that are specific to Federal Government Contractors.

And, there is even more on the roadmap.  But, it is a competitive world so I’ll save that for later.  The key takeaway is that many organizations are leaving a lot of value on the table by using just native SharePoint or legacy rigid proposal systems.  There is a better way

 

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.

Large Federal Contractor Drives Customer Intimacy and Value with Dedicated Program Workplaces on SharePoint

Our customer is one of the top 10 largest Federal Government Contractors.  Being so big you’d think that they would act it.  But, when it comes to contracts, performance, and customer value they have found a way to act small, local and drive very tangible customer value.  They are accomplishing this by creating dedicated Program Workplaces using CorasWorks on SharePoint.  In this article, I’ll tell the story of one $150M contract/program and how this has become a successful model that is spreading. By the end of 2012 this approach will cover 5 contracts/programs worth more than $1 Billion dollars.  And, as you’ll see, it is a story of organic innovation at the edge of the business, where the customer value is created.

 

The Challenge

Our customer won a contract worth $150 million over 5 years.  The contract is for services for a program for a Civilian Agency that involves delivering on a schedule of similar yet differing “projects”.  The user base is about 500 people with 200 of them being employees from our customer and the rest being customer and partner employees.  Our customer believed that the best results could be achieved by enabling their employees, partners, and Agency customer participants to work together in a dedicated, seamless, program work environment.

 

The Solution

A year ago the contract started.  Our customers’ Program Manager decided to invest in their Program Workplace out of their own pocket.  They deployed an extranet infrastructure based upon “vanilla” SharePoint.  They then used CorasWorks to build out their Program Workplace.  It took just a month to get the environment up, built and being actively used.

Now, this is not some passive intranet or a skinny extranet portal.  It is a dynamic, integrated, seamless, interactive, role-based workplace for everyone involved with the mission of the program.  Here is what this means:

- it is a dedicated environment for employees, partners, and customers working on the program

- it is role based – the Agency customer people have their work consoles, the functional managers have their work consoles, and the contributors have their consoles and places to go to get the work done.  They are enabled to see, act and contribute from wherever they work.  They see only the information and activities that they have rights to see.

- everything is there – it is a self-contained environment.  All of the information, reporting, processes, collaboration that relates to the program are there.

- it is about the mission and the work – it is a workplace dedicated to delivering the projects on schedule.  Effectively, the projects are managed through a structured set of stages with a final result.  All of the users have their roles and participate in the work.  Any supporting processes are part of the environment

- it evolves – effectively, the workplace gets better every month.  They learn with each project, they make changes in their work processes and the workplace, they get better.

Each project of this program is mission critical.  A project either succeeds or fails.  Everyone is accountable.  By having this workplace, the users share accountability.  And, in the last year they have succeeded with each project.

 

What makes this Workplace Different from an Extranet

Most SharePoint extranets are designed and built as appendages of an Intranet.  They are skinny – a place customers can go to maybe see reports and access information.  What happens is that the extranet is separate from the intranet where the internal people work.  Thus, the work and information environment have lots of seams (holes, gaps, barriers, cracks).  Lots of information, productivity and accountability thus gets lost – it is a seamy way to work with others.

With their dedicated Program Workplace, our customer has changed the game.  They designed it top down from the perspective of the whole team to accomplish the mission of the program.  Thus, everyone works equally together.  The result is that the work and information flow from person to person and task to task instantly and seamlessly.

Technically, the environment has more than 200 SharePoint sites.  But, unlike most SharePoint environments this fact is transparent and irrelevant to the users.  They do not have to navigate to the sites to see what is going on, contribute or act.  The majority of the sites just store information and establish security barriers.  Instead, the users see, contribute and act from their role-based consoles.  The information, work to be done, and results come to them.  You don’t prepare reports, you just do your work – the system takes care of the rest.  It is role-based and seamless. Imagine, a workplace that makes it easy and convenient to be productive.

What is truly unique here is that this customer invested from their own budget to bring up a dedicated environment, that they own, and that has become part of their service offering for this contract.  Plain and simply, it is a better solution for driving customer value and achieving contract success – breakthrough stuff.

 

A Cost Neutral Solution

Federal Contractors, particularly with service driven contracts, have to worry about costs – margins are tight.  Initially, this contractor made the investment up front – a minor miracle.  They were clear in their objective and how to get there.  They had planned that they would get change requests from their users.  They did.  So, in addition to the normal contract task orders, the Agency customer has been issuing change requests as task orders to enhance and extend the workplace.  In this first year they received more revenue in change request task orders then they had projected for the 5 year period.  This revenue has enabled the original team to stay on the project to maintain and enhance the environment and has made the environment a cost neutral part of their offering.

 

The Solution Becomes a Business Model – Organically

This Program Workplace has been very successful.  The approach is being adopted for other contracts/programs across our customer…

For instance, our customer has another contract with the same agency.  They are also a user of CorasWorks but have been supporting the customer via their internal Division Intranet.  The agency has now “guided” the Program Manager to move out of the Intranet and into an extranet workplace – to provide them the benefits that their other agency comrades have on the other contract.  In fact, they are consolidating the workplace of that program into the infrastructure of the first program.

In a new contract with a different Agency to be awarded this year, our customer is including a CorasWorks-based Program Workplace as part of their bid.  This contract will be about 3 times larger than the other two mentioned above.  They intend to leverage the same Program Workplace overall design with the primary difference being the workstreams and processes.

And there is more…  There are two other contracts/programs within the same customer, with different Federal Agencies, that are also following a customer-intimate, dedicated, Program Workplace model based upon CorasWorks on SharePoint. They have been running for years. The fascinating part is that until a couple of months ago these different programs and their managers did not know what the other groups were doing. CorasWorks has now connected them up.

 

Innovation Happening at the Edge of the Company

The miracle of it all…

This approach was not explicitly driven by Corporate or even the Divisions.  It emerged at the edge of the company.  This very large Federal Contractor has somehow magically created a culture that has enabled the drive towards customer intimacy on these contracts.  It empowered the local program managers to truly do what is best for the customer and the mission of their contract.  It delegated accountability.  Now that they know about each other, they are starting to share their designs, approaches, practices, even application templates.  So, without explicit corporate guidance, funds, or systems, there is an evolving common approach, to drive their customers’ success, that is driving the delivery of more than $1 Billion of business.  This is pure goodness.

In our increasingly hyper-competitive world, customer intimacy that delivers exceptional results, is a (if not the) key differentiator – particularly in services based sectors. The fact that this is happening organically in a very big company, sets a new bar for competition in Federal Contracting – one that other organizations large and small should take notice of.

 

william

$0 to $250 Million in 3 Years–Federal Contractor leverages CorasWorks on SharePoint to Support Growth, Productivity and Integration

Planning began in 2009.  Through a series of acquisitions and aggressive organic growth this Federal Contractor has gone from startup to a $250 Million/year business with 1,100 employees in 3 years. Their story is a testament to solid planning and knowing how you will execute before the tornado comes.  It has been very cool to be part of this ride from the initial planning stages.  Here is their story…

 

The Planning

In 2009, the CEO set very aggressive goals to build a big business quickly. They began planning.  A key part of the plan was the infrastructure, systems, and processes to enable very rapid growth, keep costs down, and drive productivity.  They would have no time for experimentation – this was about execution on a business strategy.  The target was to establish an agile infrastructure that could grow to support a $500m business.

Building this infrastructure fell on their seasoned CIO and a few key IT experts who had done it before.  In particular, they had helped build a Federal Government Contractor business before and leveraged a model of CorasWorks on SharePoint to deliver what they needed.  But, this time, the IT team could do it better and leverage new tools, methods, and capabilities.  To succeed, they had to be better.

They planned to rent hosted services online and build out their initial production environment to be operational after the first acquisition  Their objective was to create a unified, seamless, virtual work environment where employees, customers, and partners could all work together.   The key is that they understood how to manage the security of the environment while also eliminating the seams of the workplace (organizationally and technically).

The plan was that as they acquired companies and contracts these would be integrated into the environment – kind of like a workplace vortex.  As an example of the detail of planning, early on they decided that the environment would fully support the use of tablets (iPads primarily) for users to be able to see, contribute, and access information when working on premise or outside.

 

The Beginning of Execution

After the acquisitions started they migrated the initial hosted environment into a Private Cloud environment that they had custom designed.  This environment uses VMware with massive storage and fantastic connectivity.

At the core is a new Intranet running on SharePoint.  But, theirs goes far beyond the norm.  In effect, it is a virtual, unified, seamless work environment – their Federal Contractor workplace.  It is powered by CorasWorks that provides the user experience and the glue to enable people to see, contribute, and act from wherever they work.  This environment is a blend of information and all of the various work processes that are required by a Federal Contractor.  Powered by CorasWorks and some other secret sauce their workplace is integrated with their external ERP and CRM (from Deltek) and additional enterprise systems.

 

Growth and Integration

There are two types of growth: acquisition and internal growth.

Each new company acquired gets merged into the work environment.  This contractor does not leave them as separate operating units.   Instead it merges the people, information, and processes into their organization.  It acquires companies that will be a fit for their integrated model and expand their competencies as they grow.  There is one company, with one culture, and one system.  No redundancies, no loss of productivity to organization or system seams – a focus on win and deliver business and driving customer value.

They are also aggressive with contract acquisition.  For instance, in the last 2 years, they have added four new IDIQs as a Prime Contractor.  These new vehicles are managed using CorasWorks as part of their work environment.  They manage the task orders, proposal responses, teaming partners, all the way through to delivery and overall program management.

 

Evolution

They started with 1-2 Terabytes of active SharePoint data.  In 2012, they completed the upgrade from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010 in a month without major issues.   Again, this was possible because of comprehensive planning back in 2009 that included the design of an architecture and inclusion of vendors that support this type of evolution.  (CW Technote: When they started they built their workplace using CorasWorks v11 running on SP2007.  When they migrated to SP2010 they did not even have to install a new version of CorasWorks, since the same v11 runs on both SP2007 and SP2010).

Their work environment evolves every month.  They continue to not just get bigger, but, better.  For instance, they are building a new data-smart system leveraging InfoPath forms and workflow to streamline and simplify operations.    Most information now becomes PDFs, including forms in processes.  This drives a level of consistency that is unusual which supports productivity.

 

My Take

This customer has done an exceptional job at building their business and providing an optimized environment to support growth, execution and evolution.  The fact that they had done the job before is critical.  Mind you, while they used CorasWorks on SharePoint before, it was in the days of SharePoint 2003, circa 2005.  Their current approach is much more holistic, integrated, current (using the latest and greatest) and just plan cooler (imagine their exec meetings where everyone is on an iPad with instant access to shared information).

As to the overall business model and workplace approach – they’ve set another new bar for competition.  For a mid-size federal contractor with a consistent set of service-based contracts, this is an optimal approach.  Instead of lots of separate siloes of work and organizations, they’ve shown how you can do it all in an integrated workplace run within your dynamic private cloud.  The way that they mapped their agile infrastructure, systems, and policies to their business strategy is just plain stellar.  And, they are setup to continually innovate – which they do.  The result is accelerated revenue growth, lower costs, and increased productivity.  It is a model that is working and that appears will take them to their objective of $500m in revenue within 5 years.

william

Customer Examples of Work Request Management apps for SharePoint

Over the last month, I’ve worked with a number of customers that are deploying applications for various scenarios of work request management.  This category of application is very common for all organizations and works great with CorasWorks on SharePoint.  It leverages the collaborative nature of a SharePoint environment and the work management feature set of CorasWorks.  The key design principal is to recognize that they are fundamentally cross-functional processes.  In this article, I’ll look at 4 different customer scenarios.  I’ll talk about what is common amongst them and how they differ.  I believe that any SharePoint Service Delivery Management team should make this category of app a staple of their offerings.  Once you get the core design pattern, you’ll find lots of applications for it.

Basic Work Request Management app

There are six core elements that are common to work request apps as follows:

  • They are an app, meaning there is a core site dedicated to this purpose vs. it being a feature added to a team site.
  • A requestor fills in a form to kick off a request.
  • The requestor can see, track, and engage with assigned “workers” on their requests.
  • Workers and Managers do various things (automated CorasWorks actions and forms) to respond to and complete the request.
  • Requestors and others are notified of activities and/or collaborated with.
  • You have reporting on the activity.

Customers Scenarios

Here are the 4 customer scenarios:.

Materials Storage for Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

This application is for requests to store chemicals (materials) within a manufacturing group.  People make their requests and others work the requests noting how long items are stored and where. Requestors are notified of the work and they get pinged when their storage expiration date is approaching.

IT Requests for SharePoint Work and Help Desk Tickets for Health Agency

This customer uses a couple of different WRM apps for IT to support the organization.  One allows users to log the requests for the SharePoint team for new sites, changes to sites, or new apps.  The SharePoint team then manages these requests.  The other is a WRM-based “Help Desk” app where users enter tickets and Help Desk folks work them.

Employee Requests of HR for Pharmaceutical

This customer is using WRM to enable employee across the enterprise to make requests of HR.  In this case, they created three request workstreams.  Each has a slightly different set of work management activities.  From the user perspective they are able to see the different requests in a single display from wherever they work.

HR Staffing Requests for Federal Contractor

An important process for many Federal Contractors is making requests of HR to find or recruit people to work on contracts.  In this case, a business development (BD) person working on a new proposal/task order makes requests of HR to staff specific positions.  The requests are related to specific Proposals/Task Orders.  However, HR manages all of the requests centrally.

Commonalities

All of the above follow the same basic design as described above.  People make requests.  People work on the requests.  There is back and forth.  The requests are closed out.  There is reporting.

The interesting part is that these are four very different “applications”.  In many organizations, they would presume that they would be looking to go out and buy or build completely different applications.  However, with CorasWorks on SharePoint each of these uses the same basic framework.  Thus, armed with one basic design you can now fill many different needs and save lots of time an money in the process.

Further, when you build them, the things that you will primarily change are also common:

  • The core data (fields) of the “work request” list are different.
  • The request form is different.
  • The worker roles are specific to the process.
  • The app navigation is different.
  • The displays and most importantly the worker/manager actions, work forms, and notifications are different.
  • Reports are different.

With CorasWorks, each of the above is easily modified using our wizards.  So, you have a common app design and you know the common things that you will be changing to accommodate the specific needs of the app.  If you look at it like an assembly line, you are all set to deliver.

Key Deployment Differences of the Apps

While the four apps have many core commonalities, there are differences in the overall deployment approach across the SharePoint environment.  This is important because work request management is fundamentally a cross-functional collaborative process.  Thus, where people go to engage, whether requestor, worker, or manager, can be different based upon the scenario.

All-in-one

In the Materials Storage app, all of the different users work in a single app site.  Requestors go there to make their requests.  Workers go there to do their work.  Managers go there to manage.  This makes it easier to create the app and is the way you would typically start.  However, it is not really a best practice given the ability to distribute functionality using CorasWorks.

Distributed

In the IT Request app, the Requestors don’t go into the app app site to make requests.  They are able to be elsewhere across the SharePoint environment and enter their requests from their and see their requests and interact.  This makes it more convenient for the users.  Generally, you start by building the app as an All-in-one and then just distribute the displays.

Many Projects to Work Management Team (Hub and Spoke)

The HR Staffing app is a bit different.  In this specific scenario, you have many Proposal/Task Order sites (or could be project sites).  A team is working on these projects.  They enter their requests from the site.  However, the HR Work Request site is central – all of the requests feed into the one app.  HR is then able to manage it all in one place and interact with the requestors via their project sites.  This ends up as a Hub and Spoke deployment.

Self-Service

The Employee request design is different also.  In this case, there is a self-service page in the enterprise portal.  Users go to this one place and enter and see their requests across the three types.  The requests are funneled into the three different workstreams managed by HR.  HR is also able to work on them via a single display.

Getting You Spun Up for Work Request Management

The work request management category of app is a staple of SharePoint environments that have gone past basic site centric content sharing.  We often work with customers to train up their SDM teams to deliver this category of app.  We have a standard set of templatized apps and training to help get you going quickly.  Email support@corasworks.net for more information.

william

Federal Contractor Driving $800 Million Business with CorasWorks-based IDIQ Task Order Management System

The Federal Contracting business is very competitive and is getting more so.  A key mission critical business function is the winning of contracts, and, the winning of the right contracts that can be profitably delivered.  Over the last 5 years the use of IDIQ (Indefinite Delivery – Indefinite Quantity) contracts has dramatically grown – particularly for the procurement of information technology and services.   One of the top 20 Federal Contractors has been using a CorasWorks-based system running on Microsoft SharePoint for 6 years to manage their IDIQ-based business.  They started with one IDIQ vehicle and are now managing 14 IDIQ vehicles, 5,000 task order opportunities, and, have driven $800 million in business.  This article will drill down into this customers’ system and their business.

The Challenge

IDIQs are a primary vehicle for the Federal Government to contract for work in IT and related services. In 2011, 30% of all contracts in this space were based upon IDIQ vehicles, representing about $40 Billion.  The 5 year projection is an increase in the use of IDIQs to over 70%.  With IDIQs, the contractor bids to become an authorized vendor for a specific IDIQ vehicle.  This gets them no business, but, it gives them the right to bid for business among the select vendors for that IDIQ. Then, they need to manage and compete on each Task Order that the government releases and win the business.  Task Orders are usually many millions of dollars and span years.  Accordingly, the challenge for these systems is that they are both high volume and they require very detailed management throughout the life cycle of Task Orders.

Our customer wanted a system that would allow them to drive revenue, at high efficiencies, and that was effective at winning the right business (that which is profitable for them).  In addition, they wanted a system that was customizable to their needs so that they could continuously innovate to maintain a competitive advantage.  In addition, in this solution space there are a number of distinct challenges as follows:

  • each IDIQ has different requirements which need to be supported by the system
  • there is a high volume of Task Orders that need to be sorted, prioritized and managed closely – miss a date or a requirements and you are out>
  • each Task Order is different and needs to be managed separately with a process to determine whether to bid on it or not
  • the turnaround time to bid over the years has gotten shorter
  • many Federal agencies or specific Task Orders require teaming partners (small business, women owned, etc.) that are part of the bid, thus, the teaming partners need to have access to information and participate in the process and the delivery – thus security must be tightly managed

 

The Story, the Solution and the Business

Back in 2006, the customer won a single IDIQ (along with 10+ other vendors) that projected $10 Billion of Task Orders over 10 years.  They wanted a solution to manage the work.  They looked at various Project Management systems such as Primavera.  However, they believed that the IDIQ vehicle approach was going to grow in popularity and they wanted a system that would allow them to continuously innovate to competitively differentiate themselves.  Thus, they looked for a COTS product that was very flexible to build their own unique solution.  They selected CorasWorks running on Microsoft SharePoint 2003.

According to the customer, they built the initial system in a fraction of the cost and time of buying the COTS solution and trying to customize it to their needs.  They did this relying on their internal subject matter expertise and leveraging the CorasWorks product and CorasWorks training.  The key is that the customer a) was the subject matter expert, and b) the “builders” of the system.  Using CorasWorks, they were able to “build” the system and innovate without requiring custom compiled code.

Over the last 6 years, that single IDIQ has generated $250+ Million in business in 80+ won Task Orders.  They used the system to purposely bid less than 10% of the 2,000+ Task Orders that were released under this IDIQ to maintain high win rates and make sure that they were doing the business in their profitable “sweet spot”.

Over the years, they continued to innovate and improve the core system. They also migrated the system to SharePoint 2007 and multiple releases of the CorasWorks solution platform to continue to drive innovation. About 3 years ago, their was an enterprise reorganization.  Given the success of their IDIQ TOM system for the initial IDIQ it was decided to consolidate IDIQ operations across programs/practices within this team.  They have since grown to manage 14 different IDIQ vehicles and all of the Task Orders through this CorasWorks-based system on SharePoint.

The current state of the business is as follows:

  • The team/system manages 14 different IDIQ vehicles (including some GWAC contracts) and all of the task orders
  • They have processed and managed 5,000 task orders since 2006
  • They bid about 10% of the task orders received and have 300 active orders 
  • They have driven $800 Million of business
  • They have 250 teaming partners
  • Teaming partners have access to the Task Orders that they have teamed on through the proposal process and forward if the Task Order is won
  • Each Task Order ever issued is tracked for historical reasons
  • The system supports Opportunity Management so that the customer and their Teaming Partners can work on customer opportunities and then drive the process of getting Task Orders issued

The core modules of this system are as follows:

  • IDIQ Portal and Portfolio Management – looking across all 14 IDIQs and reporting on operations
  • IDIQ Task Order Management – process to manage capture, Bid/No Bid decision and full life cycle of Task Orders for each IDIQ
  • Task Order sites – one for each Task Order where information is stored, proposals are managed, status is updated and participants (including Teaming Partners) collaborate – throughout the life cycle of the Task Order
  • Teaming Partner Extranet and Partner Sites – where Teaming Partner go to access partner specific information, submit interest in participating on a Task Order, submit opportunities, access Task Order sites.

Here are some details on the overall scope of the system and some key features:

  • Every task order has a site that is automatically provisioned.  There are 1,000 active sites and a few thousand archived sites in the system.
  • There are 250 different Partner sites providing them with their place through which to work with the customer across IDIQs and Task Orders
  • Security is a key part of the system.  By separating each Task Order into a SharePoint site, the customer has a simpler way to manage security vs. attempting to use a role based approach with complex security.
  • The historical data, particularly the No Bid decision and explanation, is important to determine which Task Orders they bid on and also enabling them to return to rebid when the opportunity arises.
  • The opportunity management sub-system enables teaming partners to bring the opportunities to them, which they jointly pursue, and then, push through the appropriate IDIQ vehicle
  • The system is managed by two Technical people and the there are three Task Order Managers that do the functional work
  • The separate business groups that the team/system serve manage three elements using their own tools: large Proposal Development, Project Delivery, and Customer Portal(s).
  • The customer is planning to migrate the system to SharePoint 2010 this year and to take advantage of the CorasWorks “advanced” capabilities of version 11 to continue their innovation.  When done, over 7 years, they will have evolved the system across three cycles of the SharePoint platform (2003, 2007, 2010) and more than 7 versions of the CorasWorks solution platform.

 

My Comments on this Solution

This is a very valuable mission critical system – arguably the key type of system for Federal Contractors in the IT/Services space given the growing use of the IDIQ vehicle.  Note that while the use of the IDIQ vehicle is growing dramatically, the overall IT/Services spending is barely growing.  Thus, the Federal Contractors are fighting it out within a pie that isn’t growing – if you win, your competitor loses.  Having a system that gives you a competitive advantage for the type of business you want to win is simply core to winning this game.  With CorasWorks, this customer got what they needed.

It is a big system, based upon the vast number of sites.  However, in many key ways its design is simple.  This simplicity is important to drive efficiencies and to be able to effectively maintain the system – most importantly the security framework.  Complex security designs are subject to human error.  This design makes it far easier to get right.

The managers of this system/business function, two key people, have continuously driven this system forward over the last 6 years.  Their experiences and lessons learned are continuously built back into the system.  They just keep getting better and the results of the system get better.  The CorasWorks product and support services are ideally suited to this type of situation where the customer wants a competitive advantage and has the will and skill to build it out with our support. 

This particular customer could also use CorasWorks for some other core IDIQ system elements, in particular, large Proposal Development, Project Delivery, and Customer Portal(s).  However, since this is a very big organization with this operation spanning multiple organizational groups, at this time, each group uses its own tools to do these three things.  They are looking into providing CorasWorks solutions for these as opt-in additional services to the business groups.

The overall design of this IDIQ Task Order Management system is what I refer to as a Broad, Distributed Work System (see my intro article Putting SharePoint to Work).  This type of system is incredibly well suited to a SharePoint environment.  In fact, it is hard to imagine designing and building such a distributed system on an alternative platform.  The features and benefits of this system in terms of flexibility, maintenance, efficiency and business effectiveness would be tough to match.

It is interesting to note that this system is effectively a single app.  It is really large and its impact is critical.  Many SharePoint customers talk about the challenge of managing lots and lots of sites that aren’t used -  a feeling of chaos.  However, in this case all of those sites are part of a single, inter-connected, system.  The overhead of many sites actually increases the efficiency, effectiveness, and security of the business and every site has its purpose.

Regards,

William

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See additional articles for IDIQ Task Order Management in this blog.

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