Tag Archive for IDIQ

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.

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$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

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.

Visit CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management for product information.