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.
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.
See additional articles for IDIQ Task Order Management in this blog.
Visit CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management for product information.