WT Business Beat

Booz Allen protest offers lesson for incumbents

Booz Allen Hamilton lost a bid protest for a Navy contract where it tried to unseat Jacobs Technology, the incumbent.

The ruling by the Government Accountability Office indicates two things: how tough it can to beat an incumbent when the customer likes them, and the pressures incumbents face.

The contract with the Navy was for IT systems and support at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, primarily at China Lake and Point Mugu, Calif.

Booz Allen objected to the evaluation of Jacobs past performance. They argued that the Navy improperly considered only the most recent annual past performance rating for Jacobs.

In a second argument, Booz Allen said that the price adjustments the Navy applied to Jacobs' bid showed a lack of understanding of the contract, and that Jacobs' proposed compensation plan represented a risk.

GAO rejected Booz Allen’s contention, saying the past performance evaluation argument was without merit. While there may have been errors in the evaluation, Booz Allen was not prejudiced by them.

I think Booz Allen’s focus on past performance makes sense because that’s the Achilles heel of incumbents, and just because they didn’t win their argument doesn’t mean that incumbents shouldn’t be worried about attacks on their past performance.

Without getting into the legal arguments for why GAO ruled against them, I thought that Booz Allen made a noteworthy point; they complained that the Navy only looked at the latest past performance report, which only covered about six months. If they had looked at the entire life of the contract, Booz Allen argued, the conclusion on Jacobs performance could have been different.

GAO rejected the argument because the Navy never said it would look at five years of past performance, only that it wanted past performance from contracts or subcontracts that had been held in the past five years. The Navy also was consistent in the way it looked at past performance across all of the bidders.

To me, it doesn’t matter who won the argument but that there is a lesson here for challengers and incumbents.

For incumbents, the focus on performance and customer satisfaction seems to be at an all-time high. The best way to keep that customer is to understand how they really see your performance.

The flipside for challengers is the need to understand the incumbent’s weaknesses and shortcomings and craft a proposal that addresses those weaknesses and shortcomings. It isn’t about bashing the incumbent as much as it is understanding the customer’s needs.

I attended an Association of Proposal Management Professionals event where they had a panel on why incumbents lose.

One point the panelists made is that incumbents are losing more often.

That might be the case, but I also think that this Booz Allen protest also shows the strong positions incumbents are in.

The success or failure of a recompete is in their grasp. If they have been delivering, they win, and if they haven’t, the risk of a loss grows quickly.

Bottom line: Don’t be complacent.

Posted on Apr 07, 2014 at 11:15 AM1 comments

TSA lays ground work for next IT infrastructure contract

EDITOR'S NOTE: I updated this blog to correct the value to CSC. Thanks to commenter "Rocky Balboa" whoever you are.

One of the more hotly contested and lucrative contracts of the past decade is coming back for a recompete as the Transportation Security Agency has released a request for information for its IT infrastructure contract.

Currently, the contract is held by Computer Sciences Corp., which won the work in 2009 but then had to fight off multiple protests from Unisys Corp., which held the predecessor contract.

Unisys won the first infrastructure contract in 2002, shortly after TSA was created following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The contract was worth about $2 billion to Unisys from 2002 to 2010 when CSC took over.

For CSC, the contract has also been lucrative. According to Deltek’s procurement data the contract has brought in $544 million in task orders since 2010.

The RFI indicates that TSA is looking for a managed services contract this time around.

The RFI is scant on details on what TSA wants exactly, but like most of these kinds of notices, it is asking questions about business models, contract structure, performance measures, and incentives for a managed service of an IT enterprise. Each of those different subject areas has a set of questions TSA wants answered in the responses to the RFI.

TSA’s IT infrastructure supports 60,000 employees at wide range of locations including TSA headquarters in Arlington, Va., and 550 airports around the country.

While TSA is just in the beginnings of its contract development and many unknowns are out there, one thing is known: CSC is going to fight to keep this contract.

The company confirmed its interest in an email to me and said that the big change from its current contract is the emphasis on managed services and cloud offerings.

“As agencies continue to explore effective ways to reduce the overall cost of delivering IT services while maintaining a high degree of enterprise agility, there's an added emphasis on managed services, some of which are housed in a variety of cloud environments,” the CSC spokesman wrote. “Managed services also provide a sharp focus on the end-user experience.”

In some ways, the changes TSA is exploring reflect some of the changes CSC has made with its own service offerings. The company has been building out its managed services offerings focusing on the cloud, cyber and big data capabilities while jettisoning other part of its business that aren’t focused in those areas.

In their email to me, they specifically mentioned a new cloud management platform that they announced this week. It builds off of the October acquisition of ServiceMesh, a cloud management company.

The new offering is called ServiceMesh Agility Platform and CSC says it “allows us to manage our clients’ environments more effectively by automating the deployment, management, governance and security of enterprise applications and platforms across private, public and hybrid cloud environments.”

Obviously, other companies have been making similar investments to bolster their own manage services offerings, after all we are at the beginning of the “everything as a service” era.

So I expect CSC will see plenty of competition as this contract rolls forward.

Responses to the RFI are due April 9.

Posted on Apr 04, 2014 at 7:31 PM1 comments

Recent layoffs part of CSC transformation effort

Computer Sciences Corp. is in the midst of layoffs as the company makes another move geared to transforming the company into a leaner enterprise focused on high-end technology services.

A company spokesman declined to disclose a number of people impacted by the layoffs, but the layoffs are occurring “globally” with no single part of CSC bearing the brunt of the cuts.

The company has gone through other rounds of layoffs since Mike Lawrie, the company president and CEO, was brought in February 2012 to save the company. Within weeks of taking the job, Lawrie described CSC as needing a “significant turnaround effort.”

The company has also undertaken several divestitures as Lawrie and the management team he’s put in place have worked to streamline operations and reduce operating costs. CSC also has been trying to change its operating model, which Lawrie said was overly complex and lacked accountability.

The company also has been making moves to increase its focus on next-generation services such as cloud, cybersecurity, big data and applications modernization. These layoffs are part of those efforts, a spokesman said.

“This new business model requires that we remix the skill base around many of our new next-generation offerings,” the spokesman said.

The company also is making efforts to re-energize its consulting business and strengthen sales, he said.

When Lawrie took over he said the effort to turnaround the company would be significant, and he wasn’t kidding.

Between layoffs and divestitures, the company has reduced its headcount from 98,000 as of March 30, 2012, to 80,000 at the end of 2013.

CSC's new business model has included an aggressive pursuit of as-a- service offerings, including application security, cloud brokering, hybrid cloud management solutions, and those are just a couple announcements from the last few weeks.

On many levels, the company seems to be headed in the right direction, and when you consider those being laid off, it’s obvious that change doesn’t come cheap.

Posted on Apr 04, 2014 at 7:53 PM2 comments

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