In its protest of the Navy’s $3.5 billion NGEN award to Hewlett-Packard, Harris Corp. claims that the Navy didn’t properly evaluate its pricing and didn’t conduct a thorough investigation of a program manager’s affair with another contractor.
But the Government Accountability Office didn’t buy either argument and denied the Harris’ protest. The way is now clear for HP to begin the transition from the current Continuity of Services contact to the new Next Generation Enterprise Network contract. HP is the incumbent contractor.
The five-year contract will support 400,000 seats and 800,000 users.
Just days before the Navy awarded the contract, it relieved the program manager of his duties “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to lead.”
The program manager, Capt. Shawn Hendricks, had an affair with an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton. In published reports, Hendricks said the two had fallen in love.
Booz Allen had been hired by the Navy to support the selection process for NGEN, and its here that Harris made its argument that the relationship may have affected the integrity of the procurement.
Harris complained that the Navy did not review whether the conduct extended beyond the relationship. The company wanted the Navy to investigate whether Hendricks or the Booz Allen employee (now a former employee) would benefit if HP won the contract.
GAO knocked down this argument because Harris could not produce any submissions that drew a logical connection between the relationship and the award decision.
The unsupported allegations of an impact on the award decision “amount to mere speculation [and] are insufficient to form a basis for a protest,” GAO wrote.
The pricing allegations are a bit more complicated. Harris says that HP’s price was too low. The combined bid by Computer Sciences Corp. and Harris had a $3.6 billion price tag. CSC also protested, but withdrew its objections before a final ruling was made.
Harris also argued that the Navy failed to perform an adequate balancing analysis in connection with its price evaluation.
GAO found no merit to either claim.
In reaching its decision, GAO had access to the Navy’s “extensive contemporaneous evaluation record,” the watchdog agency wrote.
The Navy conducted numerous rounds of discussions with all the bidders before picking HP.
“Nothing in Harris’ protests meaningfully suggests that Hewlett Packard does not understand the contract requirements or that Hewlett Packard’s proposal does not offer to meet those requirements,” GAO wrote.
Harris complained that the Navy didn’t prepare an independent government estimate, consult price lists or conduct market research.
Instead, the Navy conducted extensive analysis of the pricing among the bidders, determining averaged proposed prices, high and low ranges and compared pricing to the existing contract, GAO wrote.
Interestingly, GAO’s report describes how, when all the bidders submitted their proposals in August 2012, the Navy found them all to have “material deficiencies.”
From that point, the Navy conducted multiple rounds of written questions, face-to-face sessions and telephone discussions. A lot of the questions revolved around pricing.
Final proposal revisions were submitted in April, and these also had problems, and more discussions were held.
Another round of final proposals were submitted in June, and all were determined to be technically acceptable.
It was the record built through these rounds of discussions that the Navy used to fight off the Harris protest.
In multiple places in the decisions, GAO refers to the evaluation record the Navy built.
When the award to HP was announced in June, Sean J. Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, was asked about the prospect of a protest.
He said he couldn’t prevent a protest from being filed, but felt that the way the Navy developed the requirements, and then mapped them to the solicitation, and then mapped those to the evaluation process gave him confidence that they could withstand a protest.
Looks like his confidence was justified.
Posted on Nov 01, 2013 at 12:31 PM0 comments
It seems that everyone has either heard the stories of partnerships gone bad, or has one of their own.
And in today’s market of budget cuts, delayed projects and general uncertainty, the pressure is on when it comes to the partnership between prime contractors and their subs.
As we developed our research for our second WT Insider Report with our partner Lodestar, we wanted to explore this question, so we asked if the primes thought the relationship was getting harder or easier.
A solid 51 percent said they thought the relationship hadn’t changed, that it had stayed about the same.
And there is more good news. Twenty-three percent said it had become somewhat easier, compared to 18 percent who thought it was somewhat more difficult. Only 3 percent thought it was much more difficult, compared to 6 percent who said it had become much easier.
The easy conclusion to draw is that partnerships are in good shape, but I’m not sure we can put all 51 percent of those saying the relationship had stayed the same in the positive category. A certain percentage may think the relationship hasn’t changed, but they certainly don’t think it is a good relationship.
The reason I’m comfortable saying this is because the open-ended question on this topic pulled in 100 responses.
A few point the finger at the subcontractors:
- Have learned more about the weaknesses/shortcomings of the subcontractor over time.
- Less working together as strategic partners…less long-term patience.
- Subcontractors are more demanding in regards to commitments, but not willing to be as accommodating when offering reciprocal commitments.
- Less loyalty to you as prime.
- More and more, they do not fully understand nor fulfill some of the documentation requirements.
- More demands…less cooperation.
But I have to say, the complaints directed at subcontractors represent the minority of the comments.
In many ways, the comments are a harsh critique of the current market conditions, including the budget, compliance requirements, delays and uncertainty.
“Many subs are less flexible now because of the overall downturn in the economy. Relationships and agreements are more 'make or break' than ever before,” wrote one commentator.
The problems with the budget are at the heart of many of the comments, including concerns about cost and pricing pressures, budget uncertainty, economic pressures, fewer opportunities and, of course, sequestration.
According to Lodestar’s analysis of the written comments, 25 percent blame market forces and the budget, 24 percent blame government administration and compliance, and 24 percent blame pricing, costs and work share.
Only 15 percent of the comments blamed declines in subcontractor performance. Another 12 percent of the comments went into the miscellaneous bucket.
If you’d like a copy of all the comments, let me know, and I’ll email them to you.
The high ranking for compliance was a surprise to me, and fits with many of the conversations I’ve had with executives around the market.
It seems any effort these days to reform the procurement process actually increases the compliance burden because more reporting requirements are heaped on agencies and contractors.
As I heard one person describe it, Congress loves reporting requirements because it shows they care.
And finally, to revisit the theme of using these reports to your strategic advantage, I think the written comments highlight several areas that subcontractors can focus on if they want to be a preferred partner.
One is compliance and understanding how, as a subcontractor, you can support the prime.
There were several comments focused on being flexible, though this could be the primes' code for the need for subs to take less work.
There also are comments that indicate some of the critical skills that primes are looking for, which include business development, proposal writing and human resources support.
Competition is intense for skilled niche providers, so understanding your business and developing unique technical competencies are another way to make your company stand out.
Next, I’ll look at the bright side of the equation, and explore what the primes say is working well in their relationship with their subcontractors.
Posted on Nov 01, 2013 at 10:00 AM0 comments
Bill McDermott, co-CEO of SAP AG, still has his Long Island accent, and it thickens a bit when he tells the story of buying a delicatessen when he was still a sophomore in high school.
He uses the accent to draw laughs when he talks about “Tony Somebody from New York,” who controlled the arcade games he wanted in his store. Pac-Man and Asteroids were a key to his early success because the games lured in high school students.
“I had to appeal to my base,” he said last night during his keynote address at the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s Tech Celebration banquet.
He proudly told the story of his $99 suit from the mall that he wore to his job interview with Xerox. The first floor of his family’s home had been flooded, and his brother carried him from the second floor to dry ground so he wouldn’t ruin the suit.
He promised his dad that he’d come home with a Xerox employee badge. “I guarantee it,” he said told his father. He got the job and worked there for 17 years.
While stories of his youth drew plenty of chuckles, McDermott delivered a serious message and a warning to businesses that don’t embrace the under-30 set as employees and customers: Ignore their talents, ambitions and needs, and you are doomed to fail in the next 10 years.
“They are not Me Me Me; they are not narcissistic,” he said. “There is a new generation out there that sees the world in a new way.”
They are mobile, social and purpose driven. “Eighty-four percent would rather work for a company with a purpose, that does something that matters, than get a raise or a promotion,” McDermott said.
SAP lets employees dedicate one day a month to community service, and the company’s retention rate has improved by 5 percent.
“For us, 1 percent of retention is worth $80 million,” McDermott said.
McDermott became co-CEO of SAP in 2010, and the company was No. 1 in many of its markets.
Despite its strong position, “we knew that if we didn’t change, we’d be dead in five years,” he said.
The company is now focused on mobility, the cloud and in-memory databases. “Disk storage is dead,” he said.
“Today, 80 percent of new revenue comes from businesses we were not in three years ago,” he said.
Throughout his talk, McDermott returned to the need to harness the energy and enthusiasm of younger workers.
“You need to build career platforms because they really care and they’ll leave companies that don’t take the long view,” he said.
He urged business leaders to embrace intellectual curiosity, which too often is stifled.
“We have a curiosity deficiency,” he said. In grade school, students ask thousands of questions, but by high school “you’ve been beaten down, and ask just a few.”
By the time you are working in the business world, “you don’t ask questions because that’s how you get fired,” he said.
At SAP, the company conducts “jam sessions, where we invent the future,” he said. “If it fails, kill it, but you have to create a culture where failure is acceptable.”
Leaders need to challenge younger workers with big, important projects and responsibilities. McDermott told the story of President Kennedy’s 1961 pledge to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
The average age of the engineers working on the Apollo project was 26, and the team was led by a 31-year-old, he said.
“What we have to do is wake up and get the younger ones to do big things,” McDermott said.
And don’t let this age of austerity scare you away. When SAP needed to contain costs, a 23-year-old at the company suggested putting a thermometer on the company portal so employees could track SAPs progress.
“For the first time, we didn’t have people complaining and we exceeded our goals,” he said.
The simple idea of a thermometer engaged the employees, and gave them a stake in what the company was trying to accomplish.
After his speech, I talked with a few people around the dessert bar. Some felt he overstated his argument; others thought he was spot on.
My only criticism is that the principles he talked about, particularly around engagement and fostering a culture that creates room for failure, should be applied to all generations.
Perhaps the message resonates strongest with those under 30, but even a 50-year-old like me wants to have a sense of purpose and mission.
Posted on Oct 31, 2013 at 8:55 AM0 comments