Bill Scheessele

COMMENTARY

A checklist for staying on top

Succeeding in a shifting market requires focused tactical action

Bill Scheessele is chairman and chief executive officer of MBDi, a business development professional services firm.

Change was the political mantra of the campaign in 2008. The realities of change in government contracting began to filter in throughout 2009 with delayed programs, increased protests, announced insourcing initiatives and increased oversight directives proclaimed — all mixed in with an anti-contractor undercurrent and an understaffed and inexperienced procurement workforce. It would be hard for anyone in the industry to ignore the shift taking place. As shared in recent commentaries, the boom years in government contracting are over.

Although the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review proclaimed the 2011 budget to be a wartime QDR committed to national security issues, current market research indicates a more than $30 billion shrinkage in contract spending through 2011 and predicts the downward trend to be even worse in the future. Although there’s still some debate on whether defense spending is truly cyclical in nature, no one can overlook the impact of significant deficit pressures and its influence on current and future federal budgets.

However, forward-thinking firms have adjusted corporate goals and strategies to align with the announced new budget focus and have initiated strategic shifts in priorities to be positioned for revenue growth. Because capital markets improved, they are investing via mergers and acquisitions, filling in to match capabilities with new federal spending areas. They’ve also increased investment in their bid and proposal budgets to deal with the increased competition for these growth opportunities.

Those strategies are all well and good. However, from our experience, succeeding in this changed and shifting environment will take more focused tactical action. Companies would be wise to consider:

  • Shifting the corporate structure to a leaner organization keyed to the changes and challenges that the government faces now and in the future.
  • Creating new so-called intrapreneurial business units with profit and loss responsibility with the potential to drive winning behavior.
  • Enhancing business development leadership and rebuilding business development teams via training in building long-term business relationships.
  • Retooling processes that might be out-of-date and discovering what’s missing that might be costing wins now and impacting future revenue growth.
  • Augmenting business development and capture and proposal processes with an opportunity identification and qualification component based on intelligence gathering to ensure smart decision-making on opportunities before investing time, talent, and bid and proposal funds.
  • Expanding the use of business development metric tools, moving beyond merely measuring win rate, and using enhanced metrics to drive appropriate business development behaviors and decision-making.
  • Looking at recompetes differently by investing resources in them like new opportunities, reconfirming relationships, realigning to any new priorities and never taking them for granted.

As in a championship game, no matter how much strategic planning is done beforehand, when halftime comes and after having met the competitive reality of the first half, suppositions are sometimes significantly adjusted. In this environment, as in a game, winning depends on people, training, experience, capabilities and the match up with the other party — but with significantly higher stakes.

In assessing your team, you should figure out what’s missing in your capture and proposal processes that might be costing you the win. Might this be an understanding of the opportunity from a person-to-person perspective provided by the customer? Can you match your firm’s capability and experience to the opportunity, and have you compiled, confirmed and reconfirmed the information that proves your offering is the best value solution to the customer’s needs based on the intell they have shared with you?

Do you have total alignment with this opportunity, having built a partner relationship both externally with the customer and internally within your organization? Can you serve as your customer’s advocate and validate that your organization is truly customer-centric and outward-oriented, making adjustments as needed that benefit your client as circumstances change?

If so, you are in the game and positioned to win.

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