Tough times breed new opportunities

Experts at Deltek's recent FedFocus event urge contractors to avoid the "hunker down" mentality, and to embrace these tough times as an opportunity to transform how you do business, and how you help your customers deliver on their mission.

Today’s market conditions seem to leave companies with two strategic choices: hunker down, or be bold and transform yourself.

I can’t think of a single company that has ever told me that they were hunkering down and going into survival mode.

But actions speak louder than words; the companies that hunker down stop making acquisitions, they focus on cost cutting, and they avoid almost any kind of risk. They languish and generally shrink.

Smart companies, however, look at these troubled times as an opportunity to transform themselves as well as their customers.

That was pretty much the gist of a panel discussion at Deltek’s FedFocus video webinar on Wednesday. The software and market research company pulled in a few of the brighter minds in the market to talk about current conditions and strategies for success.

Offering their insights were Mike Fox, managing director and federal sales lead for Accenture, Alan Balutis, senior director and distinguished fellow for Cisco Consulting Services, and Dan Chenok, executive director, Center for the Business of Government.

Deltek’s vice president of federal information solutions, Kevin Plexico, also gave an overview of budget and technology trends.

This link will get you to an archive of the webinar.

One message that was clear is that, far from running from the current market conditions, smart companies and smart customers really need to embrace this time as an opportunity for transformation. Not changing how you do business is not an option.

“You have to realize that what made you successful previously isn’t what is going to make you successful going forward,” Balutis said.

Transformation of how companies and governments operate really only happens when there are inescapable financial pressures, Chenok said.

Signs of transformation are appearing across the government, particularly with agencies embracing shared services such as financial management, he said.

Companies need to understand what is happening with their customers and what skills they need to drive to deliver new capabilities, Chenok said.

Technologies such as cloud computing, data analytics and mobile might be all the rage, but “you need to link them to performance and show that it isn’t just about technology, but how technology delivers results,” he said.

In a way, there is a perfect storm going on, Fox said. “There are lot of negatives in the market, but the technologies are here at just the right time to bring solutions and new ways for the government to deliver services,” he said.

Now is the time for companies to invest in cloud computing, mobile and big data and not cut back, he said.

“The first reaction in hard times is to cut, cut, cut, but now is really a time to invest,” Fox said.

The key, though, is customer intimacy and understanding what the customer needs, and then bringing solutions that address those needs. That’s the only way to stand out in an era where lowest cost is a priority for many agencies.

Some strategies they described:

  • Working with customers to either expand work under current contracts or extend current contracts.
  • Paying attention to alternative contracting methods such as agency initiatives that get posted on
  • Tracking initiatives such as franchise funds that remove some agency opportunities from traditional budget cycles.

“Budget cuts force agencies to look for new and different ways to deliver their mission,” Balutis said. “I hope this time will be an opportunity to move from old ways to new ways.”

Fox emphasized the need for companies to differentiate themselves from competitors. The last thing anyone wants to be seen as is being a “vanilla contractor.”

“You have to avoid being a commodity,” he said. “How are you different in how you serve your customers and what you deliver?”

Answering that question can be through a technology, an expertise or some new way of delivering on the mission, Fox said.

The bottom line for success in today's market is moving forward, not clinging to the past.