Primes and Subs: Troubled partnership?

The need for healthy prime-subcontractor relationships has never been stronger, but our latest Washington Technology Insider Special Report points to plenty of areas where primes fall short in how they treat their subs.

Our latest Washington Technology Insider Report takes a fresh look at the relationship between prime contractors and subcontractors, and the news isn’t all rosy.

The report, Subs Grade the Primes, is an update to our 2013 report exploring this critical relationship between primes and subcontractors. The research focused on what subcontractors felt primes were doing well and not well.

First, the good news: The importance of the relationship is not waning. A majority of subcontractors believe they’ll either partner more or at least as much over the next two years.

To conduct our research, we surveyed executives from across the market and asked them about the performance of prime contractors. First, we asked about the overall group of primes, and then we had them focus on their single best primes.

The full results of the survey are available to Washington Technology Insider members. Click here to download the report. Click here to get more information about becoming an Insider.

We see several things in this report. First, we see the general state of the market and the relationship. Partnering remains an important part of the competitive landscape. This finding was consistent from the 2013 report to the 2015 report.

Because of that, we think that it is important to look at how the overall group of primes perform, and then compare that to the performance of what respondents identified as their single best prime.

The gap between the best and the rest is instructive. Because partnering is such an important part of the market, you want to be the best partner you can be.

We found that when a prime performs well, they preform very, very well. We measured primes across key attributes such as technical expertise, teamwork, customer knowledge, process, and industry perception.

The collective group fell short in these areas, but the single best contractors often outperformed expectations.

The report goes into detail in each attribute and our gap analysis shows where primes need to focus to improve their performance.

Some aspects of the relationship are challenged by the current budget and competitive environment, which no one has control over.

But honesty and transparency, for example, falls on the prime and how they work with their subcontractors.

As you can imagine, subcontractors want more transparency and more honesty, not less.

We are in the process of writing part two of this research series, looking at the relationship from the perspective of the prime contractors.

The early results are that the relationship is a two-way street, so stay tuned, subcontractors: it looks like you have some work to do as well.

I encourage you to read the report and use this blog as forum to comment on it. We’ll continue to monitor this relationship because, as our findings make clear, it isn’t going anywhere. If anything, the relationship between primes and subs is as important and vibrant today as it ever has been.

Doing well with this relationship often translates into success in the market.

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