Making the team: Specifics critical to Anteon teams
- By Gary Arlen
- Sep 11, 2005
Ludmilla Parnell, Anteon's marketing director of small-business partnerships
With more than 100 managers creating and running project teams, Anteon International Corp. has more people involved in finding teammates than some of its partners have employees.
Keeping those managers up to date on small-business issues is a big job. So is matching potential partners with the most appropriate of Anteon's many projects. Both tasks are part of the job of Ludmilla Parnell, Anteon's marketing director of small-business partnerships.
Parnell steers potential partners toward the right Anteon projects. The first step, she said, is to get specifics.
"I have a list of things I ask [our mangers] to identify," Parnell said. Items on her list range from the contract's definition of small business to identification of functional gaps that a subcontractor is best equipped to fill.
For example, if a potential teaming partner has experience with a particular customer, that is a sizeable benefit.
Fast-growing Anteon -- No. 13 this year on Washington Technology's Top 100 list of federal prime contractors -- focuses on defense and intelligence projects. The company's growth has meant that it increasingly seeks specialized providers, including small companies, for new ventures.
"I get requests for companies that can do all kinds of niche services," Parnell said. About half of Anteon's teaming opportunities went to small businesses in 2004, a ratio that Parnell expects to persist.
"Part of my role is to make sure that our managers keep appraised of what's happening and what's available in the way of resources," she said.
Given Anteon's focus on intelligence systems, missile defense, homeland security and weapons modernization, the range of skills needed is extensive and specialized.
Parnell and her project managers like specificity. Some potential partners, companies that register at the Anteon small-business Web site, just put IT as their skills, she said. But that's not specific enough; what she wants to know, she said, is what they do really well.
In talking to small companies, "one of the things I try to impart is the importance of doing your research," she said. One suggestion she made: Prospective partners should study the company's Web site to identify activities and match them with resources that a small company can bring to those projects.
Parnell said that the Anteon project managers on the teaming front lines have different ways to find prospective partners. Therefore, she encourages applicants to "insert their capabilities, briefings, brochures" and other background material. Those resources give Anteon managers "a nice little link" to prospective partners' skills, she said.
"It's important to be specific in using capability and customer-area keywords that will allow us to find the company," she said. Only the information in the registration form is searchable, but supporting documentation and reports, such as digital brochures, are "very helpful in considering whether a company may be able to fill a specific technical need," she said.
Anteon's database of teaming prospects, built from registrations at the Web site and other input, is the project managers' prime resource. To supplement the database, in-house market researchers seek appropriate partners for specific projects.
"I've been educating them on small-business issues, on how to pick" team members, Parnell said. She visits Anteon's regional offices in Newport, R.I., San Diego and other key locales to ensure that managers adopt "a total company approach" to the teaming effort.
"Everyone has to be aware of this and involved in some way," she said. "A lot of managers are capable of finding business. All they need is a little guidance."
VALUES IN TEAMING
Past performance is an important criterion in teaming selections, but many other factors help Anteon in "distinguishing one contractor from another," Parnell said.
A small company can get ahead of the competition by "doing its homework" about Anteon's projects, she said. That includes attending conferences, open houses and events where Anteon presents its project objectives, which are also listed on its Web site. Parnell and her colleagues hand out Anteon material to make sure people know the process the company uses.
Like other large contractors, Anteon uses small-business teaming to meet contractual requirements, she said, but "there are a lot of other reasons to work with small business," she said. For example, Anteon may look to small companies to bridge functional gaps, such as expertise in an esoteric technology or gaps in geographical presence.
Early involvement in the contracting process is invaluable for a potential team member, Parnell said.
"If a company waits until projects are announced ... then it's getting late," she said. "We will, in most cases, have a team in place by the time the request for proposals comes out." Early contact while "we're doing our research" is essential, she said.
The vast scale of some projects has led Anteon to create complicated teaming alliances. For example, in preparing a recent Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command proposal in San Diego, Anteon managers "conducted a focused search in our database for technical expertise and required small-business categories," Parnell said.
"We had a working group, and met almost weekly to talk about how we would be working with our small-business partners on this contract. It was a proactive courting process," she said.
Parnell, who is co-chair of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's small-business committee, summarized the teaming process from her vantage point between Anteon's staff and prospective small-business partners. Noting that most of her company's project managers "read e-mail on a BlackBerry," she encouraged potential team members to create "a true elevator speech in written format ... short and to the point.
"Hit on what you can do, as well as what you've done and [whom] you've done it for," she said.
As she said, first step: Focus on the specifics.
Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications Inc., a Bethesda, Md., research firm. His e-mail address is GaryArlen@columnist.com.