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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

New Partnering Report: Primes grade their subs

We’ve released our latest Washington Technology Insider Report on the prime-sub contract relationship, and the picture it paints shows a mixed bag as far as how the primes view their subs.

This report follows a report we did two years ago. Both reports examine how primes view subcontractors, what attributes they value and where subcontractors can improve if they want to be a partner of choice.

The new report, Government IT Partnering 2015 Update: Primes Grade the Subs, is available free to WT Insider. Click here for information on how to become an Insider.

As we say in both reports, when the relationship works well, it works very well and is a true win-win-win for the prime, the sub and the customer.

But as we revisited both reports and looked at the trends from two years ago, we see some drop in the perceived performance of subcontractors. The mean score for attributes of teamwork, industry perception and process all dropped from 2013.

Now the drop wasn’t huge, so subcontractor performance didn’t plummet, but it still points to areas of concern and room for improvement.

For example, the results point to a need for subcontractors to improve communication skills, proposal processes and transparency. Honoring teaming agreements was another area that indicated a need for improvement.

Somewhat surprising: prime contractors also indicated that they want more reciprocity from their subcontractors. In other words, they want their subs to pull them in as teammates when they prime a contract.

Our research has two sections. One where we asked about the overall group of subcontractors and a second section where we asked respondents to think about their single best subcontractor.

The performance by the single best contractor was very strong, with 90.8 percent scoring the performance of their best subcontract as a partner as either very good or excellent.

As we went into more detail on the performance of the best subcontractors, we also compared the results to the overall group. This gap analysis emphasizes how much room for improvement there is for the overall group of subcontractors.

The single best subcontractor also outperformed expectations in areas of teamwork, customer knowledge, process and industry perception. For technical expertise, the single best subcontractors meet expectations, which was very high at 4.5 on a scale of 5.

The overall group of subcontractors fell short in all of those areas.

On a bright note, our findings reinforced how important the prime-subcontractor relationship is in the federal market. No one responding to the survey said they did not use subcontractors. In fact, 53.6 percent said they use five or more subcontractors each year.

In late April, we released our Insider Report looking at the prime sub relationship from the subcontractors perspective: The Subs Grade the Primes.

Taken together, these two reports reveal a strong and vibrant relationship, but not one that can be taken for granted.

Both sides want more transparency, better communications and more reciprocity. Both sides see the value in the other side.

And both primes and subs want the relationship to be more of a partnership.

So, how do you do that?

Well, you focus on the attributes we examine in the two reports – you improve internal process, you perform and protect your place in the market, you do what you say and say what you do.

None of these things are rocket science, but they are still hard to do in a market place where you are fighting for every dollar and where competitive pressures are pushing in on you from multiple directions.

You have your work cut out for you, but these reports can offer you a direction, some feedback and maybe some reassurance on how to be a be a stronger partner and find success in today’s market.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jun 26, 2015 at 8:49 AM


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