By Cathy McGrane
Teaming is a way of life in Federal IT contracts. The complexity of the programs, the different skill sets and solution components required, and the rules around small business participation, require us to think about how to structure the best team for each opportunity.
Strategic teaming is also a big competitive advantage. In the years I’ve worked in Federal IT, I often see teaming as an area that gets neglected. Sometimes we do a good job around teaming on the VERY large Federal programs with longer lead times, but teaming discipline can get sloppy when we’re working smaller or more time sensitive programs and on IDIQs/BPAs. It doesn’t matter if you work for a large business, a small business, or a technology vendor, or if you are a Prime or a sub – doing your teaming “homework,” and having a compelling and creative teaming strategy, will make a difference in whether you succeed against your competitors
The Basic Mechanics
I’m often surprised at how many companies initiate teaming discussions without having done their homework. For Prime contractors, simply documenting where you have “gaps” is a key step in evaluating teaming partners, yet it’s often rushed or overlooked. Gaps can include solution gaps, functional knowledge gaps, client insight gaps, geography gaps, small business gaps, or finding faster, smarter or less expensive ways to deliver your service. Is there a key partner critical to your success? If so, you will need to have a compelling story (and a very good sense of timing!) to convince them to team with you. Are there multiple potential partners for your gap?
Then you must decide on criteria for your choice, and have a fallback plan to mitigate losing a desired partner to another bidder. Then there’s so much more….like magically figuring out whether your potential partners will be good “financial fits” for your bid, long before you see any pricing from them, making sure your company executives “like your choices,” and negotiating workshare – the list goes on and on. I also see many Prime contractors who do not take advantage of their subcontractors’ offer to help during the bid process. It can be difficult to incorporate outside companies into your internal bid process, but it is a huge benefit for those who have learned how to do that.
For subcontractors, we all know it’s important to be prepared to: 1) articulate where you can add value, preferably by SOW section; 2) know where you can provide client insight with the client that is directly involved; 3) understand what you are willing to contribute to the proposal effort; 4) determine whether you will agree to be exclusive or not; and 5) negotiate what post-award work you would like in exchange for your participation in helping with the win.
For technology vendors it is important to understand: 1) is the client using your technology today, and how; 2) whether there are any gaps in your technology solution offering that the prime must fill; 3) how you stack up against competitive solutions; 4) whether you provide services around your technology; 5) if you will bid with multiple Primes or be exclusive; and 6) how your pricing is structured.
While all the basics are being worked out, we must remind ourselves what a difference strategic teaming can make in providing solutions for our clients.
Many of us have been surprised, and have been beaten, by a competitor’s creative teaming strategy. I remember losing a program to an “Outside the Beltway” company who had set up a creative solution to an Agency’s problem around emergency management. They approached the Agency through their own Congressman, and they surprised all the traditional bidders.
Focusing on the broad topic of strengthening your company’s competitive posture through strategic teaming will pay dividends. It’s so easy to become complacent with all of the basics that must be done to submit a compliant Federal bid, and to neglect the process of bringing the best talent to your solutions through the teaming process.