By Karthik Srinivasan
In Part One of this article, Karthik Srinivasan, currently the Chief Operating Officer at IndraSoft and 25-year industry veteran with experience with Defense, Homeland Security and Health IT markets, shared his insights on what may be ahead for 2019, lessons learned from 2013 and moving forward. In Part Two, he discusses positioning for the coming years and ensuring resiliency in unpredictable times.
Government Contractors must invest in and focus on the 3 Cs to position themselves for 2019 and beyond. These 3 Cs will ensure stability whether there is rain or shine in the Government Consulting marketplace. Those Cs are ‘Corporate’, ‘Customer’ and ‘Competition’.
Attention here focuses on building sustainable competitive corporate capabilities. These capabilities must be high in the value chain of services. For example, Agile Coaching contract support is high in the value chain but could involve a smaller number of people and smaller dollar amount of a contract, as compared to an Agile software development contract. Even Agile software development is being commoditized as DevOps, DevSecOps, DevBizSecOps, and newer add-ons for lower price points.
It is important to focus on building capabilities that have a higher dollar amount of contract potential, high value chain, and where you not only have a differentiator, but where the customer has a compelling need for that differentiator.
Another important sub-component of this first C is ensuring a strong business operations support organization. This includes Pricing with an effective up-front Price To Win (PTW) function, strong proposal shop, succinct and effective graphics, and timely marketing in a digital world that ensures your company’s presence at events, conferences, and as a thought leader.
If you have a specific target or current agency that is vital for your company’s growth, it is extremely important to understand that agency’s mission, systems, processes, policies, its impact, current and future initiatives, major modernization efforts, and its challenges. And, it is even more important for your company to map these challenges and pain points against your capabilities.
Once you understand these issues, it becomes easy for any organization to tailor solutions to meet a customer’s needs in anticipation of or in response to a solicitation. Never lose focus on your customer’s major programs and issues. Having frequent touchpoints with your customer and ensuring your company is familiar with the key decision makers and decision influencers is an important aspect of positioning your success on any solicitation.
I always tell my Sales team that before they start Capture process on any major Tier 1 pursuit, they should first reach out to the competition and seek their interest. You will be amazed at how many opportunities I have teamed with my competition instead of going against them. Many times, if you have done a good job of running thorough customer call plans, possess the requisite strong key personnel and also the right contract vehicles, your competitors may be interested in teaming with you either as a Prime or a Sub, or in special situations, using a Contractor Teaming Arrangement (CTA).
It is important to understand who your competition is, and even more important, what they are doing in the pursuits where you may be going head to head. Do they differentiate themselves in their capabilities or price? Do they differentiate themselves in key personnel or strategic teaming arrangements? It is important to ask these questions and to conduct a thorough Black Hat review to position yourselves at least two moves ahead of your competition. This is probably the most important C when you are working on major Tier 1 deals.
Preparing for Instability
An organization’s impact due to the current shutdown exposes how mission critical their support is for their customers. In other words, if you are a Government contractor providing support to Federal agencies and you have been significantly impacted, you have not hedged your support against the Government’s mission. If your program and contract support was deemed significantly mission critical, chances are that those programs and agencies would be exempt from the shutdown impact.
It is very important moving forward that you support a mix of agencies and programs that are less likely to be impacted by future unrest. The projects you support must be so mission critical and important that they are tied to factors such as national security, critical defense and homeland security functions.
Having a significant set of DoD programs in your support portfolio can help overcome this issue in the future. For agencies such as Homeland Security, Justice and State, I recommend providing support against the top two or three programs or mission critical initiatives for these agencies. Chances are that the impact will be minimal during a future shutdown.
For Health IT programs supporting DHA, NIH, HHS, CMS and VA, ensure that your contracts are FFP vs. T&M, and ensure that your support is tied to major time critical modernization efforts such as EHR.
Agencies such as EPA, USAID, and the Department of Interior, who had already been impacted by reduced and tight budgets prior to shutdown, are going to see significant impact further. With a divided Congress and Senate for the next two years, it is going to be difficult to secure funding approval for any major program quickly. This will translate into projects that are considered truly mission critical being funded, while anything that can be sustained with existing levels of support remaining as is.
Supporting Your Team
There have been several small businesses who have reached out to me for part-time or interim support for their employees during the shutdown. I know several leaders in the GovCon community who have been generous in providing training and certification to their employees impacted by the shutdown. This is a nice gesture to get these contractors paid, while also equipping them with the latest certification that can benefit the vendor.
Some contractors have used this as an opportunity to provide their staff as surge support to other contractors, while others have redirected them in proposal support. I recommend contractors to look for ways to retain top talent at all times, especially during shutdowns and recessions. Remember, the cost to retain is significantly lower than the cost of replacing talent and key people.
The only certainty we currently face is that the future is uncertain. Focusing internally on people, strategies and processes, and aligning your focus to customer’s top mission priorities, can be key in maintaining more control over your future success.
About the Author
Karthik Srinivasan is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) for IndraSoft, providing overall leadership to Operations and Sales. He is a proven leader with a demonstrated track record of leading several Federal consulting firms through successful growth and transformation. Karthik has 25 years of experience leading Sales and Operations support for Defense, Homeland Security and Health IT markets. Prior to Indrasoft, he served as Senior Vice President of Federal IT Services for IBA, and Director for Homeland Security market at ManTech. Most recently, he was the recipient of 2019 FedHealhtIT100 honors for driving change and advancement in Federal Health IT & Consulting market.