For BD Decisions, the 'Dots' Matter
As I sat down to pen this article, I figured out I could have called it "Connecting the Dots for Government Contractors." Let me know what you think.
The activities prescribed in the Business Development Life Cycle are a system used by companies of all disciplines, maturity levels and sizes, to achieve growth in Government Contracting. If we think of it as an engine that drives growth, then the fuel for that engine is the 'dots' created when organizations conduct the business of Acquisition and Procurement for civilian, defense and intelligence agencies.
Let's start with defining what I mean by dots. The phrase 'connecting the dots' has been around for as long as I can remember. It's usage outside of the Intelligence Community increased around the end of 2001, after 9/11. The point and relevance of the phrase, for me, lends itself to a detective following clues in order to arrive at a hypothesis or decision. Investigative skills are an important part of Business Development.
One of the first obstacles often encountered when looking for information to support or validate a belief, is knowledge of the environment. In this case, the industry of Government Contracting. Whether new or experienced, if you have not formed an understanding of how things 'work' in GovCon, it's safe to assume there will be terms and processes unfamiliar to you. These terms and processes are some of the very dots we're looking for when trying to identify, qualify and pursue revenue generating opportunities.
This is, in part, about understanding things like when and with whom to use 'CO' versus 'KO' when referring to a Contracting Officer. It is also about understanding the relevance of the term. Not just what the role and responsibilities of a Contracting Officer are but how and when that role impacts your organization's ability to achieve goals. In the scheme of things, data and information are easy to come by, in Government Contracting and most other industries. Having the ability to use that data and information to make timely and effective decisions is where context comes into play.
Here's another way to think about it. Context is akin to knowing the difference between Magnetic North and True North. Using a compass can get you to Magnetic North but it won't get you to True North. You'll need different information-in-context for that task.
Speaking of finding the dots, this represents another reason some companies wind up playing federal sector whack-a-mole versus having a process for finding requirements they can support. If you can't find the information needed to make good decisions... I think you get the point. As far as sources go, there are PLENTY of places to get information. This leads back to the previous section about context. Where you get the information matters. Why? It's a matter of context. We'll talk about why when you get the information matters in a future piece.
Acquiring and using information from someone with a similar or lesser level of context doesn't advance your position. In fact, that 'actionable intelligence' could do exactly the opposite, moving you further from your intended targets. This happens everyday and the challenge for many is not being able to discern accurate from inaccurate information until it is too late, if ever. So I say, for the record, GSA OASIS, GSA/OPM HCaTS and the GSA Federal Supply Schedules are not GWACs. Nether are DISA ENCORE, Navy SeaPort and a host of other established contract vehicles. You don't have to take my word for it, visit the program page for GSA Alliant, STARS, NASA SEWP or NIH/NITAAC CIO-SP3 and then compare how these contract vehicles are described to the others.
On the topic of contract vehicles, MAC is not an Award or IDV Type recognized in FPDS-NG, which means it probably does not exist in agency contract writing systems. If I am wrong about that part, one of my friends in the corps of Contracting Officers will let us know. By the way, to which MAC am I referring? Multi Agency Contract or Multiple Award Contract? Either way, the term is not one of the hundreds of data elements found in the Federal Procurement Data System Next Generation or FPDS-NG.
One final piece of context. FPDS-NG is not dead, nor has it been replaced.
Where you get your information matters, but knowing what the information means so you can ensure it is correct before using it in making decisions, matters more.
Upcoming contributions to the GovCon Geek Squad newsletter will dive into specific dots and specific sources we use in Ethical Stalking for Government Contractors education and training.