At the recent National Veteran Small Business Conference in Detroit, I had the honor of speaking on the importance of integrating human resources into new business development. It was surprising to me how many small and large government contractors forget this important department when they’re planning their capture management strategy.
In the current environment of budget cuts, there is more pressure than ever to ensure that every proposal submitted to the government delivers best value and lowest possible rates. This task becomes harder when organizations don’t include the Human Resources Manager in the contracting process until the last minute. HR provides the foundation upon which corporate strategies are built and executed, serving as the heart of the organization. They manage the people element, and with that, the crucial rate structure and potential competitive advantage.
Typically in the government arena, the business development cycle is an 18-24 month process, from when an organization determines to pursue an opportunity to when the proposal must be submitted. Recently, however, budget cuts have required every team member in the organization to do multiple jobs.
Instead of primarily focusing on new business development, there are many other priorities and challenges that must be addressed – advertising, sales development and consulting, among other duties, are now delegated to a much smaller pool of talent, due to limited resources. Compounding this pressure is the fact that often, HR managers are left outside the boardroom as the strategic planning and business development sessions take place. Once these sessions are completed, HR is given a copy of the corporate strategic plan, or the new business capture plan, and told to “make it happen.” By the time the plan reaches HR, the window of opportunity for new business capture is frequently down to less than six months, giving HR managers little time to effectively engage their own expertise and resources to help their organization win in competition.
This six-month window is a situational-induced added pressure; the knowledge that at the beginning of the process, there are 18-24 months to plan and execute the proposal gives the executive committee a false sense of assurance that it is okay to wait to involve HR until further down the line. What happens then is that the executive committee gets bogged down with other priorities and projects, and does not take the time to involve HR until it is too late – resulting in last minute awareness and a scramble to the finish line.
Involving HR from the beginning of the process delivers needed insights and support for all involved, helping your organization meet the government’s new reality of lower rates, reduced budgets, and increased efficiency. I believe there are five stages to the strategic capture process that HR must be included in to garner the best results: Positioning, Identification & Assessment, Win Strategy, Proposal Production/Revision and Performance.
During the Positioning stage, the organization identifies business opportunities for qualification, making initial assessments and gathering opportunity and customer intelligence. HR must be connected with these opportunity pursuits to help define which opportunities the organization is best qualified to capture. HR managers can bring valuable insight to the table in the form of putting together a Competency, Capacity and Access (CCA) Model, combing the current talent pool database and deciding what talent must be sourced for possible opportunities.
The second stage, Identification & Assessment, is where opportunities are qualified and interest in further investigation is determined. The organization must define and execute their communications campaign, and assign a Capture Manager and Team. Outlining the HR Solution Plan is an essential element of this phase; this will assist with identifying and selecting key personnel and staff requirements, identifying competency gaps and identifying team member organization requirements.
Stage three is when the Win Strategy and Price-to-Win (PTW) are evaluated. This is when a preliminary Bid/No Bid decision should be made, and a Proposal Manager and Team should be assigned. HR managers are integral to the sourcing of staff candidates in this phase. The HR Solution Plan again comes into play, as after preparing the staffing plan, HR should secure key personnel/contingent offers, obtain letters of commitment and signed resumes for key personnel, design a recruitment and retention program, and identify and mitigate staffing risks.
Proposal Production/Revision consists of evaluating the final Win Strategy and Price-to-Win, making a firm Bid/No Bid decision, and assessing the ability to execute the proposed Management, Technical and HR Solutions. Additionally, this is the phase in which the ability to achieve the Price-to-Win during contract execution is settled. A high percentage of contract awards are made on the basis of technical acceptability at the lowest price. Here, HR can provide the greatest value to a proposal by competitively shaping the talent mix and utilization profile; personnel sourcing and recruiting process; personnel engagement, development, succession, and retention methods; and compensation and benefits plan.
The Performance stage takes place after the contract is awarded. This is when the customer’s win or loss determination is assessed; it is vital to do a “lessons learned” from the capture effort, including HR managers in the debriefing. With contract award, the proposed HR Solution is implemented and executed. The key to successful contract performance is the rapid onboarding of the key personnel and performance staff and the thorough orientation of these personnel to contract requirements and customer expectations. HR performance metrics and case studies should be recorded for future proposals.
The pressure to do more with less affects every aspect of today’s new business development process. Integrating HR managers into all five stages of the strategic capture process when pursuing opportunities in the government space is a key contributing element in managing this new reality, growing the organization, coming up with winning strategies and supporting an organization’s business development efforts. Being given the opportunity to engage their own expertise and resources by being involved every step of the way will allow HR managers to really “make it happen” in exactly the right way.
C. Joseph McNeily is COO of iGATE Government Solutions, which provides consulting, technology and business process outsourcing, and product engineering services.