How Ready is Your Capture?
Reprinted with permission from APMP-NCA eZine.
Assessing the quality of a capture effort is a difficult task. Any assessment is simply a snapshot in time; your capture could get better… or it could get worse. A capture readiness assessment should look at the snapshot, but also look at trends. Using Lohfeld Consulting Group’s 12 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), you can analyze where your capture effort is today, identify areas for improvement, and then chart whether your capture trends upward in readiness for the win.
When to Begin?
The first question is: when should you assess capture readiness? If you are the incumbent, assessing capture readiness for the recompete begins on day one of contract award. If you are the challenger, you should assess you capture one to two years prior to RFP drop. As you inch closer towards RFP drop, you should have monthly reviews to determine progress.
What are the KPIs?
The 12 KPIs assess the readiness of your capture effort today as well as give Capture Managers the tools to progress the capture and improve win probability. They include such measures as strategic fit, positioning, competitive assessment, risk, price to win, and, perhaps most often neglected, a solution that maps to customer objectives and requirements.
As part of the capture assessment, each KPI receives a color score from Red (poor) to Blue (outstanding) indicating whether the capture team has met or exceeded the KPI. Each assessment is a snapshot in time. Over time, the color scores should trend upward to majority Blue. If the capture team makes no progress, or some scores go down, you should revisit the bid decision during gate reviews.
The Cornerstone of Your Capture
One of the toughest jobs of the Capture Manager is identifying the Source Selection Authority (SSA) and building a relationship with that person.
Our APMP-NCA webinar on December 5 will cover all of the KPIs and discuss action items you can take to improve your ability and assess your readiness to win. The most important KPIs relate to your solution and are the cornerstone of your capture:
- KPI 3: Customer Advocacy and Relationships
- KPI 4: Understanding Customer Objectives and Requirements
- KPI 5: Preliminary Solution Tied to Objectives and Requirements
KPIs 3, 4 and 5 work in tandem. You can’t understand the customer(s) unless you have relationships in place, and you can’t develop a solution unless you understand the customer(s) and have access to vet and evolve your solution with help from customer advocates.
KPI 3 is a measure of how well you are known, trusted, and supported by the customer(s), including likely decision makers and key influencers (i.e., acquisition, economic and mission-facing). KPI 4 measures how well you understand the customer mission, requirements, objectives, biases, and hot buttons regarding the opportunity. KPI 5 is a measure of whether you offer a compelling, Strengths-based solution and a Price to Win (PTW) linked to the customer’s vision, objectives, needs, and requirements.
KPI 3: Customer Advocacy and Relationships
You need to advocate to the customer(s) regarding your company’s past and prospective performance to build their confidence in your ability to perform the work. In turn, as you build trusted relationships with both influencers and decision makers, you want them to advocate for you. All of this requires gaining access, listening to the customer(s) who will be on the Source Selection Evaluation Board (SSEB) and who will influence the SSEB members, and shaping and influencing the RFP, including the work scope, RFP instructions and evaluation factors.
One of the toughest jobs of the Capture Manager is identifying the Source Selection Authority (SSA) and building a relationship with that person. The Procuring Contracting Officer (PCO) is not necessarily the SSA. The SSA has independent authority to make the award decision so it is critical to discover who will serve in this role and build a relationship that helps you understand his/her hot buttons.
KPI 3 relates to KPI 4 because part of building relationships and gaining advocates is learning customer objectives and hot buttons. It also relates to KPI 5 because you must have at least a preliminary solution in order to know how to influence the RFP in your favor.
KPI 4: Understanding Customer Objectives and Requirements
This KPI is more difficult than it appears because there are many customers, and different customers have different objectives, hot buttons and requirements. The Capture Team must identify all of the customers, including influencers and decision makers, and then use relationships and advocacy to gain access. Capture is 90 percent listening and ten percent talking.
Use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool in conjunction with your call plan to track and analyze what customers are saying about the opportunity, looking for trends as well as conflicts. If there are conflicts in what the customer(s) want, can you gain consensus? Or do you need to gain advocates who are strong influencers?
Your job is to work in conjunction with the customers to build requirements. The customer may have base requirements whether or not this contract has an incumbent, but you want to understand how requirements map to evaluation factors and their order of importance to favor your team. Ideally, you will discover ways to meet or exceed all requirements in a way the customer values. If you can exceed requirements and/or significantly reduce risk to the customers’ benefit, then your offering will include Strengths and Significant Strengths that will increase the score you receive from the SSEB. However, you must also keep in mind that in a best value trade-off, the SSA has sole discretion to make the award as long as s/he justifies the trade-off. Therefore, KPI 4 is strongly tied to KPI 3.
KPI 5: Preliminary Solution Tied to Objectives and Requirements
KPI 5 is the most misunderstood performance indicator. Often, the solution architects and SMEs go off in isolation and develop a solution that the customer may or may not value. In order to win the work in a best value trade-off, you must have the best and possibly the most Strengths. That is because the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) mandates that evaluators identify and document Strengths, Weaknesses, Deficiencies and Risks.
If you have not performed well under KPIs 3 and 4, then you may not understand what the customer values. You might propose a solution that you believe is full of Strengths, but when you get the debrief after proposal submission, you discover that the customer perceived your Strengths as Weaknesses and/or Risks. Perhaps you bid a cutting-edge technology, but the customer is risk adverse, so the manner in which you exceeded requirements actually reduced their confidence in your bid. Or, perhaps you misunderstood the customer’s price sensitivity. They value the Strengths you propose but not for the price of your offering.
If you have a Red score for KPIs 3 and 4, you will likely fail to vet your Strengths with the customer(s) in advance of the proposal. In that case, the customer(s) won’t understand the Strengths you propose because you did not discuss and explain these offerings in advance. Oftentimes, the proposal does not clearly articulate the Strengths because your solution did not clearly define them. KPI 5 success is dependent on access to the right customer(s) and effectively listening and shaping skills over the course of your capture.
Working through KPIs 3, 4 and 5 is an iterative process. You will likely need to circle back with the customer(s) multiple times as you gain understanding of who the key players are, what they want, and how best to craft your solution. When the capture phase is over, all of the understanding gained through the activities related to these KPIs must find its way into the proposal. Many captures fall down in this hand-off. But that is a topic for another article!
Register for Lisa’s webinar on Assessing Capture Readiness!
By Lisa Pafe, Vice President, Lohfeld Consulting Group, CPP APMP Fellow and PMP
Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals.
As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Go-to-Market Strategy, Capture Planning and Strategy, Proposal Management and Writing, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, and Training. In the last 3 years, we’ve supported over 550 proposals winning more than $135B for our clients—including the Top 10 government contractors. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at www.lohfeldconsulting.com and join us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
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