Friday, February 28, 2014

Become Productive the Fast Company Way

If you want to be a billionaire, productivity is key.

Here are hints from Fast Company magazine (December 2013/January 2014), which focuses on the most exciting people in the most exciting businesses, usually tech companies and startups, with sports and TV celebrities thrown in for good measure. 
  1. Eat the same thing every day.  According to Alexa von Tobel, CIO of LearnVest, this is a big timesaver.
  2. Get up early. That's 4:30 for eBay VP Steve Yankovich, 5:45 for designer Tory Burch, Coca-Cola SVP Wendy Clark and Alexa von Tobel, 6 am for Newark, NY mayor Cory Booker, 6:15 for former NBA star David Robinson, and 6:30 for novelist David Baldacci.
  3. Get an assistant.  It works for Anthony Bourdain, who says "There's got to be somebody to receive the emails and phone calls or my head would explode."
  4. Hire only women. Pharrell Williams says "Women have always been my motivation, and equality is quite naturally a theme for me.  So it's all estrogen: estrogenic - I'm going to coin a term -- intelligence."
Also, don't forget to create a hot startup, work for a company like Apple, eBay or Google, or sign with the NBA.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Microsoft SharePoint or Dynamics CRM for Government Contracts?

If your company is a government contractor, you must face long sales cycles and complicated proposal processes in order to win business, especially in federal government.  An opportunity usually takes months to go from a client need to a request for information, then request for proposals, best and final offers and ultimately a contract award.  During this process you will have to create dozens of documents including proposals, schedules, resumes, pricing, and legal terms and conditions.

Which Microsoft product is best for this? 

SharePoint can handle document storage and collaboration, and even a Wiki to store your best practices for proposal writing.  It may be used as an intranet or as an extranet to make it easier to collaborate with team members outside your company. At InfoStrat, we use SharePoint for both our intranet and our extranet.  When we have teammates on a proposal, we share an extranet site with them so we can work on proposal documents together.  You can also share documents using SharePoint with Office 365.

While you could build custom lists in SharePoint to track your opportunities, Dynamics CRM is designed with sales force automation in mind, and includes a complete data model and advanced functionality for tracking leads, marketing to prospects, sales reports and dashboards.  You could insert documents as attachments in Dynamics CRM, but if you are editing them and would like version control and collaboration, SharePoint is much better.

The Dynamics CRM for Government Contractors solution adds the fields and business processes required by government contractors to Dynamics CRM. 

Microsoft includes integration between Dynamics CRM and SharePoint.  Dynamics CRM shows a view into SharePoint for documents, and you can add custom web parts to SharePoint to show data from Dynamics CRM. You can also extend this integration to meet your needs.  For instance, you may prefer to create separate SharePoint sites or folders, or to consolidate documents within a single document library.

The bottom line is that SharePoint and Dynamics CRM each provide tools that are essential for government contractors to make their capture processes more efficient.  The two products work better together than trying to make either product fulfill all the necessary features.


Monday, February 24, 2014

You Won't Win Federal Business Opportunities on FedBizOps

If your company is new to federal government contracting, you might be thrilled to find that the federal government has a website which consolidates thousands of requests for products and services from the entire range of government agencies.  This site is FedBizOps (fbo.gov).

Unfortunately, it doesn't take long to find out that FedBizOps is not the best way to get your company started on government contracting.  As government contract experts point out, if you learn about an opportunity on FedBizOps, you are learning about it too late to win it.  

Although FedBizOps has thousands of opportunities, these do not represent all of government spending.  It's expensive, risky and time consuming to run a competitive procurement which is open to all bidders, so purchasing offices try to avoid full and open competition.  Agencies often award a blanket purchase agreement worth tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to one or more companies that covers many tasks. These tasks are then awarded either without competition or with a small and short competition among pre-qualified vendors.



Agencies must comply with requirements to award set-aside contracts to companies that are minority-owned, women-owned, Alaskan native corporations, and other special programs.  Many of these solicitations will never appear on FedBizOps. These companies in turn must find subcontractors capable of providing the required products and services.

If your company has a narrow focus and is primarily geared toward a commercial market, you may not want to invest the time and money to chase federal contracts as a prime contractor.  Instead, you may be better off to pursue the prime contractors such as large system integrators who are the gatekeepers for many federal agencies.

All this doesn't mean that FedBizOps isn't worth your time.  You can learn about who is buying what, and you can make note of whether your target agencies are using special set-aside contracts for their purchases so you can create teaming arrangements that will win.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Government Contractor Book Review: Shipley Proposal Guide

One of the best books a government contractor can read is Shipley Proposal Guide v4.0 by Larry Newman. Shipley Associates is a leading consulting firm that helps companies improve their business development performance.  They are famous for the Shipley methodology which is used by many top government contractors.

Shipley Proposal Guide is essentially a style guide for proposal writers.  It provides detailed guidance along with examples and illustrations for all aspects of proposals, from use of jargons and acronyms (stop it) to passive voice (don't use it) to captions (make them meaningful) and colors (pick a color theme).

Government buyers would have much more pleasant jobs if all contractors followed Shipley's guidance.  Government contractors cannot look at their proposals the same way after reading this excellent guide.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

In Federal Sales, Don't Follow the Herd

Our government contractor clients who are implementing Dynamics CRM for Government Contractors want to know how to increase their sales to the federal government.

For small companies and newcomers to the federal marketing, the challenges are quite daunting.  You need to have a government contract vehicle such as a GSA contract, but the best way to get a vehicle is to have past government contracts. 

The sheer volume of contracts makes it seem it wouldn't be that hard to win a few million out of the billions that are spent each year, but this ignores the nature of competition in government contracts.  If you are new to government contracts, perhaps you should be selling to the prime contractors rather than trying to establish your company as a prime contractor.

Although you can learn from large government contractors, their sales model simply will not work for small business.  You can't spend a year or two and teams of lawyers and contract specialists to win a contract which is essentially a hunting license within a federal agency or two. You probably do not want to have a 90 step process for evaluating opportunities and writing a proposal. 

Using only the most widely available information will not give you a competitive edge.  You need to analyze deeper than reviewing FedBizOps and GovWin IQ to really understand what your customers need.  If all you do is look for contracts to expire and try to beat incumbents at renewal, your company may create far more sales activity than sales success. 

Ask yourself how you create value for your customers.  Find ways to surpass the ordinary and go beyond the typical herd mentality in government contracting.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Dynamics CRM for Government Contractors at the Microsoft Industry Summit

Last week I had the opportunity to present on Dynamics CRM for government contractors at the Microsoft Dynamics Industry Summit in San Antonio, Texas.   Microsoft added a new track to the event which focused on Dynamics solutions for government contractors.



This was the first opportunity to demonstrate the latest version of the solution based on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013, with a new feature called business processes.  This feature includes a ribbon at the top of the screen which shows where you are in the process.

 
 

As you move from one stage to the next, new fields are revealed which are relevant to that particular business stage. 
 
For more information on Dynamics CRM for Government Contractors, see the solution page.
 

Monday, February 3, 2014

New Microsoft Grants Manager Plus Demo Videos Available

We have posted two new video walkthroughs of Microsoft Grants Manager Plus.  Here is part 1:



These videos follow the demo script for Grants Manager Plus which is available at www.microsoft.com/grants

Part two:


This is a quick way to learn about the key features of Microsoft Grants Manager Plus.