By Adolfo Vasquez
You may have seen the Yoda poster that says, “Do or do not … there is no try!” That motto carries true in in federal procurement. Planning and preparation to win contracts, is a strategy that is essential, not optional. Another famous quote is from Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi who said: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” In federal procurement a sure win is only as good as your capture plan and the readiness of the team to implement that plan.
The Business Dictionary defines “capture plan” as a “state of preparedness of persons, systems, or organizations to meet a situation and carry out a planned sequence of actions and readiness based on thoroughness of the planning, adequacy and training of the personnel, and supply and reserve of support services or systems.” In simple terms, capture planning is the “plan” and readiness is the ability to carry out the “plan.” Both are vital to any business wanting to succeed in winning federal contracts.
So what does capture planning look like? Where is it found? Does one size fit all? Capture planning is a process that all businesses can implement and a habit that all businesses can develop, but it’s like maintaining your health: It is very important. We know how to get there. We have all the tools available. We know it is good for us. But, we just don’t have the time nor the will today. “I’ll start mañana (tomorrow)!”
Over the last months, you have been reading my articles on the tools of procurement. The 3R’s, Teaming, How to Fish for contracts, etc. These are all methods that are available and free to any business. They are effective if used correctly (not like using a butter knife as a screwdriver), and they can mean the difference between success and failure in the federal procurement world. So, how many of these tools and processes have you implemented in your business?
The other day, a friend visited while I was working outside my garage on a project. He noticed that I was having difficulty retrieving a bolt that had wedged between two boards. His recommendation was to use a magnetized screwdriver and fish it out. Yeah, right! I knew that. If I had a magnetized screwdriver I wouldn’t be struggling!
He saw the look on my face and walked into my garage, opened one of my mystery drawers and pulled out what looked like a mini hot plate. He plugged it into the wall and rolled one of my long screwdrivers over the face. In less than 30 seconds, he came over and—voila—fished the bolt out with a magnetic screwdriver. Wow! I can’t tell you how many of these situations I have been in and have had to disassemble things to get to the wedged nut, bolt or screw. And I had the solution in my toolbox all the time. I didn’t know I had it, how to use it or even what is was!
I find this with all of my businesses as we go through their SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) practices. Do you know what great tools you have in your business that you don’t know you have and/or are not using? I bet you have a lot. Capture planning helps you find them, identify them and best of all, use them. The point of this article is that the first thing we need to know and understand is what is a capture plan? What does it look like? Where do I find one? Can I find one on the Internet and put my company name on it? The response to questions two, three and four above is “depends,” which I will cover in future articles.
So, what is a capture plan? Simply put, it is a collection of vetted information from various sources within the business that can be used to determine the capability and reliability of a business to complete a particular task. In short, it is what we call in manufacturing, “tooling up” or preparing for an activity or job.
If you are preparing to bid on federal contracts successfully, you need to identify what makes a proposal successful. You probably already do that in your business, but not formally, and you probably don’t capture the process. You just do it like you have always done it before and expect different results.
In contracting, capture planning starts with identifying the key elements/steps of a successful bid. If you Google or go on YouTube, you will find many universal templates. Lohfeld Consulting Group lists these factors as:
1) Qualify the opportunity
2) Build and resource the capture team
3) Understand the customers objectives and requirements
4) Develop a preliminary solution linked to objectives
5) Position with the customer
6) Assess the competition
7) Develop a win strategy
8) Establish a price to win; plan and execute a teaming strategy and continuously assess the risk.
Another template lists the team, management capabilities, technology capabilities, past performance, project funding, award tendencies, bid price, understanding the requirements, customer relations and competitive landscape as factors that should be captured and rated.
Capture planning is not a new business phenomenon. It has been around for a long time. The formalization and “institutionalizing” of both information gathering and information assessment in all factors identified provide the readiness level of being successful.
The SWOT of each factor needs to be documented, evaluated and validated on a continuous basis. Just like the saying goes, “Practice makes perfect,” a good process for developing and maintaining a strong capture plan will go a long way towards success.
In future articles, I will expand on each of the factors and common methods that business use to address that factor. What I know you will find, as you take inventory of how you develop a strategy for any effort in your business, is that it’s in your toolbox—you just didn’t know you had it. ♦