Understanding a competitor’s potential to win a contract, a business must identify and assess their competitors’ capabilities, which includes a range of people, tools, processes and past performance.
A business’ assessment of a competitor’s capabilities must be intellectually honest. How do we realize such analysis? Consider the following guidelines when assessing the threats posed by a competitor:
Categorize and analyze
Common capabilities businesses will invest in are simply stated as people, process and tools (PPT). We define them as follows:
- People – Hiring and development of personnel. This means strategic hires, promotions within, personnel development, etc.
- Process – This amounts to any business process or approach to delivering services or development of a tangible deliverable for a client. This may also include internal organizational elements such as a center of excellence.
- Tools – This broad category captures any tangible aspect of how a business operates which ranges from technologies, facilities, laboratories, etc. This manifests in the form of a tangible item.
These investments are evidence of a business attempting to or succeeding in creating some competitive advantage. Below are examples for where an analyst may find evidence of such investments:
- People – Press releases announcing strategic hires, trade press following events, LinkedIn updates, etc.
- Process – Business website, case studies describing an approach to a customer’s problem
- Tools – Patents, business website, tweets announcing a product release, press releases about an acquisition where a business gains new capabilities, etc.
Businesses will talk about their investments in new capabilities and highlight the successes of their existing capabilities. They will showcase what they can do.
EXAMPLE: Raytheon features information about its two software “dojos”–facilities where teams from across the business meet for intensive software skills building—in the news section of its website. Throughout the article, Raytheon provides a clear outline of this capability by offering ample information about the dojo’s locations, origin, purpose, and how they are run.
Intelligence about these types of capabilities are often provided in plain sight. Don’t miss out on this easy attainable insight.
Assess current capabilities
When looking into a competitor, be mindful of researching their current investments. Corroborate that capabilities mentioned in older press releases or gained through past acquisitions are still used and relevant.
Relying on outdated information to determine what a competitor can do can lead you to underestimate, overestimate, or misread a competitor’s capabilities or portfolio.
EXAMPLE: Businesses may think of competitors like Jacobs or Parsons as engineering firms. This leads them to assume their capabilities line up with this category of business. However, this assumption is dated. Both competitors have made major investments into developing other key capabilities that are redefining, or have already redefined, their federal portfolio.
As discussed in a previous blog, Jacobs has overhauled its business offerings in order to provide higher-end technology solutions and capabilities in enterprise IT, cyber, and data analytics. Parsons, similarly, has indicated its shift towards a cybersecurity-focus by investing in cyber capabilities, to include its “Farm” center of innovation where cyber specialists strengthen software, software systems, tools, and networks.
Failing to pay attention to these more recent investments would cause a business to completely misunderstand these competitors.
Don’t get absorbed into a competitor’s hype
Throughout your research, exercise your best judgement by differentiating between hype and mature capabilities. Be careful not to fall for what your competitor’s marketing team wants you to think. A capability is mature and worth paying attention to if it conforms to one or more of the following points:
- The competitor provides quantifiable evidence to back up how often this tool or process is used.
EXAMPLE: ManTech asserts that its ConstantView ® project management tool has been used on over 800 projects.
- The capability is not just a boiler-plate process or tool that most competitors have. It incorporates new technologies or is a new approach to solving a problem.
EXAMPLE: GDIT’s monitoring and management ATLAS tool uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to monitor an entire IT stack and automate discovery, integrations, remediation, and analytics.
- The capability is described in the context of a specific case study.
EXAMPLE: Perspecta describes its Application Transformation to Cloud (AT2C) process in the context of its contract with the Army, where AT2C was used to migrate the U.S. Army Total Ammunition Management Information System (TAMIS) application from a legacy environment onto AWS GovCloud.
Even if numbers or stories are embellished, we have to assume there is a strong possibility that a particular tool, process, etc. will be featured if we witness evidence of such investment.
Use this assessment to enable determination of your competitive advantage
Identifying a competitor’s capabilities provides capture teams with critical insight into the competitor’s win strategy, including their technical and management arguments. To counter these arguments, capture teams must conduct an intellectually honest evaluation into their own capabilities and fortify them where necessary. They can buy capabilities through an acquisition, invest in them, or gain them by teaming with a business that is well-versed in a capability.
Taking these steps will better enable the conversion of competitor research into actionable intelligence. Such a transformation is critical to informing strategies that can win captures.
Stay focused. Do your homework. Happy hunting!
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