Many sources of a competitor’s competitive advantage may often be categorized in one of four categories:
- Past performance
We often refer to this as PPTP.
This blog focuses on the process of examining a competitor’s people, or more specifically their technical subject matter experts (SMEs).
What is a technical subject matter expert (SME)?
Technical SMEs provide knowledge and direct, hands-on experience with the unique type of work, systems, and operations being performed on a contract. Typically, technical SMEs hold technical certifications, higher education, and many years of experience in their field.
Why do we care about technical SMEs?
Competitors will leverage technical SMEs to fulfill certain contract requirements, demonstrate their technical prowess, and often highlight their understanding of the customer. They are a key piece of competitors’ bids and therefore demand attention in any competitive analysis.
Though all SMEs provide technical expertise, they do not all serve the same function.
Some SMEs are mainly leveraged during the capture process.
- Solutions Architects utilize their technical knowledge to help develop technical solutions for bids.
- Chief Technology Officers often provide oversight over the technical solution and personnel developing solutions.
Other SMEs are responsible for day-to-day service delivery once the bid has been won. Their titles may vary wildly.
How to start targeting SMEs
To examine your competition’s technical SMEs, you have to first understand what SMEs are germane to a given contract opportunity. In other words, you have to engage in modeling, the first step of the intelligence process, that defines the requirements of your analysis.
In this case, you have to carefully read through the opportunity’s Statement of Work (SOW). The SOW will typically include information, or even job descriptions, that outline the type of technical SMEs that are required to staff the contract.
The contract may require SMEs to:
- Possess a certain clearance
- Be located in a certain customer location
- Hold certain professional certifications (examples include DAWIA, PMP, CISSP, CEH, etc.)
- Possess certifications centered on specific technology (examples include AWS or Azure cloud certifications)
- Have specific knowledge or expertise in a certain technical area (examples include a focus on machine learning, analytics, cloud, engineering, training, etc.)
- Know specific systems involved in a pursuit (DCGS-A, JWICS, etc.)
- Have specific customer knowledge or experience
With an understanding of these requirements, you can tailor research for SMEs that fit specific criteria. Precision targeting helps sift through what can be thousands of employees that work for a competitor.
Tactics to use in your search
Pay attention to unique ways competitors organize and name their technical personnel by consulting company websites and press releases.
This may provide you with an easy avenue for further narrowing your research. The following includes typical patterns to look out for:
|SMEs can be housed in an internal organization within the company.||Booz Allen Hamilton houses many of its cyber and data science SMEs in their Strategic Innovation Group (SIG), which provides technical support for projects across the company.|
|SMEs can be housed in specialized facilities or centers of excellence.||Leidos’ Enterprise IT Operations Center (gained through their acquisition of 1901 Group), provides managed services for cloud migration and operations. It houses various SMEs who focus on cloud, IT operations, software development, and more.|
|Some competitors may use specific naming conventions for their SMEs.||Deloitte hires and retains Specialist Leaders and Executives. They are typically SMEs and/or retired government officials that can offer strong technical expertise and knowledge related to a government customer’s personnel, priorities, and financial objectives.|
Target press releases that feature SMEs
Competitors will publish press releases about SMEs they have hired with distinguished careers to showcase an investment in certain customer relationships or technical areas. These personnel are likely viewed as valuable by the competitor and will often get pulled into bids that complement their background.
EXAMPLE: Deloitte recently announced that Amy Chaput joined the Deloitte Analytics and Cognitive practice to lead solutions development for defense, homeland security, and intelligence clients. Deloitte makes her expertise clear in the publication – Amy is listed as former acting chief technology officer (CTO) for the Directorate of Science & Technology at the CIA. It is likely, therefore, that she could be leveraged for a number of opportunities centered on analytics for the CIA, DHS, or other national security-focused customers.
What to do after your assessment?
- Assess how your personnel compare to the competitor’s personnel
- Consider this as a factor in teaming decisions
- Review your prospects to win especially if key personnel are heavily weighed in the evaluation
- Evaluate the hiring of a competitor’s key personnel
The FedSavvy Strategies Takeaway
- Technical SMEs are an important piece of competitors’ bids, as they symbolize expertise and a technical ability to fulfill contract requirements.
- While looking to identify your competition’s SMEs, narrow the scope of your research. Consult the SOW to focus your research on the types of SMEs that are relevant to a certain contract opportunity. Look for specialized facilities and innovation groups, patterns in titles, and publications about new hires.
- Don’t leave this information on the table. Use it to your advantage to understand threat levels of competitors and…perhaps…who you want to hire away.
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