The needs of the federal government are evolving, and the GovCon community needs to change as well. So says Bruce Feldman, senior vice president of business development at Science Applications International Corp.’s National Security and Space sector.
We talked to Feldman about the changing landscape and how SAIC is keeping pace, shifting from a focus on people-and-expertise to an emphasis on technology and specific agency outcomes.
How are the needs changing among your federal customers?
The emphasis used to be on “low price, technically acceptable,” or LPTA. Industry learned that if you met the minimum requirements and had the lowest price, you would win. But customers were unhappy with the outcomes. What they wanted and needed was outstanding performance.
Now, the pendulum has swung back toward a “best value” determination. We in industry must have more of a value-added proposition.
How is SAIC responding?
You have to show the customer that not only are their requirements going to be met, but you’re going to deliver capability that they value, over and above what the RFP requires from you. You have to be able to deliver capability that ensures the government will obtain mission outcomes effectively.
To that end, we’ve identified five campaigns in the sector where we have a strong technology thrust and a relatively well-defined customer account space, with a lot of overlap between the two. Now, we’re able to talk about to a relatively narrowly-defined set of customers about capabilities that help them march toward the vision in their future.
What does that mean for you in practical terms, as the business development leader?
It means that our BD people and our capture people and our solution architects are now aligned to our campaign. They’re getting to know more about the customers. They’re getting to know more about how customers buy. That’s really important.
It’s also very consistent with the fact that SAIC is changing from a professional-services thrust to very much a solutions-delivery capability. It’s not about providing bodies, but about providing capabilities that improve mission outcomes. When you bring people and systems together, there are a lot of things you can do with that.
That sounds like a major shift in focus?
Yes. Over the last two years, we have been evolving away from just pure play-professional services ⏤ providing the smartest people in the room, providing great staff augmentation. We are creating a suite of capabilities including systems, hardware and software.
We are taking those capabilities and integrating them with other capabilities that are out there in the commercial marketplace, to deliver a comprehensive solution to a customer problem or set of problems, along with whatever labor is required to get that solution installed and operating the way the customer wants it.
What are you doing internally to support that?
We are bringing in people who know how to deliver the wins in a solutions-based environment. We are hiring people who are very proficient in that. And we have a strong training program. We have people who are less experienced, mid-level, early-career people, and we’re bringing them along and maturing them inside this new BD culture. We have our own “farm system” program, helping people evolve through their careers.
One of my areas of focus has been on building a very strong BD talent development program around client engagement, capture and proposal preparation. We recognize that there are changes we need to make in the way we talk to customers and market to customers and engage with customers.
And there’s an organizational-cultural piece that goes along with that?
In BD, passion is important: Your drive and desire to realize the best possible outcome, not only for the company, but for the customer and for the workforce. One of the things we’re doing to support that is to create an exciting suite of offerings, commercial capabilities and commercially-priced capabilities.
When the BD person talks to the customer, and he or she can explain to them how they can achieve a better outcome, that’s almost the definition of a great, passion-driven engagement.
On the flip side, what’s the biggest challenge you face?
We have a lot of customers who know us as a system engineering integration services provider, a staff augmentation provider. We’ve got to change that brand space.
It starts with a very effective marketing communications program. That includes a focus on how we present ourselves in the overall social media space. The rising generation of government decision-makers were brought up in a digital environment, and they are very social-media savvy. So that’s really critical.
After almost 30 years in GovCon, what all makes this exciting for you?
In BD, it’s very exciting to build an environment where that passion comes through. I want to help my people succeed, to be their best selves and to develop their career journeys. I ask myself: How do you get people to work together as effectively as possible? That’s what gets me going, creating an environment where I see that kind of thing happening. That’s a very good place to be.