Friday, February 24, 2017

The Growth of GWACs: An Amtower Off-White Paper*

(updated version here)

Let me preface this by saying I am not a contract expert – I am a marketing guy. However, over the last 30+ years I have advised thousands of companies on how to maximize the dollar value of contracts in the federal market. Several of those I have advised became or remain market leaders. My experience marketing GWACs dates back to the mid-1990s when I was an advisor to PRC on the SuperMini contract, the 2nd GWAC ever awarded.

Great- that’s out of the way.
Multiple award Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQs) are contracts that have no money assigned specifically to the contract, but that are open to audiences defined by the type of contract. GWACs (Government-wide Acquisition Contract), for example, are a type of multiple award IDIQ IT contracts open to all federal agencies, but like GSA/VA Schedules and agency-specific multiple award contracts,  are simply a hunting license.  
This paper will focus on GWACs.
The companies that win the coveted spots on each of the GWACs are pre-vetted through the award process, technically making them more attractive to all federal buyers. the bidding and award process are vigorous, weeding out the contractors that not ready for prime-time.
So- to the point. The dramatic growth for GWACs over recent years has caught the attention of many, making these coveted vehicles even more popular for both the contract holder and the buying agencies.
The question is how does the growth occur?

There is no question that the NITAAC GWACs growth during the Rob Coen years (2009-2016, and being PM from 2012-2016) was nothing short of spectacular. NITAAC is now under the direction of Acting PM Bridget Gauer with basically the same team, so growth should continue. The three NITAAC GWACs (CIO-SP3, CIO-SP3 Small Business and CIO-CS) combined for nearly $5 billion in 2016.

SEWP, under the guidance of Joanne Woytek for the last 18 years, has always been a great performer and sought after vehicle for contractors. Joanne has the most experience running a GWAC and the SEWP program is deservedly the best known GWAC in the GovCon arena. SEWP had its best year ever in 2016 with nearly $4 billion.

Casey Kelley and his Alliant team have another growing GWAC that has introduced has introduced a unique process for awarding contract wins. Alliant and the other GSA GWACs (Alliant II, Alliant II Small Business, 8aSTARS II, VETS2) combined for almost $6 billion in 2016.
Each of the GWAC Program Managers works hard for their contracts, but does that lead to the growth?
The answer is yes, with a caveat. The caveat is that like the GSA Schedule contracts, the GWACs and other multiple-award IDIQs have super-performers, adequate performers, and not-so-great performers. Companies with well-managed contracts help the GWACs grow.
The difference between the top performers and other contract holders comes down to how the program is managed on the contractor side. This includes several factors, among them:
-        The relationship between the contractor and the GWAC contract office, the teams on each side, is critical to growth. The government team can show no preference for any contractor, but each GWAC PM and their team is open to working with any contractor to help them be successful. SEWP’s Woytek personally visits each contract holder to ensure they understand the value of the vehicle and how to leverage it. This has been a trademark of SEWP for at least the last two iterations of the contract. Not all contractors take full advantage of this.
-        Each GWAC has agencies that prefer their respective vehicles. While technically any agency can buy off any of these contracts, some agencies prefer CIO-CS over SEWP V and vice versa, some agencies have signed agreements with a GWAC to declare them a preferred vehicle, and so on. The contract holders that understand which agencies prefer which contracts, and grow deeper relationships with those agencies, tend to win more business through the contract. Not brain surgery, but also not a method employed by all.
-        The contractors willing to push the bounds of the contract into new agencies also find allies in the contract Program Managers. The PMs will help educate an agency on the value of their contract without endorsing any particular contractor. When a contractor takes this approach, it could be for several reasons, including their current relationships with that agency, or perhaps they uncovered a specific opportunity where a certain GWAC would be best used. In any case, this is a longer term tactic not employed by chronic under-performers.
-        The approach by the contract holders on the sales, business development and marketing part of the equation differ widely. In part this is a resource issue (smaller companies have fewer resources to draw on) and in part it is because some companies with multiple contracts market all the contracts together, not each separately. Other companies still suffer under the misguided notion that winning a contract makes the phone ring. Not so. Aligning your marketing, BD and sales and creating specific programs to target specific opportunities increases sales. A separate Off-White Paper on this topic is forthcoming.

-        The ability for contractors to respond quickly and accurately to the RFQs that come from the GWAC contract office is the most obvious part of the puzzle. However as we all know, responding to RFPs and RFQs is part art, part science, part reading between the lines and part knowing the customer and his/her preferences on both the responses and the bidders knowledge of the agency and how that plays out in the response by the contractor.
While this is not a complete inventory of factors for why some companies perform better than others, it does touch on some significant points.
My point is winning a spot on a great contract is just the beginning of the process.
Growing the contract business is the job of the GWAC PM. Growing your share of that business is up to you.

That combination makes the GWAC more attractive to government buyers.


If you aren't getting traction from your GWAC, we should talk. Send me an email at 

·      *   The Amtower Off-White Papers began in mid-1998 with “The GSA Schedule Results,” the first study showing that growth on the GSA Schedule was contractor-driven (see link below). The growth drivers at that time were Dell, Gateway and Micron PC. My Off-White Papers are based on market observations and my market knowledge, not scientific research. Each Off-White Paper uses facts, market observations and my point of view, honed by experience and constant observation of the key and emerging players. The term “Off-White” is my differentiator, indicating that the conclusions are predicated on how I see things playing out at a particular moment in time in the complex world of government contracting.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

LinkedIn Black Belt Workshop returns to Columbia March 7, 2-5PM

If you have the new LinkedIn user Interface, you are probably wondering where some of the functionality disappeared to. This is one of may topics that I'll address int e the March 7 LinkedIn Black Belt Workshop.

Seating is limited to the first 18, so register now!

If this is your year for LinkedIn, this is your workshop. Only 18 seats per session. Real info from the front lines of LinkedIn - stuff you can use today, tomorrow and going forward.

Learn the tactics that make you and your company stand out in your niche.

Without a doubt, LinkedIn is the premier social network for business professionals. With over 465 million business professionals and over 11 million individual company profiles, LinkedIn is the place to be found, and to find and connect with influencers in your market niche.

However it is estimated that fewer than 20% of LinkedIn members use it effectively, and less than 10% truly maximize the value this powerful tool can bring to you and your company. It is time for you to migrate to LinkedIn power user!

LinkedIn has
-      465 million+ members
-      1.6 million federal managers, IT profiessionals and employees
-      Millions of seaches every day are done on LinkedIn
-      Almost 12 million company profiles
-      Over 3 million groups representing every imaginable business niche
-      All Fortune 500 are represented
-      YOUR PROSPECTS (they are here)!

And you have the opportunity to stand out!

Attend the LinkedIn Black Belt Workshop and you will learn how to

-      Design a strategy that fits your business goals
-      Create a powerful LinkedIn profile that attracts targeted prospects and encourages people to connect with you
-      Find and connect with those who can help your business grow- prospects, partners, media and more
-      Select the groups that will pay dividends
-      Find and develop content to share in those groups that makes you stand out
-      Get more recommendations and endorsements
-      Get on the radar of decision-makers who buy what you sell
-      Develop and defend a “subject matter expert” platform
-      Create a company profile that attracts the right people
-      Stand out in your market niche
-      Q&A  and much more!

Questions?  email

Registration is $195 - and seating is LIMITED!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Welcome to LinkedIn Lite

Ever try putting together a jigsaw puzzle only to find several key pieces missing?

Welcome to LinkedIn Lite - tastes like crap and is less fulfilling of your business needs than ever before.

Over the past few years LinkedIn has been removing features that many found useful, including

- the Q&A forum
- the events calendar
- the group statistics
- getting introduced (part of the messaging)
- BCC  removed from :bulk" messages
- the ability to reply to connection requests before accepting
- the "advanced search" capability
- the ability to view people's entire profiles without having to click "see more"
- seeing the groups your connections belonged to
- and now, the ability to post

This is far from the entire list, but you get the point.

Some LinkedIn members may not know all of these, but those who've been on the platform for a longer time may recall some or most of them.

Bottom line? The overall functionality of LinkedIn is going down in a big way for those not willing to pay $900 a year for Sales Navigator. 

In my market, U.S. government contracting, government employees are not going to pay the $900, nor will the agency they work for. This will drive the value down the value for federal managers, and they will use the platform less. This, in turn, will reduce the value for contractors, who will then use it less.

My market is measured in $Trillion$, and LinkedIn is trying to get the federal government to use the HR platform for recruiting. With the reduced functionality AND the ridiculously high price for the Sales Navigator, Federal and state and local governments will find much less value in using LinkedIn.

For over a decade, LinkedIn worked hard to build a great for social networking platform business, and largely they succeeded. However over the past few years, much of the value for active LinkedIn members has either evaporated or migrated to Sales Navigator.

As LinkedIn approaches year 14 (it launched May 5, 2003), 460+ million LinkedIn members are asking "WTF?!?!?"

So, welcome to LinkedIn Lite -tastes like crap and is less fulfilling of your business needs than ever before.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Why the Era of Big GovCon Shows is Past...

Someday soon you are likely to get an email invitation to the next BIG THING, the GovCon event to end all events.

Be wary of such missives, regardless of where it comes from.

In the 1990s hardly a month went by when there wasn't some large IT focused event in DC: the Federal Computer Expo, the GCN Expo (Government Computer News tried it's own), ComNet, AFCEAs TechNet, GovTechNet (FCW & AFCEA), GovSec, Government Video, FedMicro, FedPro Expo, eGov, and many more.

Marketing budgets were healthy then, as real margins existed for both products and services. 

The shows were big, often fun, and occasionally useful. I have pens form those shows older than my children.

Then the shows started dropping off, one by one, until only FOSE remained, although it was far from healthy. Then FOSE passed away after 35 years.

But wait, on the horizon, son of FOSE emerges- ACQUIRE- a show with such a broad focus (federal employee info, IT products, home goods and more...) that it was doomed from the outset. It lasted only one year.

(There is nothing like an empty exhibit hall in prime time.)


The era of the big show is gone. Even if the contractors and the feds needed it, there are few available funds to support it. The margins are thin and federal audiences are more frugal with their time, going to events that offer specific information.

Small, very focused events have largely replaced the mega-shows for government contractors. Producers like the Federal Business Council. Digital Government Institute, and select others produce more targeted events. Hosky Communications produces events for contractors that target a specific technology audience. Associations like GITEC, ACT-IAC, AFFIRM and the Professional Services Council Produce excellent events.

FISSEA, out at NIST, produces an annual event for IT professionals inside federal agencies responsible for security training. They have their annual event in March, 2017- not too late!

Contract program offices sponsor great event: NITAAC, SEWP and Alliant have all held successful events for their respective contractors recently. If you aren't on one of these contracts you can always call and ask if you can attend to learn more and network.

National associations like HIMSS produce events where many feds will attend even though the focus is not federal.

Why? They are more focused. They offer great networking opportunities. They offer continuing education credits, and more.

Sponsorship may cost a fair amount, but you don't have to sponsor to attend.

Your marketing funds are limited, from the largest contractors down to those small companies. If you are thinking about exhibiting at an event or event sponsorship, be very careful with your selection.

Remember, someday soon you are likely to get an email invitation to the next BIG THINGthe GovCon event to end all events.

Do not share, forward or respond. Just delete it.

Comments are always welcome!