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.

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