Category Archives: Small Business

National Network for Manufacturing Innovation – On the Move

Standard

Manufacturing USA

“DEFENSE NEWS”

“A series of centers of excellence spread around the country, with each center focused on a different technological area of study.As the initiative matures, it is beginning to show tangible feedback for relatively low cost.

The institutes are investing in what we call industrial commons. It’s a technology challenge that needs to be overcome, in order to get some capability.For small businesses, they say ‘what an amazing opportunity. “


“Tracy Frost, the Pentagon’s director of DoD Manufacturing Institutes and the acting head of the DoD Manufacturing Technologies (ManTech) program, sat down in August with Defense News to explain how it all works and why the defense industry should get involved.

Can you lay out the core idea behind the manufacturing institutes? – All of the technology advancements in the world don’t really mean much to the warfighter unless we can make it, make the product. We usually couch that as, ‘we have to make it when the troops need it, we have to make it in the quantity that they need, and we have to make it at affordable cost.’ The cheaper we can make things, the more we can buy. On a bigger scale, manufacturing kind of underpins all the productivity that we do in the country. That is both an economic and national security issue.

They are public-private partnerships, which is something the department has certainly utilized that authority for in the past but we’re using it in a very new way and revitalizing that authority. So one of the requirements is there was a 1:1 cost match of these awards. The Department of Defense puts [funding out] ranging from $55 million to $110 million of investment over a 5-7 year period. And the proposals had to come in with a 1:1 cost match, which can come from industry, academia and other government organizations.

By DoD standards, that’s not a ton of money. – It really isn’t a large investment considering what the goal was, and is, and what they’ve accomplished so far. And when you look at it as a 1:1 match, industry had to come to the table and match that funding, that’s a lot of skin in the game from day one. And that’s an important point, that from the beginning this is certainly a national effort.

The institutes are investing in what we call industrial commons. It’s a technology challenge that needs to be overcome, in order to get some capability. The applications are super wide. If we can figure out how to transmit information by light, look at the applications — It’s not just defense, its commercial. So all these institutes, we address a space that is going to change the world, not just DoD.

DoD has invested in eight areas. How did you go about selecting those? — We don’t want to bring all manufacturing back to the U.S., right? We want to bring advanced manufacturing back to the U.S. We’re selective, in the technology spaces we want to bring back. We tried to find a technology space that was advanced manufacturing, so not old-school, really moving it forward, where there was a commercial sector, an industry need for the technology as well, and where defense really thought we could use that technology going forward. If there wasn’t a strong commercial pull, it was off the table.

It’s interesting to look at the locations. Detroit makes sense for [the lightweight metals institute]. The fabric and textiles institute is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which is located near Natick, which houses our Fabric and Textiles experts with the government. So there were some strategies when they proposed where it was going to be located. Youngstown is an old manufacturing town. It’s very economically depressed so the local government was happy to have them come in. A lot of them got fairly cheap rent spaces they can move into, because local government wants them there. It’s a national resource, but has local impacts.

It’s a public-private partnership, so how does industry funding work? – It’s all different. What was built into the institutes, in the model we have, is the flexibility. Each institute has membership agreements. Some they make public, some they don’t. There’s different tiers of membership. Some institutes say we’re a no-tiers institute. It’s a flat rate to join. Others range from membership fees goes anywhere from a couple hundred dollars for small businesses all the way up to a million dollars. They typically have higher-tier members. It depends, typically, on what kind of organization you are, and then also what you want to get out of it. The higher tier, the more money you give, you might have more seats on councils.

What has feedback been from the defense industry partners involved? – Large companies, some of our big OEM primes, I’ve been in some stakeholder meetings and they say ‘we came to the institutes first because there was money, and if DoD is going to put money somewhere we’ll go see what’s going on. But we’re staying because of the connections.’ The money is not that big. They’re staying because they’re getting access to our supply chain like never before.

For small businesses, they say ‘what an amazing opportunity, I’m sitting at a table with Lockheed and Boeing, and even the medium size companies that will buy my product and integrate into a subsystem Lockheed buys.’ We’re getting access to the rest of our supply chain in a way we couldn’t before. It’s a way to help secure our supply chain. It’s really catalyzed conversations and organizational relationships, and is addressing technology problems like we’ve never seen before.”

https://www.defensenews.com/smr/equipping-the-warfighter/2017/09/29/qa-tracy-frost-director-of-dod-manufacturing-institutes/

Advertisements

Techniques for Small Business Product/Services Development in Government Contracting

Standard
product_development

Image:  Getentrepreneurial.com

“SMALLTOFEDS” By Ken Larson

“INTRODUCTION

This article will suggest approaches in developing a product or service to the point where it can be marketed in the small business federal government contracting venue. Individuals usually succeed at such an endeavor by forming a company, separating it from their personal assets and then developing the company and its product(s)/service(s); even if it is only a one-person operation at the start.

There are techniques for small business to gain government participation in growing an idea into a company. Small Business Innovative Research and Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) programs in major federal agencies seek concepts that can be funded and developed into products the government needs. Here are some examples:

DOD SBIR/STTR Small Business Portal

National Institute of Health SBIR/STTR

Service contracting is another form of gaining entrance into the market, creating opportunities for introducing products by selling skilled labor under a government agency service contract or prime contractor teaming arrangement.

A GSA schedule affords a platform for products and services, but sales must have been achieved historically in the commercial or government markets before applying because GSA relies heavily the most recent 2-year pricing data in negotiating a schedule.

The government contracting product and services venue is competitive and requirements by federal agencies are often bundled into larger systems procurements. Therefore, it is necessary first to position a small enterprise and its product offerings before tapping the federal market for development support.

GENERAL OVERVIEW

Product entrepreneurs all face the same challenges. Those who succeed recognize they need to visualize themselves in the product development business, structuring an enterprise, generating a business plan, protecting intellectual property and then seeking industry partners and investors to bring the product to market.

In the process, copyrights, patents and royalty issues may come into play and development and distribution agreements are formed. Pricing is finalized based on cost and expense projections and competitive factors unique to the company as negotiation results are achieved with industry teaming partners, developers, manufacturers and distributors.

Financing is always a factor and can be achieved through loans or investors with a good business plan. The remainder of this article will address the basic elements of a framework within which to succeed with your product development for federal government contracting.

BUSINESS STRUCTURE

For the majority of individuals who are starting single person or no more than 2 or 3 person operations, a Limited Liability Company (LLC) registered with the state and with the federal government is recommended.

It will separate personal assets from company assets and protect them. When product or services sales begin generating revenue an LLC has many tax advantages. It can be registered as Sub Chapter ‘S’ for tax purposes and revenue and the expenses can be passed through to personal tax returns, paying no taxes as a company. The double taxation issue prevalent with many of the other types of incorporation is avoided with a Sub chapter “S” LLC. An LLC assists in limits your personal liability for debt and court judgments that may not fall in your favor.

Representing the business as a company allows pursuing financing as an enterprise. You can think of a creative name for your LLC and you can complete the articles of incorporation necessary to bring your enterprise into existence. The term, “LLC” must conclude the name of your company if you decide to form such an organization.

Instructions for registering in your state and federally with the IRS are available at your state web site and at the IRS site. You will receive tax and employer identification numbers by registering your business.

PROTECTING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

Patents and copyrights for your idea may ultimately protect you to a degree but the government agencies granting them have no enforcement arm so you must discover a violation yourself, retain a lawyer, bring a court proceeding against a violator and then hope to recover your costs and a reasonable settlement if you win.

The U.S. Patent System

Therefore, most of my clients use non-disclosure agreements (NDA’s) in dealing with other companies. Teaming is a practical fact of life in pursuing the larger federal government contracts.

You can download an NDA from the “References” Box Net Cube at the right margin of this site. Fill in the blanks as appropriate for a given exchange with outside individuals and companies. Before you meet to disclose details with a potential teaming company or investor, for instance, ask them to sign the document with you up front, put a serial number on it and reference the serial number and the agreement and date on any written materials you give to them.

After the meeting draft a short letter, documenting the minutes of the meeting, what was discussed and stating that the verbal disclosures and materials in the meeting are subject to the agreement and reference the agreement by number and date. Put an acknowledgment line on the letter and ask them to return a signed copy to you. This confirms their receipt of your proprietary information and their agreement to protect it in accordance with the NDA.

There are certain exceptions with regard to individuals or companies you may be dealing with on investing where you may not choose to use an NDA. Some Angel and Capital Investors are sensitive about being asked to sign them. You will have to trade their objections off against the value they represent to your company and conduct your risk analysis on a case-by-case basis.

For detail information asserting rights in technical data and software to government agencies and protecting intellectual property with other companies please see the following article:

Protecting Intellecutal Property

BUSINESS PLANNING

Visit the SBA website on business planning. There are major topics in the business planning process which, when addressed in a plan, will insure the success of your enterprise and assist you in determining and supporting the amount of funding you need. Such topics as marketing, advertising, competitor analysis and financing are covered there. You will find a presentation and examples that you can follow in improving your plan or in generating a plan if you do not have one. The link to the site is below:

Writing a Business Plan

Articles on strategic planning and developing your marketing plan are also at the “References” Box Net Cube at this site. They address evolving an operations vision for your enterprise showing its potential to present to a banker or to an investor.

Here is a site with free business plan samples:

Business Plan Samples

It may assist you in visualizing your own business growth to look at an example of how someone else addressed a given topic. I have learned from having worked with many new business owners that it is best to have you examine the material and continue your plan, contacting me with issues and questions as they occur.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT WHILE PLANNING

Locate teaming companies to further the objective that they would market your product as part of their offerings with your company licensing and sharing in the proceeds.

A business plan and the guidance above for its generation is the road map for developing ideas, laying out how to expand the sales of your product and researching your market to do so. It will also assist in developing pricing to considering the direct costs of product development, service implementation and distribution as well as the indirect costs of the enterprise itself (operating expenses).must be considered and financed.

A negotiation position for a given product will be driven by certain strategic factors:

1. Does a developer or teaming partner have a strong but realistic incentive to actively make the product a part of the marketplace?

2. Does market research indicate the idea will have strong sales volume once it is developed and distributed?

3. How much will a prospective teaming partner or investor have to invest in the product to get it to market? Does the product require testing?

4. Which is the better deal? Is it better to receive a 7% royalty on $5,000 worth of sales or a 1% royalty on $500,000 of sales? Even though 1% does not sound too impressive, of course it’s the better choice in this example.

A negotiation position should be based on support by for the argument that a concept will experience a certain level of sales and the royalty should be based on a % of estimated end user volume sales, discounted for the investment that the developer and distributor must make to get it to market.

The royalty should be outside of the distributor cost breakdown and the end user cost breakdown. It is simply a deductive factor the manufacturer will have to introduce into their profit equation after the costs have been tabulated. They should not view royalties as a cost factor; they should view them as a share of the profit on the total estimated sales.

Chances of succeeding with a negotiation with a developer and/or distributor are increased by showing understand the prospective market for the product and drawing some comparisons between the product and other similar successful products.

Naturally there will be some give and take with the other side about estimated costs to get the product to market. Be forthright in acknowledging their investment but also support a position with some research and comparative data on the product potential.

Lastly, settle on a % of the end user sales volume based on an estimate to which is agreed with the other party and insures that the purchase agreement for royalties entitles the agreed upon % on all future sales.

FINANCING

The SBA assists prospective business owners in completing sound business plans, which can then be presented to a banker in applying for financial assistance.

In the event that 2 banking institutions deny a loan application, a candidate can apply to the SBA for a loan guarantee that may assist in achieving a loan, since it would back up the application to a bank.

Loan officers are interested in a business plan to get a view of the business future and place a value on products and services based on the market, the competition, the sales projections, costs, expenses and profit expectations. The link to the SBA loan guarantee program is below:

SBA Loans and Grants

Veterans have access to small business loans via the Patriot express program:

Patriot Express Program

ANGEL AND CAPITAL INVESTORS

Angel and private investors have two prominent characteristics:

(A) They want a high return on investment (ROI)

(B) They typically want a great deal of control of the operation.

According to the Colorado Capital Alliance, surveys of angel investors show that:

1. Angels are seeking companies with high growth potential, proven management and sufficient information about the company, its management team, and its market to be able to assess a company’s value.

2. On average, Angels expect 10 to 15 percent above of the S&P 500 return on equity.

3. Typically, Angels invest in companies seeking between $50,000 and $1,000,000.

4. Angels generally prefer to finance manufacturing or product-oriented ventures, especially in the high-tech fields.

5. On average, Angels are 47 years old, have a postgraduate degree, and management experience in an entrepreneurial venture.

An angel investor may ask for at least ten to twenty times return in just five years. For many angel investors, it’s not just about the money; they want to actively participate in developing your business. They want to act as a mentor and sometimes even to take an active role in managing the company. This often translates into the angel investor having a seat on the company Board of Directors.

Angels are also highly interested in an exit strategy from for a full return on their investment in your business. The closest thing to it is an astute business plan that calls out the specifics of potential ROI, based on sound planning and analysis and addresses the following as possible exit strategies. Remember, investors are very aware that an exit strategy cannot be guaranteed. But they can be offered more than the wishful thinking that an IPO will occur in three years.

It is always good to have a lawyer involved in complex documents or in the development of documents. This will further protect a concept. A lawyer does not necessarily have to be present during the exchanges with prospective companies, but a lawyer review and comment on documents before they are signed.

SUMMARY

This article has conveyed preliminary steps for the small business in product development for the federal marketplace.

It should be noted that much of the process discussed in this article is the same for the commercial product development and a certain amount of commercial success is usually achieved before selling products in the government contracting venue. The exception to that rule is in highly technical product pursuits where the government is funding advanced development.

To consider non-profit grants and direct government contract funding potential please see the following article:

Grants Vs, Direct Government Contracts

Once a company is formed, a product platform established and a position to market a useful product to the federal government is achieved, please see the following articles at this site in developing a marketing plan

Registering Your Business For Government Grants and Contracts

Multiple Front Marketing

Should You Consider Small Business Governement Contracting?

Small Business Teaming

With careful structuring, planning and marketing, a product with potential can find its place in federal government contracting.”

Smalltofeds – Techniques for Product Development

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ken Portrait

Ken Larson has over 40 years in the Military Industrial Complex. He is a veteran of 2 tours in the US Army Vietnam. Subsequently Ken spent over 30 years in federal government program and contract management and 10 years in small business consulting. As a Micro Mentor Volunteer Counselor, he assists many small businesses with their planning and operations processes. 

DHS Science & Technology Directorate Leading the Way on Cyber Innovation

Standard

Homland Security Cyber Innovation

“FIFTH DOMAIN” By Chris Cummiskey

“One of the greatest impediments to taking innovative ideas and putting them into action is the federal acquisition process.

The Cybersecurity Division (CSD) R&D Execution Model has been utilized since 2004 to successfully transition over 40 cyber products with the help of private sector companies.”


“It isn’t often that the words innovation and government find their way into the same sentence. When they do, it is often to decry the lack of innovation in government practices. Silicon Valley and other corporate leaders have long lamented that the federal government just doesn’t seem to understand what it takes to bring innovation to government programs.

One office in the federal government is having an outsized, positive impact on bringing private sector innovation to government cybersecurity problem solving. The Cybersecurity Division (CSD) of the Science & Technology Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security has figured out how to crack the code in swiftly delivering cutting edge cyber technologies to the operators in the field. Some of these programs include: cybersecurity for law enforcement, identity management, mobile security and network system security.

The mission of CSD is to develop and deliver new technologies and to defend and secure existing and future systems and networks. With the ongoing assault on federal networks from nation-states and criminal syndicates, the mission of CSD is more important than ever.

CSD has figured out how to build a successful, actionable strategy that produces real results for DHS components. Their paradigm for delivering innovative cyber solutions includes key areas such as a streamlined process for R&D execution and technology transition, international engagement and the Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP).

R&D Execution and Technology Transition

 As a former chief acquisition officer at DHS, I certainly understand why there needs to be federal acquisition regulations. The challenge is these regulations can be used to stifle the government’s ability to drive innovation. I am encouraged by the efforts to overcome these obstacles by federal acquisition executives like DHS Chief Procurement Officer Soraya Correa – who is leading the fight to overcome these hurdles.

Under the leadership of Dr. Doug Maughan, CSD has created a process with the help of procurement executives that swiftly establishes cyber capabilities and requirements with input from the actual users. They have designed a program that accelerates the acquisition process to seed companies to work on discreet cyber problems.  The model sets up a continuous process that starts with workshops and a pre-solicitation dialogue and ends with concrete technologies and products that can be utilized by the operators in the various DHS components. To date the program has generated cyber technologies in forensics, mobile device security, malware analysis and hardware enabled zero-day protections and many others.

International Engagement

Maughan often states that cybersecurity is a global sport. As such, many of the challenges that face the United States are often encountered first by other countries. Maughan and his team have worked diligently to leverage international funding for R&D and investment. CSD is regularly featured at global cyber gatherings and conferences on subjects ranging from international cyber standard setting to sharing R&D requirements for the global entrepreneur and innovation communities.

Silicon Valley Innovation Project (SVIP)

It seems like the federal government has been trying to get a foothold in Silicon Valley for decades. Every president and many of their cabinet secretaries in recent memory have professed a desire to harness the power of innovation that emanates from this West Coast enclave. One of the knocks on the federal government is that it just doesn’t move fast enough to keep pace with the innovation community. Maughan and the folks at CSD recognize these historic impediments and have moved deftly to build a Silicon Valley Innovation Project (SVIP) that is delivering real results. To help solve the hardest cyber problems facing DHS components like the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, the United States Secret Service and the Transportation Safety Administration, SVIP is working with Silicon Valley leaders to educate, fund and test in key cyber areas. The program is currently focusing on K9 wearables, big data, financial cybersecurity technology, drones and identity. The SVIP has developed an agile funding model that awards up to $800,000 for a span of up to 24 months. While traditional procurement processes can take months, the SVIP engages in a rolling application process where companies are invited to pitch their cyber solutions with award decisions usually made the same day. The benefits of this approach include: speed to market, extensive partnering and mentoring opportunities for the companies and market validation.

Conclusion

Moving innovative cyber solutions from the private sector to the federal government will always be a challenge. The speed of innovation and technological advancement confounds federal budget and acquisition processes. What Maughan and CSD have proven is that with the right approach these systems can complement one another. This is a huge service to the men and women in homeland and cybersecurity that wake up every day to protect our country from an ever-increasing stream of threats.”

https://www.fifthdomain.com/opinion/2017/09/26/dhs-office-leading-the-way-on-federal-cyber-innovation-commentary/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Chris Cummiskey is a former acting under secretary/deputy under secretary for management and chief acquisition officer at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

5 Tactics That Will Help You Win In 2018

Standard

 

Winning Tactics

Image:”Linked In” Mark Amtower

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Mark Amtower

“What is your fiscal 2018 Strategy?  If you are a smaller government contractor, are your plans in place? Do you have goals supported by a strategy?

If not, are you just going to continue to tread water by looking for bids to go after, or are you going to map out a strategy that gives you a better chance at winning more business?

For over 30 years I have watched smaller businesses struggle to grow from fiscal year to fiscal year, including those who won spots on coveted contracts alike SEWP, Alliant, CIO-SP3 Small Business, VETS, 8(a) STARS and others. There are always under-performers and many of these wonder why.

So I would like to offer a few things for you to think about.

1. If you own a spot on any of the IDIQs or MACs, like the ones mentioned above, are you fully exploiting the value of the contract? If you are on an IDIQ or MAC and are simply responding to RFQs and RFPs but not winning a significant percentage, perhaps your bidding strategy needs to be revised. There are a number of reputable firms that can help you improve your bidding process.

Or perhaps you need to partner with other companies that bring different strengths to the bid, still using your contract.

These contracts are coveted and there are many ways to grow your business if you are a prime.

2. Are you looking at other IDIQs to see if you can bring something to the primes on those vehicles that would make them more attractive in the bidding process?

If you bring a unique skill set or strong agency relationship to the table, you may be able to open the door to better sub-contracting opportunities.

3. Have you looked at your top government clients to determine if you need to focus more on fewer agencies?

Account or agency based marketing can be quite effective. Selling in an agency where you are known is much easier than attempting to break into new agencies.

4. Are you looking to better utilize LinkedIn and fully develop your social selling skills?

Social selling is the art of leveraging social networks to find key influencers and get on their radar, and it works. There are 1.6 million feds on LinkedIn representing all agencies, and more than 15 percent have IT titles. Another 30 percent to 40 percent have program and project related job functions. Odds are the people you need to reach and influence are on LinkedIn.

5. Are you developing and sharing content that helps define who you are and what you bring to the market?

Content marketing is an increasingly valuable tool in government contracting. Saying you are an expert is one thing, but developing and sharing content to support the claim helps you establish your company as a legitimate player.

These are just a few of the things you may want to consider as you move into what promises to be an interesting year in government contracting

So ask yourself, what are my goals for fiscal 2018? I hope you have an answer.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2017/09/21/insights-amtower-fiscal-2018-strategy-tips.aspx

About the Author

Mark Amtower

Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markamtower

Is LinkedIn Trying to Protect Your Data — Or Hoard It?

Standard
Linked In Data

(David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

“WASHINGTON POST”

“When you create a public profile on a social network such as LinkedIn, it isn’t just your friends and contacts who can see that data. For better or for worse, other companies can legally download that information and use it for themselves, too.

That’s according to a federal judge who ruled Monday against LinkedIn, the professional networking site, in a case that has big implications for corporate power and consumer privacy in the tech-driven economy.

LinkedIn had claimed that another company, hiQ Labs, was illegally downloading information about LinkedIn users to help drive its business. The issue was a concern for LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft, in part because many of today’s tech companies depend on customer data to compete and even outmaneuver their rivals. As a result, being able to control that information and determine who else can see it is of paramount importance to firms like these.

“Microsoft is further transforming LinkedIn into a data-driven marketing powerhouse that harvests all its data to drive ad revenues,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

Where LinkedIn and hiQ clashed was over hiQ’s product, which almost exclusively depends on LinkedIn’s data, according to U.S. District Judge Edward Chen. HiQ essentially helps employers predict, using the data, which of their employees are likely to leave for other jobs. While this HR tool might sound relatively boring to you and me, it’s key to industries whose success depends on recruiting and retaining the best talent. A Gallup survey last year found that 93 percent of job-switchers left their old company for a new one; just 7 percent took a new job within the same organization.

HiQ has raised more than $12 million since its founding in 2012. LinkedIn itself is making moves to develop a similar capability, Chen said, meaning that LinkedIn’s attempt to block hiQ from accessing its data could be interpreted as a self-interested move to kneecap a competitor. If hiQ can’t get the professional data it needs to fuel its analytic engine, its business could “go under,” Chen said.

To allow hiQ access to LinkedIn’s data would be a gross violation of LinkedIn users’ privacy, LinkedIn argued. But Chen didn’t buy it, saying that LinkedIn already chooses to provide data to third parties of its own accord. What’s more, he added, people who make their profiles public on LinkedIn probably want their information seen by others, which undermines LinkedIn’s claim to be protecting user privacy.

Allowing LinkedIn to selectively block members of the public from accessing public profiles — under penalty of the country’s anti-hacking laws, no less — “could pose an ominous threat to public discourse and the free flow of information promised by the Internet,” wrote Chen in his ruling.

LinkedIn vowed to keep fighting in court.

“We’re disappointed in the court’s ruling,” it said in a statement. “This case is not over. We will continue to fight to protect our members’ ability to control the information they make available on LinkedIn.”

The case raises deep questions about who truly represents users’ interests. From one perspective, LinkedIn is duty-bound to protect its customers’ data and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands — perhaps all the more so if, as it appears with hiQ, the information could give employers more leverage over their workers.

But LinkedIn’s position requires that it have a tremendous say over how users’ own information can be used and distributed. Concentrating power in this way benefits not only LinkedIn, but also the owners of other platforms such as Facebook, Google and other sites that host user-supplied content.

“If LinkedIn’s view of the law is correct, nothing would prevent Facebook from barring hiQ in the same way LinkedIn has,” said Chen.

That’s why this case is so important: How it turns out could set a precedent for the entire Internet, and a global economy that depends on data.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/08/15/is-linkedin-trying-to-protect-your-data-or-hoard-it/?utm_term=.9d95e9c0d196

 

Managing Small Business Government Contracting Business System Risks

Standard
aecbusiness.com - Copy

Image:  AEC Business.com

“SMALL TO FEDS By Ken Larson

“Most small enterprises must undertake some form of business process augmentation when entering federal government contracting.

There are rules of thumb to insure wise business system development decisions, specific to your company, for managing the associated risks.

The natural inclination for small business is to immediately jump to buying computer software tools or services in an effort to expedite the business system growth process. That propensity is often enhanced by suppliers who maintain their product or service is “DCAA Compliant”, has been “Validated by the Government as an Earned Value Management System (EVMS)” and other similar claims.

Here are cautions and tips regarding an immediate jump to software or services as a means of growing a government contract business system.

UNDERSTANDING THE REQUIREMENTS

The US Government learned decades ago that it cannot impose specific business systems on contractors.  One of the last great attempts to do so was the Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT).  It was abandoned in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s and replaced by a set of industry criteria now known as Earned Value Management Systems (EVMS).

Similarly, the Federal Government Cost Accounting Standards Board (CASB) determined that job cost accounting systems could not be imposed on contractors. Over the years they have developed and maintained a set of Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) which governs requirements for accounting on government contracts.

The GSA and similar agencies maintain policies on travel, human resources and wage/rate determinations that are not specific systems, but minimum standards as well.  A small business entering federal government contracting should research the above and similar requirements in such areas as quality assurance, inspection and acceptance and export management.

PROCESS COMES FIRST – MAXIMIZE WHAT YOU HAVE

Given a thorough understanding of the requirements for a government contract business system that fills the need for your specific product or service delivery, the next step is to examine existing processes to determine if they can meet the need or be minimally supplemented to do so.

Finding a need for major process changes or enhancements in the existing business system is the beginning of a requirements analysis to determine the labor, process change, planning, costs and eventual selection of new automated tools that fit the company and that need.

Many start-ups and small enterprises find they can crutch their existing job cost accounting system for service contracts with spread sheets instead of buying an expensive, data base oriented, software package or services initially.  As the company grows into government contracting and the number of transactions and associated revenue warrants the expense,  the firm can then evaluate more expensive packaged software tools or services and ease into them with a plan to minimize disruption.

A government contract award drives many things in government business, but small firms cannot wait until that event to position at least the minimal processes necessary to perform, price new business, function lawfully in the human resources area and submit supportable detail in billings.

Please see the following articles for guidance on minimal business system requirements for small business federal government contacting.

What Is A Small Business Federal Government Contractor?

Pricing Small Business Federal Government Contracts

Small Business Job Cost Accounting Basics

Small Business Federal Government Contracting Business System Development

RULES OF THUMB FOR SELECTING AUTOMATED TOOLS

From strategic planning to marketing, from forward pricing to job cost accounting, from subcontracting and vendor/contractor management to human resources policies, the small firm finds itself undergoing a business system design project upon entering the government contracting venue.

Understand the requirements first, review existing processes and tools next, develop a thorough requirements statement of what must be done in the way of enhancements and then consider automating.  While performing your analysis keep the following 5 rules of thumb in mind:

1. An electronic computer software package or service is not a system. One cannot acquire a system by acquiring them.

2. One acquires a system by conducting systems analysis, achieving a design and processes by working with the people who will run the system. This is hard work and time consuming. Processes are improved and made more efficient by modifying user behavior not by automating it.

3. Once system and analysis and system design are complete one can prudently choose tools to assist in running the system. The adequacy of a computer tool or service is driven by the requirements of the most efficient system design.

4. The biggest mistake implementation teams make is to believe they are buying a system when they buy a software tool or service or let the tools drive the systems analysis process. That is like asking a mechanic to drive a wrench from New York to St. Louis. It has resulted in millions of dollars wasted and plummeting efficiency in many organizations, large and small.

5. It is necessary to design a system and processes unique to the company to meet user requirements before going shopping for computer tools or services.  If you do not you will be pigeon-holing your company into becoming a slave to the company that owns the software source code or service. If you want anything changed it costs a big buck. ”

Small Business Federal Government Contracting

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ken Fluther - Copy - Copy

Micro Mentor Volunteer Counselor Ken Larson assists many small businesses with their planning and operations processes. Small business owners or prospective owners locate through a background search capability at Micro Mentor.   Ken is a Veteran of 2 tours in the US Army Vietnam and has over 40 years in the Defense Industrial Complex. He spent over 30 years in federal government program and contract management and 10 years in small business consulting. Ken receives many inquiries from small companies wishing to enter or enhance their position in federal government contracting. Volunteer time, books, articles, and resources are 100% free through Small to Feds maintained exclusively for small business.

 

 

 

 

“Who’s Who” in Cyberspace Operations (CSO)? DARPA Asks

Standard
DARPA Who's Who

(Photo credit: DARPA)

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Wants to Know

“FIFTH DOMAIN”

“DARPA wants to know who can do what when it comes to cyber research.

The agency wants to compile an up-to-date list of companies capable of participating in research projects in cyberspace operations (CSO).

“Ideally, respondents will include both potential performers currently holding security clearances and those who may be granted clearances based on technical capabilities and eligibility,” DARPA said.

“Often, these projects are classified and can only be solicited from a limited number of sources,” noted the FedBizOps request for information. “DARPA must maintain up-to-date knowledge about potential performers to maximize the number of sources that can be solicited for classified, highly specialized, CSO R&D initiatives.”

Interested parties should submit a white paper that includes a list of their personnel with CSO experiences, any security clearances those employees have, and a narrative description of their relevant skills. Companies should also list any relevant facilities, including secure areas.”

https://www.fifthdomain.com/dod/2017/08/29/darpa-wants-whos-who-of-cyberspace/

 

 

Leading a Business Through Non-Business Challenges

Standard
Challenges- Business to Community dot com

Image:  “BusinesstoCommunity.com

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY”  By John Hillen

“Even in smaller enterprises, when the business goes to the next level, the executives who are in charge need to build on their already proven business skills by adding new approaches, skills, behaviors, and mindsets.

To be effective at the next level they need to rely less on their business acumen or expertise and rely more on their ability to connect with people and inspire belief in their sheer ability to lead.”


Google’s CEO is an engineer, product chief and business leader by training and experience. Chances are that the skills he needs under the international spotlight are not the same ones that he exercised regularly in his rise to the top.

Pichai, like the now deposed former Uber CEO, is at that point many leaders of complex organizations reach – where their business smarts are less important than their general leadership wisdom in solving their company’s problems.

Leaders dealing with a more sophisticated set of business challenges need wisdom, not business smarts; good judgement, not cutting-edge analysis; character, not competencies.

While the issue at Google and many issues like this strike businesses left and right, they are not traditional “business” issues – and leaders cannot engineer, data process, re-organize, or innovate their way through them.

I’ve written earlier in this column about the journey of almost all leaders – where over time their job depends far less on technical and tactical skills and more on strategic and interpersonal skills. As leaders grow in responsibility, they of course must stay abreast of business skills and development, but they are now in a new business – not technology, not engineering, not accounting, not pharmaceuticals, etc. They are now in the leadership business.

Even though this phenomenon is well known, and mirrored in the career of the vast majority of leaders, the way to build strategic and interpersonal skills is still elusive for many executives. The bulk of corporate training is oriented around technical and tactical business skills. Executives are reluctant to let go of building “hard” skills to focus on the “soft” skills – that characterization itself (which I do not like to use) makes them feel less useful to a fast paced firm grinding out products or services in a go-go-go! environment.

There are no certifications or professional accreditations for the master strategist, the empathetic boss, the inspiring leader or the great communicator as there are for many other roles.

When my clients or students ask me for a way to “train” for this new requirement in their leadership life, I have many tools and guidelines for them to use, many of which are outlined in my forthcoming book with Mark Nevins. But the overall goal for them all is for the leader to be able to confront and overcome the challenges of a sophisticated business environment by developing a new source of authority, one based not on their business proficiency but on their wisdom and sagacity.

I’ve written in this column before about the importance for leaders to “grow” their emotional intelligence, as Daniel Goleman and others have reminded us. But just having emotional intelligence is not enough. The executives I work with want to know how to be the wise King Solomon of their organization, the Socrates who can tease out the major issues confronting the team that are not obvious to everyone, the mountain-top guru on who is recognized in the industry as not just for being a competent corporate leader but is an industry sage as well. The fair community leader who can help solve issues like the one Google is facing.

I use phrases in my work with leaders like Chief Philosophy Officer or Chief Ethics Officer so it is natural for them to ask me, “Well, how do we become that?” “How do we have the authority in the minds of our followers to be the one who answers the ‘Why?’ questions of the enterprise and not just the ‘How?’ questions?”

Sheer business competence can win the day for a manager in overcoming the challenges of business complexity– and gain them loyal followers. But leaders confronting the challenges of business sophistication find that their followers care much more about who they are as a leader in the enterprise, not simply what they can do. As one moves towards the top, it’s not about one’s skills anymore, it’s about one’s character and judgement.

Having wisdom rather than just smarts, having good judgement rather than just good business understanding, being able to listen rather than just command, being empathetic and responsive rather than just being determined and directive, being able to inspire rather than just give orders – these are often the character traits that leaders need to develop in order to backstop their formal sources of authority.

In building the case for leaders to acquire a gravitas that is not necessarily rooted in their being the smartest person in the room, I will sometimes use the historical analogy of the biblical figure Solomon, a name heavily affiliated with wisdom and judgement. When granted a wish for what he needed to “rule” his people, Solomon did not ask for power to rule, he asked for wisdom to tell “good from bad,” and “right from wrong.” He asked for an understanding and discerning heart – not a big brain or huge muscles. For him, that was the key to being effective…and authoritative. He was not seeking merely to be a wise judge, but to be a successful leader.

In order to have those skills, which helps in dealing with issues like Google is now, it is important for executives to have range and perspective beyond their business expertise. They need to broaden their leadership mind so that they are authorities not just in their industry dynamics, customer needs, technological sphere, or their balance sheet – but that they are students of human nature, and authoritative on the human enterprise.

I often suggest to executives that to build this skill they invest in themselves and their leaders with serious executive education experiences that are a bit outside of their industry or even business in general. Taking a week off to go to a top business school with other executives is a very enrichening experience – often useful for the strategic networking value alone. But if the curriculum is oriented around your industry (i.e., Managing Health Care Delivery) or an operational area (i.e., Mergers & Acquisitions), or around management techniques or trends (The Science of Lean Operations,) – all current executive education summer offerings at top-10 business schools – then the leader is likely deepening their existing source of authority and knowledge base…not broadening it.

I prefer the developing leader go a bit “further afield” and really do some mental heavy-lifting to broaden their perspective and understanding of human beings and organizations. One such program in which I am involved as a moderator is the Aspen Institute’s executive seminar. A week-long seminar intended to probe the question of “What is the nature of a good society and the role of leaders in it?” The Aspen seminar has its participants read very serious texts from some of the best thinkers of the past three thousand years and discusses them together. Reed Hastings, the founder of Netflix, recently called the seminar “the best whetstone to sharpen the saw” – Stephen Covey’s term for growing as a person and a leader.

The readings are difficult, sometimes dense. The discussions are passionate and heart-felt and the full message of the authors from the texts only becomes evident in the course of the moderated discussion. And as most of the participants are business or non-profit executives, they are often very frustrated by the relevance of Aristotle or Virginia Woolf to their development as an effective organizational leader.

But the fundamental question of the seminar – what is the nature of a good society and the role of leaders in it? – becomes clearly relevant when the participants think about their firm as a mini-society that they are leading and trying to make a good society for those involved in it or touched by it. To be effective, as Pichai hopes to be, leaders need a deepened and heightened understanding of the sources of different assumptions and motivations by their stakeholders. Armed with that, leaders learn to transcend differences in values and create their own version of a good society in their company or organization.

It is a demanding program, but one that organizational leaders almost universally say gave them a deeper understanding of human nature and enterprises – the terrain through which all leaders must navigate. Doing the seminar in a group (the founder of the seminar once said that reading alone is like drinking alone) allows executives to practice critical skills in listening, understanding, and reasoning their way to difficult choices not about business strategy, but about leading groups of diverse people working together to accomplish something unique.

This is the core competency of a leader who has reached the top. Not making the call on debt/equity ratios or product development timelines – but leading a group of people together to a definitive place despite their differences.

Most business leaders got to where they are by a superior command of the “X’s and O’s” of their business, and considerable accomplishment in those areas. Bravo! I did too. But they soon find out that to overcome the different challenges confronting a sophisticated business requires a different mindset, new behaviors, a broader range of knowledge and perspective, and a renewed and broadened source of authority.”

(This is adapted from John Hillen & Mark Nevins’ New Leader Next Year: Recreate Yourself Before Your Business Outruns You, forthcoming from Select Books in Spring 2018.)

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2017/08/15/insights-hillen-leadership-skills.aspx

About the Author

hillenweb

John Hillen is the former CEO of Sotera Defense Solutions and is the executive-in-residence and professor of practice at George Mason University’s School of Business.

 

DIU(X) Pentagon Outreach Program To Tech Startups Is Here to Stay

Standard

DIU(X) Web Site:   https://www.diux.mil/portfolio

“BREAKING DEFENSE”

“DIU(X) has spent $100 million on projects from 45 companies. These are not traditional defense contractors but commercial tech companies, mostly small ones, backed by about $1.8 billion in venture capital.

The whole idea is to reach beyond the often stodgy military-industrial complex to the thriving, innovative tech sector, especially to start-ups that lack the time, connections, or specialized manpower to penetrate the defense procurement labyrinth.


How does Trump’s Defense Secretary feel about one of the Obama Pentagon’s more controversial aus, the outreach to tech start-ups known as DIU(X)?

“I don’t embrace it,” Jim Mattis told reporters en route to Silicon Valley yesterday. “I enthusiastically embrace it, and I’m grateful that Secretary Carter (Ash Carter, Obama’s last SecDef) had the foresight to put something in place to anchor the Department of Defense out there.”

“I want to see results. I want to see what they’re doing with their location and the ideas that they’re bringing, they’re harvesting — what are we getting out of it?” Mattis continued when pressed by a skeptical press. “Absolutely, I want to see them in their mission. I’m not coming out here questioning the mission.” (Emphasis ours).

Mattis’s embrace of this Obama-era idea is just the latest sign that there’s a lot more continuity at the Pentagon in some policy areas than President Trump’s Twitter barrages would suggest. Trump blasted the F-35 stealth fighterMattis committed to continued production. Trump called NATO “obsolete” and said South Korea should pay for US missile defenses; Mattis reached out to allies. Trump campaigned on pledges of a Reaganesque defense buildup; his actual budget proposal has been modest. Trump promised new Navy ships and Army units; Mattis has prioritized better training and maintenance for the forces we already have. Trump said he’d made US nuclear forces stronger but they’re actually still shrinking under Obama-era arms control treaties. All modernization to nuclear delivery systems was started under Obama.

In this context, Mattis keeping his predecessor’s Defense Innovation Unit (Experimental) isn’t so surprising. Congressional Republicans have been ambivalent about DIU(X), which has offices in three strongholds of Democrat-leaning techies: Palo AltoAustin and Boston. (Note the persistent attacks by the far right on Google and other tech companies.) House Armed Services chairman Mac Thornberry has worried aloud that DIU(X) duplicates longstanding high-tech efforts such as DARPA.

One of Work’s last acts, on July 14, was to give DIU(X) new legal authorities. One of the most significant is rapid hiring authorities that let DIU(X) bypass cumbersome federal regulations and bring tech expert onboard in as little as a day. (Similar authorities have been proposed in Congress) Another expanded the unit’s ability to set up Cooperative Research & Development Agreements (CRADAs) with private companies. Still other authorities gave DIU(X) new abilities to advertise, run prize competitions, host conferences, all methods of getting geniuses’ attention for its projects.”

http://breakingdefense.com/2017/08/diux-is-here-to-stay-mattis-embraces-obama-tech-outreach/

What has DIU(X) done to deserve more money and power? The unit’s signature achievement so far is new planning software for Air Force flight operations previously run with Microsoft Excel and markers on whiteboards. The new software cost $1.5 million, but by scheduling sorties more efficiently, it will save an estimated $131 million year in fuel and maintenance for tanker aircraft, DIU(X) says. The DIU(X) project also delivered in 120 days what a multi-year, $745 million dollar Air Force program could not.

Other DIU(X) contracts range from robotic sailboats (“saildrones”) to collect data on the ocean – vital for naval planning – to military simulations derived from commercial games.

All told, after a rough start which prompted Carter to reboot the unit, DIU(X) has spent $100 million on projects from 45 companies. These are not traditional defense contractors but commercial tech companies, mostly small ones, backed by about $1.8 billion in venture capital. The whole idea is to reach beyond the often stodgy military-industrial complex to the thriving, innovative tech sector, especially to start-ups that lack the time, connections, or specialized manpower to penetrate the defense procurement labyrinth. [UPDATE: Mattis also visited Google on Friday, but the tech giant has been leery of military contracts.] This strategy lets the military ride a train whose locomotive is massive private investment the Pentagon doesn’t have to pay for.

Now Mattis is publicly embracing this approach. In the words of a press release the Defense Innovation Unit (Experimental) put out to celebrate the secretary’s visit, it looks like “DIU(X) is here to stay.”

http://breakingdefense.com/2017/08/diux-is-here-to-stay-mattis-embraces-obama-tech-outreach/

 

 

 

 

Pentagon To Unveil New Acquisition Structure

Standard

Pentagon Reorganization

“DEFENSE NEWS”

“The Pentagon is scheduled to deliver its new acquisition structure to Congress,  a major step toward redesigning how the building researches and procures equipment.

The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act instructed the Pentagon to devolve the undersecretary of acquisition, technology and logistics, or AT&L, into two separate jobs: undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, or A&S; and a new undersecretary for research and engineering, or R&E, essentially a chief technology officer.

Those changes are expected to be in place by Feb. 1, 2018.

Congress purposefully allowed time for the Department of Defense to come up with its own road map on how the split should occur, which the department is supposed to deliver to Capitol Hill on Aug 1[2017].

Sources say there were discussions about delaying that delivery, in order to allow newly installed Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan a chance to weigh in. However, all indications are that the department intends to hit its Tuesday deadline.

It is important to note that this report will not be the final say in the issue. Its purpose is to inform Congress of how the department will split the duties of AT&L and the broad organizational strategy, but does not need to detail the nuts and bolts of currently shared services. That also means that Shanahan and Ellen Lord, the longtime Textron executive-turned-AT&L nominee who may be confirmed this week, will have a chance to continue to give input going forward.

An interim, two-page memo to Congress was delivered March 1, which contained few details about how the building is approaching the question of devolving AT&L into the new offices.

Congress, meanwhile, is trying to balance out how to give senior leaders a chance to weigh in and making sure the DoD meets the Feb. 1 deadline. And while the report will be happily received in Congress, there is skepticism about what the DoD will actually deliver and how closely it will hew to Congress’ vision of how the new structure should look.

Bill Greenwalt, a longtime defense acquisition expert who spent two years as a staffer on the Senate Armed Services Committee where he had a central role crafting McCain’s acquisition changes, emphasized that the Pentagon’s thoughts are recommendations and that Congress will have final say.

“I think it will be a back and forth between the Congress and administration in terms of how to make this work,” he told Defense News. “The key thing for Congress is R&E should be driving innovation. A&S should be providing the oversight structure. The boxes shouldn’t be transferred around, it should be a cultural shift.”

SCO, DIUx likely folded under R&E

While the majority of the changes to the AT&L structure will entail a reshuffling of offices already under central control, there are two notable offices that may be brought in house, whether they desire it or not.

The Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, and the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, were two pet projects of former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. The SCO is focused on finding innovative solutions to near-term challenges, while DIUx is charged with creating ties between the DoD and the commercial technology sector.

Notably, both offices have existed as quasi-independent entities. DIUx actually started as a report inside the AT&L structure before being relaunched a year ago following a lack of progress in its mission; it then became a direct report to Carter. The SCO, meanwhile, was created by Carter during his time as deputy secretary of defense and was formally introduced to the world by Carter during the fiscal 2017 budget rollout.

With Carter gone and Congress seeking to improve innovation inside the building, there is pressure from the Hill to see those groups folded into the new R&E portfolio. In a May 18 interview, Mary Miller, acting assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering, said SCO and DIUx “would naturally fit in the USDR&E, that’s the intent.”

“If we set this undersecretary up as we believe we will, as we’re hoping this turns out to be and it will be a select-in to this whole new culture we’re establishing, we don’t need to have special groups that were set up just to be different, because that will be the undersecretary mission,” Miller said during the interview.

Greenwalt said that if the Pentagon crafts the R&E spot “right,” groups like DIUx, SCO, the various rapid capabilities offices and perhaps the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency should all fall under its control.

When it was pointed out to him that regardless what the Pentagon says, Congress could step in and demand those groups fall under R&E’s control, Greenwalt smiled. “Right. That’s the back and forth,” he said. ”We’ll have to see how it works.”

Greenwalt isn’t the only one who thinks those outside groups should come inside. Frank Kendall, whose tenure of four-plus years as AT&L ended with the Obama administration, believes that for the R&E spot to work, it must include all the research groups scattered around the department.

“It would have basic research, 6.1, 6.2 and 6.3, it would have DARPA, it would have SCO and DIUx, it would have the existing office that does experimentation,” Kendall said in April, adding that he had provided that recommendation to Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work.

Andrew Hunter, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted that the Senate clearly has been leaning toward putting SCO, DIUx and DARPA into the R&E portfolio. But that may be an imperfect fit, he warned.

“DARPA, by mandate, deals with that leap-ahead tech, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3 work, research that is early stage. Once it gets to prototypes, that’s no longer DARPA territory. SCO is on the other end,” Hunter said. “Both have a fit in the R&E position. But it seems the department is heading towards having R&E have more of an early stage focus, so they might come to a different answer.”

Leadership questions

While the future of the R&E office is uncertain, the A&S job appears to be more stable — in part because its leadership seems intact.

Lord, the former Textron executive, has already gone through a confirmation hearing for the AT&L job, during which she reaffirmed she would be sliding over to A&S once the AT&L office goes away in February.

The Senate’s version of this year’s defense authorization bill would require Lord to be reconfirmed for the A&S job, but given how little headwind she faced in her confirmation hearing, the assumption is she would easily be reconfirmed for the new title.

Which brings up the question of who her counterpart would be. It is understandable that no names have been put forth for the job, as the White House and Pentagon have been focused on filling existing roles, plus the R&E job does not exist. But waiting too long to put forth a nominee could have “risk,” Hunter said.

“You might not be able to get the quality person you want because of how it is cast. The earlier you name a person, the more they have a chance to shape the structure of the office,” he added. “However you slice the piece, what used to be one really powerful job is now two jobs, each of which is slightly less powerful — so how appealing are they for someone who wants to put their stamp on the future?”

http://www.defensenews.com/pentagon/2017/07/31/pentagon-to-unveil-new-acquisition-structure-on-aug-1/