SOFIC 2022 First Thoughts

 #sofic2022 saw the largest in-person attendance ever at approximately 16,000 attendees in Tampa.

The theme “Campaigning with partners for integrated deterrence” was very clearly demonstrated with strong representation from international allies including #australia #UKDefence #InternationalDefenseCooperationDirectorateoftheIsraelMOD #TeamNorway and a variety of individuals from #allynations.

Integrated deterrence considers the #internationalpartners highlighted and the #crossdomain coordination demonstrated at #SOFIC2022. Representatives from every major command at #USSOCOM and representatives from each branch of the DoD were in attendance.

Much of the message communicated was “we are stronger together”.

In line with that message, many representatives spoke about what they need, in terms of technology, industry participation, and cross-domain coordination to accomplish their long-term vision. In each room were discussions of pathways for contracting, with each speaker highlighting accessibility and their available mechanisms for working together. This sentiment was reflected in speeches by Heidi Shyu, Jim Smith, Lisa Sanders, and others.

There were introductory panels and deep dives with the Program Executive Offices (#PEOs) that allowed industry participants to ask questions to understand how to better serve their mission sets. As well as panels with discussions around working with allies, developing technology faster, nuances of RFP sections, non-traditional contracting mechanisms, what it means to be SOF peculiar, and so much more.

On Tuesday afternoon Collaborative Compositions had the opportunity to sponsor the Govmates matchmaking event. The event matched buyers from various commands and large primes with innovative non-traditional businesses based on the buyer’s preferences to have 15 min conversations about product-market fit.

Co-sponsoring the event were Bank of America, ATI, and the Global SOF Foundation. This was an incredible opportunity to bring together small businesses with potential customers for open dialogue. The event was completely free for all to attend and provided an additional forum for discussion at the conference. It was especially helpful as the opportunity to schedule 1-1s with buyers was quickly filled up when made available online before the conference.

Aside from the highlights above, the #SOFDemonstration on #TampaBay was unforgettable. The large-scale scenario included numerous displays from special forces aircraft, divers, SEALs, ground vehicles, and more on the bay and around the Convention Center. The idea was the Mayor of Tampa had been captured and held hostage. #LittleBirds #Blackhawk #Snipers #groundforces #Armoredvehicles and a variety of #watercraft came together to portray a very real scenario with simulated (real blanks) live fire. With heavy fire all around and the smell of #gunpowder fresh in the air, tourists in Tampa that might have been unaware of the conference undoubtedly got the surprise of a lifetime.

There was without question a sense of urgency in terms of pacing threats and the speed of technology development, however, it seemed to be paired with a new openness to work with industry to identify and implement solutions faster. Having government decision-makers actively work to make themselves accessible to industry partners left me with a sense of optimism, and a conference experience I will never forget.

 More to come soon…..

Ensuring High ROI on Conference Attendance

chelsea meggitt govmates

Conferences, industry days, forums, and other face-to-face activities have long been corporate marketing plan staples in every industry. These events can create an environment that brings together prospects and existing customers, competitors, partners, and suppliers under one roof to network and make lasting impressions. When the number of in-person events dropped during the pandemic many companies significantly scaled back marketing efforts and spending to save costs elsewhere. After all, conference attendance can get expensive when adding the cost of admission, travel, lodging, meals, transportation, and time away from work to attend.

For many small businesses in the government contracting market, these events can be invaluable in the networking, brand awareness, lead generation, and customer interaction opportunities they can provide.  While it is incredibly important to be cost-conscious as a small business in the defense industry, the return of in-person events presents a unique opportunity to get back in front of the prospects you care about. When it comes to conferences in the federal sector, where you are matters. With hundreds if not thousands of events being produced and held specifically for the federal sector every year, it’s clearly not practical to attend every show that seems interesting.

The following ten tips will help you make sure you see a positive ROI and get the best results from conferences you decide to attend.

  1. Start with the basics: Ask yourself what you want to accomplish by attending an event. Identify your goals and narrow them down to a primary objective.
  2. Then determine which events cater to your market or niche. Make a list to start from by checking industry associations, pages like govevents, trade media, or even with large prime contractors. Then, narrow it down by looking into the event producer. Are they reputable with a history of successful, large-scale, well-attended events or do they have very little evidence of successful past events?
  3. What does it cost to attend or exhibit? Is it local? Do you have to send multiple employees to host a booth? Determine the expense of time, money, personnel and compare to the ROI that would be expected from that.
  4. Next, if it is an annual or bi-annual event, what does attendance at previous conferences look like? How many people, exhibitors, competitors, and leaders in your industry typically attend?
    1. In-person events like AFCEA WEST boasted somewhere in the ballpark of 14,000 attendees in the years pre-pandemic, the return of the in-person event in 2022 (two years into the pandemic) boasted half of that level with about 7,000 attendees
    2. The number of attendees is also important to consider when thinking about potential visibility. Small businesses especially need to understand how to stand out amongst the masses of other attendees.

Now that you have decided on the conference(s) to attend you’ll want to make the most of your attendance.

  1. Study attendee lists and floor plans. Make a list of the exhibitors, attendees, speakers, prospects, and competitors you want to meet with. Take note of where they will be and when.
  2. Schedule meetings ahead of time and identify the conference sessions you want to attend along with what you want to get out of them. Plan to have an elevator speech as well as a more focused pitch for meetings with prospective customers. Bring materials for taking notes and capturing information at the meetings, panels, and sessions you attend.
  3. Whenever possible come prepared with specific opportunities to talk to target prospects about. Bring specific and relevant informational materials, projects of mutual interest, or specific synergistic capabilities, not general info that will get lost in the weeds
  4. Plan to advertise your attendance before you go! Utilize the hashtags, follow the event page for updates, post about your attendance on social media, use linkedin and other channels to determine who is talking about and attending the event and actively engage with their content. Write brief notes about what you’re getting out of the conference at the time and be sure to tag people that are at the conference that you want to see or have already met with on linkedin and other socials as well.
  5. If you exhibit— take the right tchotchkes. In the age of cyber awareness, most vendors know computers in the federal sector are locked down yet year after year I continue to see companies bringing USB drives or other plug-ins. Bringing SWAG that shows the lack of market awareness can do more harm than good. Alternatively, great giveaways are not only memorable but lasting. Several years ago, I was at a ChallengeHER event at which attendees each received a Rebecca Minkoff canvas bag that says, “Shop Small”. Due to the quality and the lasting message, I still use the bag to this day.
  6. Finally, don’t forget to do a write-up after you attend! Let people who couldn’t attend live vicariously and give them the highlights, share the knowledge you gained, and follow up with everyone you met. Make sure to take note of what worked and what didn’t as well as noting whether there might be interest in exhibiting or speaking at a future conference. Follow up with hashtags and quick notes with photos during the event AND after the event to stir up buzz about your attendance and start conversations for weeks and months after the event.

Conferences and other industry events can be invaluable resources for growing small businesses. These tips will help you pick the best events and identify and maximize ROI on the events you decide to attend.

 

Resources

https://www.searchenginepeople.com/blog/trade-show-marketing-roi.html

https://www.eventbrite.com/blog/measure-event-roi-ds00/

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140407175924-78504-how-to-optimize-your-roi-from-attending-conferences

https://washingtontechnology.com/opinion/2020/03/understanding-the-challenge-of-short-attention-spans/354676/

 

https://www.govevents.com/blog/2020/09/23/event-selection-criteria-for-exhibitors-sponsors/

 

Government Use of Other Transaction Authority (OTA) in 2022

2022

A growing buzz term in Government Contracting over the past several years has been Other Transaction Authority (OTA) or Other Transaction (OT). Chances are if you work in the government contracting industry you have heard the term. Since the 2015 and 2016 NDAAs Congress has made several adjustments to clarify and expand the use of OTA. For example, in FY 2018, Congress enacted a law requiring the DoD to prefer the use of OTs for science and technology and prototype programs.

Most of the OTs the public will see are run with a consortium-based model, in which an intermediary third-party firm (consortium manager) forms a consortium usually focused on a specific technology focus area and acts as the facilitator for the government-industry interactions. These consortia are marketed as a more efficient and lower barrier to entry way to work with the Department of Defense and Civilian Government agencies.

A comprehensive list of all the OTA consortia is hard to come by, but this list by MITRE’s AiDA (Acquisition in the Digital Age) is typically up to date. Benefits for small businesses participating in these consortia can include increased visibility with government and prime customers, faster funding, more teaming opportunities, and cost share requirements that incentivize large prime contractors to work with non-traditional small companies.

The increase in spend on OTs is not surprising considering an OT approach allows government to get money out the door faster than traditional FAR contracting and gives the government substantially more flexibility when forming business arrangements with industry members. Jon Harper summarized the explosion of growth in the use of OTAs in a 2019 article in National Defense Magazine 

“The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act expanded their application. OTAs are now available for basic, applied and advanced research projects and for prototype projects and follow-on production, noted the Govini report titled, “Evaluating the Innovative Potential of Other Transaction Authority Investments.”

“To ensure U.S. military advantage, it is imperative for DoD to partner with businesses and academia to incorporate innovative technological advancements into military capability,” the study said. “DoD is increasingly using OTAs to leverage commercial technology for research and prototyping.”

Following the change in the NDAA, obligation totals grew by 122 percent, eventually reaching a total of $3.4 billion in fiscal year 2018, according to the report.”

Rolling into Calendar Year 2022 the trend towards OT use hasn’t changed. In fact, the government’s use of OTAs has skyrocketed going from $3.4 Billion in 2018 to over $7 Billion in 2019 and the global pandemic served to accelerate the trend. Early predictions for OTA spending in 2021 top $12.5 Billion on COVID related expenses alone according to an article in NextGov.

“Congress allocated trillions of dollars to federal agencies to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and, in an effort to get that money out the door quickly, the top three spenders awarded more than $12.5 billion using an opaque acquisition method known as other transaction authorities, or OTAs, according to a government analysis.”

With an increased focused on supply chain surety and technological advancements via R&D it’s likely the trend towards OTA spending will increase.

For industry looking to capitalize on the OTA BOOM they’ll have a maze to navigate of various OTA consortia with different managing entities that have different philosophies on what an OT really should be. Most, if not all require annual membership dues of $250 or more and what industry members will find behind the closed access doors of the members only portal varies with the management firm.

To ensure small businesses capture the value available via OTs it’s important they keep their eye on the prize when adding OTs to their contracting portfolios. Here are some tips for picking consortia to join:

  1. Do your research on the Management Entity
    1. What is their philosophy/what role do they take?
    2. What benefits does membership receive?
  2. Make sure the technology focus areas, sponsors (DoD, Civilian, other), and previously awarded technology profiles align with the business’s strategic direction
  3. Check if cross consortia membership is available and supported by the management entity. You want to get visibility with multiple sponsors and ensure cross-domain solutions are realized where appropriate.

Resources: 

https://aida.mitre.org/ota/existing-ota-consortia/ 

https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2019/7/9/ota-agreements–exploding-in-popularity

https://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2021/08/watchdog-covid-19-spending-using-otas-had-less-oversight-transparency-usual/184253/

 

Government Contracts in 2021 – What’s Ahead?

government contract

Government Contracts in 2021 are much more favorable to new vendors, now is the time to expand your business in this sector.

The Government Spent More During the Pandemic Than it Did Pre-Pandemic:

 According to the data released by Bloomberg Government on October 6, 2020 civilian agencies spent a whopping 17% more in FY 2020 than in FY 2019. At $228 Billion for FY 2020, civilian agencies spent $33.5 Billion more than in FY 2019.

Spending did not increase unilaterally across agencies though. With the pandemic raging, spending increased most in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with the Department of Energy (DOE) also increasing. For HHS, contracting obligations jumped from $26.6 billion in fiscal 2019 to $41.2 billion in fiscal 2020, an increase of about 55%!

If you provide medical supplies, materials, or equipment now would be a great time to look at HHS which accounted for about 44% of the overall increase in civilian spending. 

The Government is Capable of Change, But it is Not as Coordinated as Industry Might Have Hoped:

Thanks to the pandemic we saw the government make some notable changes during 2020. One significant change was the rapid shift from on-site, face-to-face industry days to substantially more virtual industry days.  For many agencies it became clear quickly that there would not be a way to safely invite contractors to their sites for industry days during 2020. As a result, the pandemic really put change management on a stage.

Many agencies shifted their focus to using government compliant platforms to host virtual information sessions instead of asking contractors to fork up the cost of travel to attend industry days. This shift to virtual events paid off for both industry and government with attendance at virtual industry events far exceeding in-person events. According to Melissa Oh with the Department of Homeland Security’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) , virtual industry days are here to stay. Not only do these virtual events make government contracting more accessible for small businesses it also gives the government an opportunity to get familiar with providers throughout the country.

This is a win-win situation that will act as a door opener for businesses that have not previously contracted with the government.

On-Ramps and Best-in-Class Contracting Vehicles

As part of a strong small business government contracting strategy, leaders should be preparing for the onslaught of contracting vehicle on ramps scheduled to happen in 2021.  Contract vehicles slated for release in 2021 include the NITAAC CIO-SP4 solicitation, 8(a) STARS III award, and the SeaPort-NxG On-Ramp solicitation.

In 2020 the most successful small businesses made themselves available to their government customers using numerous Multiple Award Contracts (MACs) to make as many funding avenues available as possible. According to the folks over at TargetGov, “aggressively growing small businesses pursue and win multiple MACS, with the top small businesses holding 13 MACs on average.” 

This might seem like a lot of work for an uncertain reward but making the government customer’s job easier by providing easily accessible funding avenues will pay off. 

Resources: 

https://fcw.com/articles/2020/10/27/virtual-industry-days-here-to-stay.aspx 

https://www.govexec.com/management/2020/12/report-pandemic-likely-dominate-federal-contracting-fiscal-2021/171032/ 

https://alphabrook.com/blog/selling-to-the-federal-government-in-2021