Agencies want the best value solutions, and SAIC’s Bruce Feldman seeks to deliver them
The needs of the federal government are changing, and the GovCon community must also change. So says Bruce Feldman, senior vice president of business development for SAIC’s national security and space industry.
We spoke to Feldman about the changing landscape and how SAIC is keeping pace, shifting from a focus on people and expertise to an emphasis on technology and specific agency results.
How are the needs of your federal clients changing?
Previously, the focus was on “low, technically acceptable price,” or LPTA. The industry learned that if you met the minimum requirements and had the lowest price, you would win. But customers were not satisfied with the results. What they wanted and needed was an exceptional performance.
Now the pendulum has swung back to a “best value” determination. We in the industry need to have more than one value proposition.
How is SAIC reacting?
You need to show the customer that not only are their requirements going to be met, but that you’re going to provide a capability that they value beyond what the tender requires of you. You must be able to provide a capability that ensures the government will effectively achieve mission results.
To that end, we’ve identified five campaigns in the industry where we have a strong technology push and a relatively well-defined client account space, with a lot of overlap between the two. We are now able to speak to a relatively small set of clients about the capabilities that help them move towards their vision for the future.
What does this actually mean for you as a business development manager?
This means that our BD teams, our capture teams and our solution architects are now aligned with our campaign. They learn more about customers. They learn more about how customers buy. It’s really important.
It’s also very consistent with the fact that SAIC is shifting from a professional services orientation to a solutions delivery capability. It’s not about providing bodies, but providing capabilities that improve mission results. When you bring people and systems together, you can do a lot with that.
It looks like a major shift in focus. . . ?
Yes. Over the past two years, we’ve moved away from purely professional services ⏤ providing the smartest people in the room, providing excellent staff augmentation. We are building a suite of capabilities including systems, hardware and software.
We take these capabilities and integrate them with other capabilities that exist in the commercial market, to provide a complete solution to a customer problem or set of problems, and all the labor required to install that solution and make it work the way the customer wants it to.
What are you doing internally to support this?
We call on people who know how to deliver wins in a solution-based environment. We hire people who are very competent in this area. And we have a strong training program. We have people who are less experienced, mid-level early career people, and we bring them in and mature them into this new comic book culture. We have our own “Farming System” program, which helps people grow throughout their careers.
One of my areas of focus has been building a very strong BD talent development program around client engagement, proposal capture and preparation. We recognize that there are changes we need to make in the way we talk to customers and market to customers and interact with customers.
And is there an organizational and cultural element that goes along with that?
At BD, passion is important: your drive and desire to achieve the best possible outcome, not only for the company, but also for the customer and for the workforce. One of the things we’re doing to support this is building an exciting suite of trade-priced offerings, capabilities, and abilities.
When the BD person talks to the customer and they can walk them through how they can get a better outcome, that’s almost the definition of great, passionate engagement.
On the other hand, what is the biggest challenge you face?
We have many customers who know us as a system engineering integration service provider, staff augmentation provider. We need to change that brand space.
It starts with a highly effective marketing communications program. This includes a focus on how we present ourselves in the global social media space. The rising generation of government decision makers have been raised in a digital environment and are very familiar with social media. It’s really critical.
After almost 30 years in GovCon, what makes it all exciting for you?
At BD, it’s very exciting to create an environment where this passion shines through. I want to help my employees to succeed, to give the best of themselves and to develop their career path. I wonder: how do you get people to work together most effectively? That’s what drives me, creating an environment where I see this stuff happening. It’s a very good place to be.