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Nine Lives; Eight Deaths -- Using PTW To Keep Your Powder Dry For Winnable Competitions (10-23-2007)

For whatever reason -- heightened competition, maintaining incumbency in a consolidating world, irrational optimism, ignorance -- this year seems to be drawing larger casts of bidders to "winner take all" competitions. Let's be clear here, I'm not talking multiple awards.
Recently we supported a brace of several hundred-million-dollar opportunities with PTW studies. Nothing remarkable there. What made these jobs memorable was that both of them drew NINE bid teams apiece, and all 18 bid teams developed and submitted complex and costly proposals. Being more than passingly curious about such situations, we got to thinking about how 9 teams contestants manage to convince themselves that they can become the annointed one.
By polling the field of likely and possible bidders, we determined that most of the bid teams involved probably didn't realize, or possibly didn't care, that there were 8 others. The remedy for this type of ignorance is research, since, as is often said: Hope Is Not a Strategy. Nor, however, is listening to a customer's sweet talk along the lines of "you guys have a real shot at this one!"
Another issue is that, in a world of rapidly consolidating government contracts, many of the bid teams are/were protecting a measure of incumbency. We wonder if firms in this category did a risk/reward study that established a pWin by balancing the risks of going it alone (and losing their incumbency as well as wasting beaucoup B&P dollars) against the possible reward if they can overcome the other partial incumbent primes, and the large aggregator insurgents. In most cases, the miserable pWin associated with going it alone should have convinced even the most isolationist of firms to try to join another bid team with a healthier pWin or, simply terminate the pursuit.
Admittedly, there were probably good reasons that all of teams that actually submitted proposals should have considereda bid. That, however, is a far cry from actually submitting a bid when the chances of success are slim to none. One observation we have made over the years is that it is easier to set a capture process in motion than it is to stop one that has little chance of success. The compelling reasons for commissioning an independent PTW study as early as possible in the capture process is:
  • to ensure that sufficient situational awareness is developed; and
  • to develop a realistic pWin.
If warranted, this information would be used by responsible business developers to recommend folding the tent on an unwinnable opportunity. This way precious B&P is saved to fund another battle with a more positive outcome potential.
Good luck and happy hunting!
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