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Teaming

Baskar Sundaram

The larger and more complex a contract opportunity, the more likely it is that prime bidders (especially small businesses) will need to form teams of multiple companies to provide the resources and solutions required in an RFP. Teaming with other businesses can help companies fill competency gaps and increase their win probability. An effective teaming strategy can significantly improve a bidder’s win probability, while a poorly executed strategy can create serious performance, reputation, legal, and financial problems.

Determine objectively whether teaming is needed to strengthen a win strategy or a competitive position.

Adequate collection of Customer Requirements analysis and Competitor analysis intelligence leads to development of preliminary win strategies, solution approaches, and price-to-win estimates. This leads to generation of a list of required resources and capabilities needed to win. Potential bidders should conduct a rigorous and honest self-assessment to identify gaps and deficiencies in their in-house resources and capabilities. Compile the results in a tabular array such as the Solution Worksheet. It is important to generate corporate management support for teaming scenarios and convince them that teaming would significantly increase the win probability.

Identify, evaluate, select, and recruit teaming partners.

Teaming partners should be selected primarily on their ability to increase win probability and secondarily on their ability to work cohesively with the team and customer under the conditions of the proposed contract.

Potential teaming candidates can be identified from market intelligence collected in the following areas:

○ Incumbent contractor(s)

○ Likely competitors for the targeted procurement

○ Other contractors known by the customer

○ Other players in key technology, capability, or geographic markets

Fill out a Bidder Comparison Matrix. Use data to identify an optimum mix of teaming candidates that strengthen your weaknesses and improve your score based on expected evaluation criteria. If you have a working relationship with a potential teaming partner, then choose the most appropriate point of contact and call him or her for exploratory discussions about the possible contract. Otherwise reach out on a peer-to-peer basis.

Use personal and professional contacts in the customer’s organization, industry, and local community to build a perception of the firm. Conduct market research (e.g., Google, D&B, industry publications) to gauge the company’s performance and reputation. When you have identified and vetted the best potential team members, you must invite and convince each to join the team, in priority order. Avoid detailed discussions of win strategies until the firm has committed to joining the team and signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Select the most appropriate team structure.

When you have successfully recruited the key companies on the team (or beforehand if possible), determine which teaming structure will be the most competitive. Team structures can vary depending on the contract vehicle, size, complexity, type of service or product provided, and other factors. The most common team structures include:

Traditional prime/subteam

A prime contractor supported by team subcontractors identified as such in the proposal.

Joint venture team

Two or more companies form a new legal entity (a joint venture, or JV) that is usually dedicated to bid and perform the targeted contract. The JV functions as a prime contractor and may or may not have team subcontractors.

Partner arrangement

Each organization has a separate contractual arrangement with the customer.

Prime contractor with subcontractor pools

The prime contractor identifies numerous subcontractors that might perform various portions of the contract.

Mentor-protégé arrangements

These are formal relationships between large and small businesses set up to achieve small business subcontracting goals.

Company-specific versus integrated project teams

This is a service delivery or project management choice. When you have a multicompany team, you should decide whether you will subcontract complete, projectized scopes of work to a single company who would perform the entire subproject with its own employees, or if you will form project teams made of employees from multiple companies who agree to follow the direction of a single Project Manager.

Negotiate and document effective teaming agreements and subcontracts.

The terms and conditions of the teaming and subcontracting arrangements must be mutually acceptable to both the prime contractor and subcontractor. They also must be acceptable to the customer if it has any visibility into or approval authority over the arrangement. If there are multiple team subcontractors or members of a JV, then terms and conditions must be coordinated and cohesive across all relationships. Teaming agreements should be negotiated by officials with decision-making authority, reviewed and approved by Corporate Legal Specialists.

The legal, financial, and competitive consequences can be significant if appropriate responsibilities and restrictions are not clearly specified in a teaming agreement. Teaming agreements should include:

○ Clearly defined scopes of work, product or service specifications, and targeted percentages of work volume or value (if appropriate)

○ Clearly delineated types and levels of participation in opportunity and proposal activities

○ Specified allocation or sharing of opportunity and proposal costs (often limited to third-party expenditures as opposed to in-house costs)

Legally binding confidentiality agreements, clauses requiring exclusivity of bidding/teaming on the targeted procurement, and clauses specifying the allowable reasons for and legal procedures, cost reconciliation, and limitations on future ability to bid on the targeted procurement should a member wish to terminate its participation before award of the targeted contract.

Optimize and strengthen the competitiveness of the team.

When a team has been formed, always “Package” and use strengths effectively to maximize the team’s competitiveness and win probability. For example:

○ Leverage skills from across the team.

○ Begin working together right away.

○ Manage and highlight important assets.

Objectively assess your company’s resources and capabilities to identify gaps and deficiencies compared to the customer’s expectations and competitors’ capabilities. Determine if teaming with selected companies could create a winning bid. Choose teaming partners based on their ability to increase the win probability and ability to work cohesively with the team and customer under the conditions of the proposed contract. Assemble your team by recruiting the selected companies, clearly negotiating defined roles and responsibilities, and codifying the arrangements in legally binding teaming agreements. Optimize and manage the team to maximize your competitive position and win probability.

The article briefly details key examinable syllabus area from the APMP Foundation certification.

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