Gerard Werner, director of corporate intelligence with Maximus, recently spoke with ArchIntel regarding success within competitive intelligence, creating an efficient team, how data and technology has shifted across the marketplace as well as how parametrics leads to successful analysis and developing a corporate strategy that integrates competitive intelligence.
“Competitive intelligence is crucial to understand how business works. You need to understand not only the way your company wants to grow with an overhead perspective, but you also need the knowledge of what is the strategic importance of these markets.”
ArchIntel: How do you measure success within the competitive intelligence sector?
“The way I measure success is by increasing the price to win, or the bids that we can anticipate that we’re going to win. By coming in with corporate intelligence, the goal is to increase our value and win more work over time.
One of the factors in all of our cases is price. You have to understand where your competitors are in terms of position or where your partners are working, any recent acquisitions they’ve made and any information you can collect to glean from the outside world.
Success can also be measured by your network. You can develop and look at what you believe your competitors are doing. Losing bids is probably the largest growth of intelligence out there because win or lose, you’re able to find out why you lost and who won. From there, you can compare yourself not just strategically, but price-wise.”
ArchIntel: In terms of growing competitive intelligence within Maximus, how is your division expanding and how do you create a talented team?
“We have so much data out there. We draft, win and lose proposals all the time. There’s so much data out there that most companies don’t do anything with it. I prefer to use the data that’s available to create a parametric type of estimating approach to these things.
That includes an understanding of how much it really costs to do proposals, how much per proposal as well as how we can streamline the proposal process to take advantage of the open source data and cut costs. It’s hard to believe that we can’t develop a new offering or market with the sheer amount of data and information that’s available to everyone.
If you could estimate all the elements of any given pending bid, you would save a company millions of dollars from a proposal process. Whenever you initiate a proposal, the process starts all over again at the very beginning.
However, if we could develop parametrics and estimate action based on historic work that we’ve done, we already know half of what we need to do to complete that proposal. If we could utilize those factors, that would make us successful from a proposal standpoint, and enable us to build an efficient program.
With parametrics, when you go to sell to the government, you base your proposal off of historical data to show that this is proven to be successful. Additionally, you can show that it has been tested and the effort that was required to complete that work.”
ArchIntel: How do you break into a new market and how is that integrated into your corporate strategy?
“To break into the market, there are two approaches that I believe are successful. The first one is to go in and trade. You can go into one of your competitors as a subcontractor and make a bartering deal. That will help you get your foot into the door and allow you to understand the customer.
After that, you’ll be able to branch off and grow your own division. The other approach is IRND. Through this approach, you’ll be able to know your customer, talk to them and understand what they need or want.
To do so, you start a project on your IRND to develop it, then go to the customer to show them the progress. This can enable your company to steer that program right to you. If you develop that relationship, you can win.
Success is easy. Losing is the hard part, but the more you lose, the smarter you become because now you know the pitfalls and what you did wrong. You can navigate the minefield. Based on your loss you can fix that and find new success. It’s like batting practice. If you’re not out there, swinging every day, you’ll never hit .300.”
ArchIntel: In 1982, John Naisbitt wrote, “We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.” If everyone is working with the same information, how do you differentiate your company?
“It’s about combining all the different aspects of a company together. Your sales team will want the lowest price because they want to win, and other teams will want to get the highest possible price because that will boost their earnings.
Within competitive intelligence, you’re stuck in the middle ground. You have to be realistic to understand your competitor’s price, but you also have to know when it’s enough. You always look for that balance.
You have to be able to blend the divisions’ perspective into an end product that you can bring to your executive board for approval because proposals are hundreds of millions of dollars. There are a lot of competing and conflicting agendas you need to be aware of. You can’t allow the outside pressures to influence you.”
ArchIntel: How do you draft a competitive intelligence report to deliver actionable insights?
“I’ll take an independent team of technical people, in fields like finance and others to create an evaluation separate from the proposal team. I’ll take the independent evaluation to our competitive intelligence team, and we will further explain the assumptions that we made in the report. We’ll also go back and forth to see if there’s anything that we missed from our initial report, and gain a different perspective on the analysis.
Once we’ve completed that step, that’s our final analysis which includes a rationale for each perspective that we developed. Independence is key because it allows you to compare your report to another analysis. If we all agree, we’ll stick with it. However, we’ll have a debate with the other side of it that maybe doesn’t believe it.
Having the independence and having those two different types of teams come together is really important. That’s where the decision is going to be made– within the proposal and justification.”
ArchIntel: How do you develop a strong team within competitive intelligence?
“I look for people that have a well-rounded background. I want to see people that have a mixture of the entire corporation structure because you should have a strong financial strategy background to be successful in the sector.
If you only have one area of expertise, you can always learn the other one. It’s just more challenging because it takes time to learn. It’s not something that you learn within a year or two. It’s something that you’re going to develop over your career, and you need those well-rounded people. You can’t do it without them.
We need somebody with years of experience, that will come in and can lead people. You have to be able and willing to go to the executive board, pitch your case and answer their questions. That is why being well-rounded is critical.
Having a 23-year-old kid would be great, but you really need that senior-level person to come in and to run these teams. You have to really understand business. You have to understand the strategies associated with your market. You get that experience in the early years of your career.”