Competitive Intelligence Spotlight #2: Chad Ehrmantraut, Senior Director of CI/PTW at Perspecta

Chad Ehrmantraut, Senior Director of CI/PTW at Perspecta

Chad Ehrmantraut, senior director of Competitive Intelligence (CI) and Pricing To Win (PTW) with Perspecta, recently spoke with ArchIntel to provide an overview of competitive intelligence, including how it can be applied to grow businesses as well as exploit competition, and the ethics inherent in the process. 

“I think that the biggest thing I see is that companies can overlook or devalue how competitors will attempt to exploit our own weaknesses. Much like we look at competition, our competitors around the beltway are sitting in board rooms analyzing Perspecta’s strengths and attempting to exploit our weaknesses. 

Executive Mosaic: How did Perspecta construct a competitive intelligence team?

“At Perspecta, we built a team of very strong analysts that are incredibly knowledgeable about the federal IT and professional services market.  Our CI Team is predominantly aligned to customer segments. That said, they’ve been cross-trained so that if one analyst is completely overwhelmed in defense, you’ve got somebody in civil who can flex and support them. 

I also have a team of CI leaders that are focused on analyzing our wins and losses to understand how we have fared historically against various competitors.  This team does an exceptional job analyzing customer debriefs and collecting lessons learned to understand how we scored in a given customer set or a different type of work.  This work provides a great window into understanding what a customer values and it is a critical input into the Price to Win (PTW) function.”

Executive Mosaic: How do you know that you gather the best information possible?

“A good competitive intelligence analyst knows where to get data. An analyst also understands where information may be flawed, incomplete or inaccurate. I think there’s clear fact-based information that you can point to and say that is absolutely fact, but there are also gray areas of rumor intelligence. 

You do have to balance that and take some of that with a grain of salt. A good analyst understands the marketplace and can learn to separate fact from fiction. A lot of that comes with experience, understanding the market and the competition. 

CI analysts are typically dealing with incomplete information, but they’re trying to triangulate data points.  As an analyst collects more data points, the individual can become more comfortable with the conclusions they are making with their analysis.  But a good analyst knows when they have enough data to make an informed decision. 

CI Analysts use a variety of tools to develop their analysis.  While a good analyst is trained in how to use these tools, a great analyst is one who can to understand their limitations and flaws in the data.  In an effort to create a force multiplier, we spend a lot of time coaching and training people on how to develop effective, actionable competitive intelligence.”

Executive Mosaic: How does Perspecta recruit talent for competitive intelligence and analysis, and what skills are essential for the role?

“We’re looking for someone with an analytical mindset. A great CI analyst will typically have a competitive spirit and is one that will constantly question data to arrive at actionable conclusions. 

In the context of an opportunity pursuit, we are looking for individuals that love to compete.  As analysts, we are doing everything we can understand our competitors’ strengths and to exploit their weaknesses.  That competitive spirit is a critical attribute of a strong CI analyst.

A good analyst is somebody who recognizes when they have everything they need to make an informed decision, not a gut decision. It’s also crucial to have data to back up your conclusions and to have confidence in the story that the data is telling us.

I also think competitive intelligence skills can serve as a great foundation for other roles in a BD organization.  I have seen many CI professionals transition to become very successful Business Development Executives and Capture Managers.”

Executive Mosaic: How do you measure the success within competitive intelligence?

“I look at return users. If people are coming back to me consistently, or my team consistently, it says that they’re getting value out of the information that we’re providing. I think we’re creating success. 

We can provide value along that entire continuum from helping you identify an opportunity and going all the way through the qualification process up until time of award. Early engagement is a metric of success. But most importantly, the work that we do has to be actionable. If it’s not actionable; it’s not creating value.  As an example, we generate a whole series of recommendations as a result of a black hat. That’s kind of what it culminates into, and then we will assign those to individuals as part of the capture team and we’ll track their progress. 

Effective Competitive Intelligence starts with early engagement.  I like to think that we are an extension of the Capture team and that our expertise is being solicited early and often. I think if people are entrusting us and engaging us early, those are clear indicators that we’re doing something right.”

Executive Mosaic: What are the ethical implications that are tied to integrating competitive intelligence into a business?

“This is huge to me. You have to acknowledge that it’s a really fine line to walk. When I run Black Hats, the first slide focuses on ground rules. The first, and most important rule is to NOT solicit or offer any proprietary information. I’m not looking for competitors’ wrap rates and I’m not looking for the understanding of salary data or anything else that I can’t find in the public domain. Everything that we discuss will be based on publicly-available, non-proprietary information.

Some people might be thinking that they’re actually adding value by giving you something that quite honestly, we don’t want to see. They think they’re doing something good where they don’t even know that it’s proprietary. As such, we over-communicate this ground rule.  It’s something we take incredibly seriously.”

Executive Mosaic: What are some of the things that people will tend to overlook in competitive intelligence?

“I think that the biggest thing I see is that companies can overlook or devalue how competitors will attempt to exploit our own weaknesses. Much like we look at competition, our competitors around the beltway are sitting in board rooms analyzing Perspecta’s strengths and attempting to exploit our weaknesses.   

We spent a lot of time honestly assessing our own weaknesses because I think that makes us better. It makes us more prepared and it makes us stronger in the long run if we can take action to mitigate those weaknesses. If our company has had some performance hiccups on a given contract, we have to assume that our competition knows this. By being honest about ourselves, we can take action to improve our position and elevate our probability of success.

We also train people on things that they shouldn’t put on their LinkedIn profiles because that can be an incredible source of competitive intelligence that you’d hate to have out there for another competitor to use for their advantage. I’ve seen LinkedIn profiles where program managers boast of financial metrics, FTE counts, etc.

One, that is probably proprietary, but two? You don’t want that information out there for your own staff because people are going to take that information and use it to their advantage. That can often be a blind spot for people.  The workforce is so focused on exploiting competition that they don’t think about ourselves in that process. 

We’re playing offense by trying to take the contract, but we’re not thinking about playing defense. That is an area where we’ve pushed hard to try and educate people and make them sensitive to the fact that it can be a big risk if we don’t really think and evaluate the information that’s out there that could be used against us.”