OnFrontiers helps team ICS Federal dislodge incumbent to win recompete award through expert matching

By Morgan Johnson | 12 April 2021

Charlie Painter, VP of Business Development for ICS Federal, knew he was in a precarious position on an opportunity he’d been tracking for months. He knew his proposal was good, but wasn’t confident that it was good enough

He requested an expert through OnFrontiers to support his team and the expert provided detailed information about the specific opportunity, the incumbent, and even participated in multiple color team reviews — ultimately leading to a successful award for the ICS Federal Team.

The Challenge of Differentiating on a Competitive Opportunity

Charlie and his team at ICS Federal had been pursuing an opportunity coming up for rebid with the Department of Homeland Security. They had done their research, identified teaming partners, and spent weeks finalizing their proposal for submission. But just before submission in September 2020, DHS delayed the opportunity.

Despite all the work that had already been done, Charlie and his team decided they would take the opportunity to review their draft proposal and try to improve it further — this time taking advantage of the OnFrontiers platform which the team had recently signed up for.

“We were smart enough to know that this opportunity would be highly competed. What we had was good, but not good enough. We needed a differentiator,” Charlie told OnFrontiers.

Charlie requested an expert on “Administrative & Technical Support Services” at the specific office within DHS the team was bidding into. Charlie was looking for “an advisor able to discuss…  the Business Operations, Information Control Center, and Information Technology Center.

The ideal expert should be a former government or contractor employee who has supported this office at Department of Homeland Security, and can help [provide] an overview of the administrative and technical support services, specifically to the Business Operations, Information Control Center, and Information Technology Center.

Matching With The Expert from OnFrontiers

After Charlie submitted his initial request, shared the specific questions he wanted to discuss with the expert, and reviewed his needs with the Research Manager from OnFrontiers, experts were suggested and delivered within 48 hours, and Charlie selected one as a “match” less than three days later.

Steve, the expert Charlie matched with, had previously been the director of the exact office within DHS that Charlie was researching. He had also participated in the source selection committee of the last procurement for the contract and was able to answer every question the ICS Federal team had about the rebid opportunity, including the agency’s satisfaction with the incumbent’s performance, specific details about processes, and technologies utilized within the offices so the proposal team could ensure their solution was as informed as possible.

After we spoke to the expert, we re-wrote our entire proposal based on the details he shared. We came to OnFrontiers looking for an expert who could provide us with a differentiator. What differentiated us was the intimate knowledge we learned about the office systems. The ins and outs, the IT systems – everything. Steve was able to tell us the product, and even the version the office was using as their operating system. Nobody else apart from the incumbent could have had that level of detail.

Charlie Painter

Working With The Expert to Differentiate Their Proposal

The first engagement between ICS Federal and Steve was a 1-hour paid phone consultation over the OnFrontiers platform. A wealth of detailed information was shared with the team during that call, but the relationship didn’t stop there.

“During that first hour with Steve, it was very clear to me that he was exactly what I was looking for, but now I needed my proposal people, and my solutioning people to speak with him,” Charlie said. So he set up a consulting agreement with Steve to provide around 30 hours of work to support the proposal efforts over a 2 week period.

“Steve did some light writing for us, but not much. Primarily he helped by sitting down with us to look at the proposal as it was being developed. He participated in all of our color team reviews,” Charlie explained.

Charlie described 3 key ways that the expert was able to support his team and ultimately help win the award: IT Systems, Procedures, and Source Selection.

“We really didn’t have a good handle on the IT systems, which apps were being used – any of that. Steve was able to help us right away. He knew what was being used and how it was being used. And he even knew what systems the team wanted and what they were budgeting for,” Charlie explained. 

Steve provided the ICS Federal team with a similar level of detail about procedures. He knew about document preparation, routing, and approval procedures. In great detail, he walked through exactly what the processes looked like, which allowed the ICS Federal team to show a depth of knowledge and maturity of solution that other contractors simply couldn’t provide. 

As a specific example, Charlie shared that there was a particular section in the original statement of work about geospatial applications. “We couldn’t figure out what in the world this office was doing with geospatial applications based on the work they were doing,” he explained. “We spent a ton of time researching and googling, and weren’t able to find anything. But Steve was able to tell us exactly what the application was and how it was being used within a few minutes.”

One of the most important areas where Steve was able to provide value to the ICS team, was with the source selection committee. “Steve knew exactly who would be on the source selection committee and what their concerns would be,” Charlie shared. “We knew our proposal had to answer all the elements of technical capabilities, cost, and quality. But with Steve’s knowledge of the committee, we were able to understand who would be concerned about each part, and then rank and prioritize those elements most effectively.”

The Result was a Winning Bid 

This contract with DHS was a rebid opportunity ICS Federal was well placed to deliver on. The team tracked the opportunity, put together the correct partners and team, and wrote a high-quality proposal before the initial deadline was pushed back.

During that extension period, Charlie took advantage of the OnFrontiers platform to request an expert and ensure they had the best possible proposal, and a “differentiator” that could put them over the top compared to the other bidders, and especially compared to the incumbent.

Speaking with Steve allowed Charlie and his team to get specific details that would have been impossible to get through desk research, and could only be acquired by speaking with someone intimately knowledgeable about that particular office’s operations. Those details allowed Charlie and his team to write a proposal that had a more mature solution, and ultimately win the award.

Most small businesses in a proposal like this will end up talking about how they’ve done similar things before, they’ve got a great recruiting engine, they’ll keep the incumbent staff, etc. But they don’t talk about how they’ll do the work. I’ve been there before too. But in this case, the OnFrontiers expert helped us to speak in great detail about how we were going to do the work. And that takes away a lot of risk from the government side and ultimately helped us win the award.

Charlie Painter