For many innovators entering new markets, finding partners, and identifying opportunities and resources can be challenging. USAID’s Global Development Lab has documented many cases where USAID implementing partners have provided critical support in these areas to innovators. USAID’s programs on the ground are implemented by a large group of implementing partners including private sector contractors, NGOs, Universities and many others. Innovators should view these implementing partners, who manage billions of dollars of USAID programs, as a potential source of funding, partnership, expertise, market knowledge, and much more.
Bland & Associates P.C. is an accounting, auditing, and consulting firm specializing in assurance, tax, strategic planning, and auditing for businesses, individuals, and local and Federal Governments. Bland’s engagement with the US Government started in the 90s mostly in an auditing capacity, which has grown into compliance oversight, data analysis, and consulting.
Bland is most recognized for its work with The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (the Innovation Center) within the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). For CMMI, Bland performs audit, compliance oversight, performance monitoring, and implementation for value-based care models, which involves a deep understanding of the contemporary healthcare models to better healthcare outcomes and cost of care in the country.
We recently connected with Garrett Gilbert, Senior Director of Strategy at the firm to learn more about how this long-time federal contractor is working to remain competitive, build intelligence and achieve scale.
“Whether you look at our bench strength, knowledge network, or our digital capabilities, OnFrontiers has helped us grow.”
– Garrett Gilbert, Senior Director of Strategy
As a smaller federal contractor, what are some of the key challenges you face when competing for new business?
The inherent challenge with government contracting is that each year, we are pushed to perform better for cheaper. To meet that demand, we are constantly finding new ways to create value and new markets to provide our services. As a small business, we need to be very tactical about our new business pursuits, which means assessing each opportunity and questioning how it aligns with our broader mission and vision. OnFrontiers is a critical part of our process for creating an information advantage by speaking with relevant experts.
After we thoroughly vet an opportunity and compare that information with data we gather through our competitive intelligence tools, we reach out to OnFrontiers with an Expert Request to connect with an expert who can either challenge our hypothesis or bolster it to maximize value. These conversations have led to follow-up meetings where they may review our technical proposal or make new connections that can help us refine our solution.
Can you share an example of a time an expert has really helped shape your approach or understanding of a client?
Across the federal landscape, each agency is at a different stage in its technology transformation journey. As a result, when doing internal controls assessments, we need to be cognizant about where an agency may be on that scale of technological maturity. By pulling in different professionals into our compliance and audit teams when needed through OnFrontiers, we have managed to improve our bench strength and respond to agencies that have varying technological needs with customized solutions attuned to their infrastructure and maturity. This is essential for developing actionable corrective action planning and unlocking performance insights. Through the process of involving OnFrontiers, we often assess the history and context of a customer’s pain point. The challenge can span multiple years, and understanding the various factors enabling the issue to persist enables us to deliver effective solutions that address the root cause of the challenge.
At a broader level, how is the company thinking about digital transformation and automation?
We are on a digital transformation journey. Across our industry, there is a strong emphasis on robotic process automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, and we have invested in these technologies to find new ways to create value and build capabilities for our customers. For example, by automating our sampling procedures we can algorithmically identify areas of noncompliance, moving away from human error and judgment while analyzing massive data sets. Simultaneously, we are improving our digital infrastructure, both for security and to improve the user experience. We have adopted low-code platforms, enabling our subject matter experts to automate workflows without having to learn a new computer language. This enables our subject matter experts to engage with the data throughout its lifecycle, creating new opportunities for curating insights, developing visualizations, and reducing single points of failure.
OnFrontiers has been a positive force for our digital transformation efforts, introducing us to experts who can help refine our business processes, and understand digital strategies used within our industry. This insight helps us deliver the right personnel and technology to exceed our customer’s expectations and solve complicated challenges.
Whether you look at our bench strength, knowledge network, or our digital capabilities, OnFrontiers has helped us grow. At Bland, we are committed to bringing the right personnel, technology, and solution to our customers to give them the best value, and collaborating with OnFrontiers helps us deliver on our commitment.
OnFrontiers is changing how companies get smarter, on-demand. Learn more.
Expertise is highly situational — that is, it depends on the need or the gap being filled. In that case, an “Expert” is defined as the right person who can help you move forward on your project. “expertise” could be described as skills and talent, sector or industry, or seniority and experience.
Cuba, the largest country by land area in the Caribbean, has been all over the news this week following interest in investment by US companies, namely Google or Airbnb. The home rental company just launched 1,000 brand new listings–only available to Americans for now—in anticipation of an upcoming boom in tourism. Netflix launched a streaming service recently, and JetBlue added a charter flight to Cuba from Tampa, even though travel to the Caribbean island is still limited.
What’s all the fuss about?
Last December the United States announced restrictions would be lifted in the island after over 50 years of embargo that goes back to the Cold War. Communist Fidel Castro, who became premier in 1959, led the country until his brother Raul took over in 2008.
The Obama administration, however, hasn’t completely normalized trade and diplomatic relations with Cuba, yet, and it will likely take years until many laws can be changed. Some Cubans, like freelance journalist Marta María Ramírez, are skeptical about the lifting of the embargo. Currently, Cubans are able to only legally sell certain products to the United States.
The Cuban economy is centrally-planned—run in the most part by the military— and has been severely affected by the crises in its main creditors Venezuela and Russia.
What does this mean for business?
It is expected that the policy change will open up significant opportunities for US agricultural and telecommunications exports. Only 5% of 11.27 million Cubans have access to fixed broadband Internet, and only 18% have a mobile phone according to the World Bank. One hour of Internet access at a [legal] cafe can reportedly cost $4.50, which is around what a Cuban makes in a week. Wi-Fi equipment without a license is illegal in Cuba, where the Internet is considered one of the most controlled in the world.
Ramírez, based on the island, tells OnFrontiers that enterprises flourish despite the restrictions. Some are making things happen—websites, apps, video games, are LGBTI magazines are just a few examples of what is going on underground. Others can only dream of developing their ideas due to the ‘almost non-existent connectivity,’ Ramírez regrets. It is clear that an end of the embargo would trigger an economic boom in Cuba.
Remittances are crucial for the country. The island receives roughly $5.1 billion from the US according to an article by Jennifer M. Harris in Fortune. Harris claims that ‘remittances total more than the four fastest growing sectors of the Cuban economy combined.’
According to the US Treasury, the limits on remittances sent to the country have now been raised from $500 per quarter to $2,000 per quarter. Additionally, “certain remittances to Cuban nationals for humanitarian projects, support for the Cuban people, or development of private businesses are now generally authorized.”
Judging by the interest of Airbnb, Cuban real estate will be a very hot market. There is increasing interest from US citizens in investing in real estate, as Allen and Vyas highlight in an article for the Wall Street Journal. Currently, Americans can’t own any property in Cuba, but many are getting ready by talking to potential sellers or by figuring out legal loopholes.
Obama, who made the decision through executive authority, expects the Republican-backed Congress to lift the embargo in its totality. The change in diplomatic relations would bring countless opportunities for the US private sector and Cuban entrepreneurs, but the legal systems in both countries will need to adapt to the new reality in order for the private sector to be protected when entering the market.
Get smart fast on business opportunities across frontier markets
To gain additional insights on Cuba or other developing markets from top industry professionals, contact OnFrontiers today at email@example.com
Founded in 2014, OnFrontiers is a global advisory network and research firm that provides rapid access to targeted, high quality insights in hard to reach frontier markets.
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