The complexity of the SEWP mission has increased, along with the volume, and BI’s team has been leading at the forefront every step of the way.
Business Integra (BI) has supported the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP) Government-Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) for more than seven years, to date. During this time, we have developed new tools and helped the organization become the premier information technology purchasing vehicle across the government, with a throughput exceeding $10 billion per year. Despite handling orders from every single government agency, this impressive achievement has been realized with a small, dedicated team of staff.
Background: Astronomical Growth
NASA SEWP is the largest IT GWAC in the federal government, and it’s rocketing upward every year – last year broaching the $10 billion mark in throughput. As part of the NASA SEWP Information Technology Support Services (SITSS) team, BI’s tasks include developing and implementing all aspects of the necessary processes and procedures to manage that throughput while continuing the growth trajectory of the program.
During BI’s time with NASA the program has expanded from a few hundred million per year to the more than $10 billion that we see now, and is on track to gain another 20% — around another $2 billion –– this year alone. The complexity of the mission has increased, along with the volume, and BI’s team has been leading at the forefront every step of the way.
One major way we lead is by providing information to the customers – SEWP’s users – about why this vehicle is the right choice for them, as well as on how to use it. While not sales in the traditional sense, these educational ‘briefings’ and ‘trainings’ have long been a proven driver of growth. When more customers gain awareness of the value of our mission, more orders are placed through our vehicle.
"As easy as duck soup..."
FUN FACT: The duck mascot came to be associated with SEWP (pronounced ‘soup’) based on the saying “it will be as easy as duck soup.” According to Wikipedia, the phrase ‘duck soup’ is an old Americanism that refers to something that is very easy; a cinch; a breeze…
With the recent retirement of Darlene Coen, one of SEWP’s longstanding government executives and most vocal advocates, SEWP needed a new strategy to maintain trusted relationships with agency customers. To this end, the BI team researched effective outreach methods and training modalities intended to increase the effectiveness of these interactions. This led to the creation of START – the Strategic Training and Acquisition Resources Team. START is a consolidation of multiple mutually supportive areas of responsibility that were previously matrixed across multiple SEWP teams.
Before START was created, briefings and trainings were split between multiple internal teams. This often led to confusion and inefficient, overlapping customer outreach efforts.
START, currently comprised of six individuals and led by BI’s Mike Vinson, is a key driver of SEWP’s growth and success. Recognizing the value of customer education and the impact of personalized interactions, START identified that effective training is the cornerstone of customer satisfaction and success. By delving into the needs and preferences of the Federal Agencies, the team understood that, although virtual interactions have their place, face-to-face interactions provide a superior experience and instill a sense of confidence in SEWP’s capabilities. By investing heavily in effective in-person training, the team sought to empower customers with the knowledge and tools needed to make informed decisions and optimize their procurement processes.
In today’s ever-evolving technology landscape, staying up to date with the latest advancements is crucial for Federal Agencies. START understood that comprehensive training allows customers to navigate the complexities of SEWP efficiently, enabling them to maximize their potential and achieve their strategic goals while giving them the assurance that the support team in place – BI’s SITSS Program Management Office – has the knowledge, skills, availability, and experience to help them succeed.
Keys to Improvement: Awareness and Adaptability
The mission of START is to support Federal Agencies by imparting crucial information about SEWP and guiding them in harnessing its full potential. The team achieves this through hybrid and face-to-face meetings, fostering meaningful relationships with clients, and understanding their unique requirements.
While SEWP has been handling the relationships for many years, one problem in the past is that SEWP has frequently been disjointed, with the responsibility distributed between multiple teams. This increased the challenge and decreased the quality of responses provided to potential customers. Recognizing the significance of qualified and skilled trainers, the training supervisor for SEWP was integrated into START. This resulted in seamless coordination between training efforts and customer interactions. This strategic move not only facilitated smooth communication but also strengthened the alignment of training initiatives with the program’s overall objectives.
To create a robust training program, START recently implemented a new Training Certification Program and initiated “Train the Trainer” sessions. By expanding the team’s capacity through contractor trainers, we are ensuring a wider reach and enhanced customer engagement while developing the next tranche of trainers, enabling us to support a far greater number of customers as we continue to grow. The first certified trainer was none other than BI’s Angie Martin, who has supported the program for more than six years and has been a key component of both START and its predecessor teams. Our approach has proven to add robustness, scalability, and resilience, improving our ability to support customer success.
The team’s focus on continuous improvement and building a comprehensive training ecosystem underscored their commitment to providing exceptional learning experiences to their customers. The Training Certification Program not only enhanced the skills of the team members but also enabled them to offer specialized training tailored to the diverse needs of different Federal Agencies.
Data-Driven: Customized Datamining Approach Drives Efficiency
Data analysis plays a crucial role in START’s approach to planning customer visits and tailoring training sessions. By leveraging databases and online sources, such as GOVWIN and LinkedIn, the team identifies potential customers and opportunities. Analyzing agency spending patterns and previous interactions with SEWP helps tailor engagements and ensures targeted and fruitful interactions.
One major constraint the team has is simply its size. While similarly-sized GWACs may have more than a thousand support personnel, SEWP runs lean – at just over 100 total team members. START being a small percentage of this puts a large burden of efficiency on the team in order to achieve maximum results. Combining geographic and regional data with spending trend information, event timetables, and other factors, the team is able to maximize the effectiveness of outreach efforts and travel arrangements to get in front of as many of the right people as possible.
START understands the importance of data-driven decision-making. By scrutinizing agency spending trends, they identify potential growth areas and strategic opportunities for collaboration. Leveraging data from previous interactions with SEWP, the team ensures that their engagements are relevant and aligned with the specific needs and preferences of each customer.
The insights derived from data analysis guide the team in selecting the most appropriate topics and approaches for their face-to-face training. This data-driven approach not only enhances the training’s effectiveness but also underscores the team’s commitment to providing personalized and value-driven support to their customers.
With a focus on continuously improving their training efforts, START uses data analysis to measure the impact of their training sessions. By assessing customer feedback and tracking the outcomes of training initiatives, they gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of their approach. This iterative feedback loop empowers the team to fine-tune their training strategies and better serve the evolving needs of their diverse clientele.
The team’s commitment to using data as a compass for their training endeavors showcases their dedication to customer success and reinforces their position as a strategic partner for Federal Agencies seeking IT support services.
START also has introduced a fresh approach to engagements with higher-level personnel such as CIOs, CTOs, and Chief Procurement Officers. By doing research on the ordering patterns of similar officials within their agency or related organization, START began tailoring the discussions, offering topics that align with the agencies’ procurement pain points and strategic requirements, which fostered more productive discussions.
Understanding that the needs and priorities of each agency vary, START tailored their training topics to address specific challenges faced by different organizations. They engaged in thorough research and analysis, gathering insights from each customer’s unique context to craft training sessions that resonate with their interests.
This personalized approach has been instrumental in earning the trust and confidence of the Federal Agencies, as it demonstrates START’s commitment to understanding and addressing their individual requirements. By offering relevant and targeted training, the team ensures that customers leave each session equipped with practical knowledge and actionable strategies to enhance their IT procurement processes.
Metrics Objectively Prove Effectiveness
The success that START’s emphasis on effective training and personalized interactions has yielded is backed by clear evidence. The improvements have been remarkable and have had a significant impact on customer satisfaction and business growth. Each of the past three months has been SEWP’s busiest in its 30-year history – and the program is on track to break its year-over-year record by more than 20%.
By making the insightful choice to heavily invest in face-to-face engagements and comprehensive training, the team has fostered stronger relationships with Federal Agencies. These relationships have translated into increased customer loyalty and trust in SEWP’s capabilities, positioning the program as a preferred choice for IT procurement solutions.
The introduction of the Training Certification Program and “Train the Trainer” sessions has expanded the team’s capacity to deliver training to a wider audience. Contractor trainers equipped with specialized skills have enhanced the quality and scope of training, enabling the team to offer tailored solutions to address diverse customer needs. In addition, the types of information provided have been developed to be more customizable and modular, moving away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach that has been in place for many years.
The tailored training approach, focusing on agency-specific pain points and strategic requirements, has resonated with customers. Federal Agencies appreciate the team’s proactive efforts to understand their unique challenges and deliver actionable insights to optimize their procurement processes.
As a result of their data-driven decision-making, the team has identified growth opportunities and strategic areas for collaboration. The insights derived from data analysis have enabled the team to make well-informed decisions, ensuring that their engagements align with customer priorities and maximize the value delivered.
Overall, START team’s dedication to effective training and customer-focused interactions has elevated the SITSS team to new productivity heights. Federal Agencies have lauded the team’s professionalism and proficiency in navigating SEWP’s intricacies, leading to increased customer acquisition and satisfaction.
The impact of START team’s initiatives extends beyond customer engagements. Their efforts have contributed to higher utilization of SEWP contracts by various agencies, resulting in increased allocation of IT budgets to SEWP. This growth is a testament to the team’s commitment to promoting SEWP’s value and benefits to its clients.
Lessons Learned / Next Steps
In conclusion, START’s focus on effective training and personalized interactions has transformed SEWP into a leading provider of IT procurement solutions for Federal Agencies. By fostering meaningful relationships, providing tailored training, and utilizing data-driven insights, START has empowered customers to achieve their strategic goals and overcome IT procurement challenges. Their dedication to customer success continues to propel SEWP’s growth and impact in the federal procurement landscape.
- Customer-Centric Approach: The success of START underscores the significance of adopting a customer-centric approach. By understanding the unique needs and pain points of Federal Agencies, the team has been able to tailor their training sessions to deliver maximum value. This lesson has reinforced the importance of building strong relationships, actively listening to customers, and continuously adapting to meet their evolving requirements.
- Data as a Guiding Force: Utilizing data analysis as a foundation for planning customer visits and training topics has proved to be a strategic advantage. Data-driven decision-making empowers the team to offer relevant and targeted engagements, enhancing the effectiveness of their interactions with customers. This lesson highlights the critical role of data in driving informed and impactful customer engagement strategies.
- Continuous Improvement: The journey of START has been characterized by a commitment to continuous improvement. By establishing a Training Certification Program and conducting “Train the Trainer” sessions, the team has built a culture of learning and development. Embracing a growth mindset has enabled them to stay agile and relevant in an ever-changing IT landscape.
- Strategic Collaborations: The team’s focus on engaging higher-level personnel, such as CIOs and Chief Procurement Officers, has opened new avenues for strategic collaborations. By offering topics that resonate with these decision-makers, START has successfully secured high-level meetings and demonstrated the value of SEWP’s offerings.
Looking ahead, START envisions a future where their dedication to effective training and personalized interactions continues to drive success. They aim to further expand their training capabilities, fostering a network of qualified trainers to meet the growing demand for SEWP’s services.
The team will remain committed to leveraging data insights to inform their decisions, ensuring that each customer engagement is purposeful and results-oriented. Embracing new technologies and tools will further enhance their training delivery and customer interactions, making SEWP’s support services even more accessible and impactful.
As the SITSS team embarks on a journey of growth and innovation, START stands at the forefront, empowered by their customer-centric approach, data-driven strategies, and dedication to continuous improvement. Their mission to educate, inform, and empower Federal Agencies will remain the cornerstone of SEWP’s success, propelling the program to new heights of productivity and customer satisfaction.
Business Integra is an award-winning, global provider of information technology, cybersecurity, aeronautic engineering, scientific and mission support services. We are committed to producing efficient and ethical results that cut costs, reduce risks, secure data, and advance human progress via cybersecurity, IT, engineering and mission support services.
How NASA and BI researchers advance global warming analysis and make accurate data available to the public
HOME | NEWSJULY 26, 2023 | CASE STUDYThe warming trend continues, with Earth’s average surface temperature in 2022 tied with 2015 – as the 5th warmest on record...BI research staff, working in collaboration with NASA, estimate that the past nine years have been the...