Building a Modern, Data-Driven ‘Capture Cloud’

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We are at a pivotal point in how federal contracts will be won.

Federal contractors have begun to embrace a suite of modern technologies that will enhance capture management by helping their sales teams make better decisions. Through application of natural language processing, machine learning and artificial intelligence, hard-won internal business intelligence will be combined with public market data to provide all business functions with personalized predictions and insights.

The result is what I call a “capture cloud,” an online platform for federal contractors that structures capture and contracts processes and helps users by learning from the information they enter. For federal business developers, the capture cloud promises rapid, automatic, low-cost evaluation of a large number of early-stage opportunities, as well as more realistic analytics for later-stage opportunities.

This technology will be available for businesses of all sizes and in all markets, not just to the largest federal contractors. It doesn’t matter if your company supplies hardware, software, weapons, parts, systems or services.

Sounds like fantasy, but it isn’t. Today, senior growth professionals at federal contractors are driving hard to unlock this value by pushing boundaries, asking their partners for ways to set up forecasting for values, dates and probabilities, as well as recommendation engines for contacts, opportunities, markets and customers. They want help answering difficult questions: Which opportunities in the far horizon meet a company’s capabilities? Where are the gaps in the company’s offering? Who is the best person to lead a capture team?

The Foundation

With their collective vision for a future of capture, senior growth professionals are laying the foundation for the capture cloud. The following is a generic blueprint to make that capture cloud a reality.

1. Ingest, clean, connect and personalize public data.

Federal contractors have an intense amount of information available to create competitive intelligence, enhance customer discovery, and understand future needs and priorities.

 2. Set up processes and tools for capture management and contracts management.

These processes provide a huge amount of context about what it takes to win an opportunity. This information is documented in emails, call notes, color team reports, debriefings and memos. If such information is not in a tool, you are going to lose it when employees leave.

3. Link public and private data using natural language processing and machine learning to create critical business intelligence.

Unstructured data — including notes, documents, emails, and transcripts created by capture and contracts processes and stored using formal tools — need to be structured automatically with high levels of accuracy.

4. Provide intelligence to all capture professionals in an organization using an artificial intelligence engine.

You can think of AI as a new member of your capture team, quickly providing quantitative estimates and qualitative guidance, for human capture professionals to then assess. Instead of the senior business development professional being the only person who can formulate questions and get answers to strategic questions, technologies such as AI and machine learning will scan through the melding of public and private data troves, asking questions and providing answers at scale.

The Future

Data will be democratized — more accessible and valuable to all capture team members. I expect to see smaller capture teams, with individual team members having far greater responsibility than they do today. All opportunities will be evaluated. Even junior capture professionals will have automated predictions, forecasts, trends and recommendations at their fingertips. In short, in the future, everybody can be an expert.

Kevin Brancato is the senior vice president of product strategy at TechnoMile.

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