1. The Competitive Bidding Challenge
In today’s competitive marketplace you have to be on your game if you expect to win new IT integration contracts. You need to put together a masterpiece proposal on a shoe string budget. You are working with scarce requirements, a short time fuse, limited availability of technical solution engineers, limited business intelligence and losing isn’t an option.
2. The SLIM Solution
The SLIM tool suite is a mature and proven tool set and modeling methodology that has been refined over 35 years with innovative improvements. SLIM is an ideal solution for business capture professionals because it doesn’t require a lot of information, it can allow one to quickly explore potential bidding scenarios, it is collaborative, it provides transparency and can easily pass information to your pricing systems.
We will use an example scenario to show how the SLIM suite supports the bidding process:
3. Sample Bidding Scenario
A government agency has just released an RFP for the development of a new cloud based application to administer healthcare benefits. Here are the broad parameters that need to be satisfied to meet the customer objective:
- There are a total of 2345 requirements in three major functionality areas. They are Enrollment, Subsidies, and Benefits Administration.
- They want an incremental delivery of the functionality to be completed within 3 years. Priorities have been established on the early capabilities that are needed.
- They would like the development done using the SAFe scaled agile methodology.
- There is infrastructure that needs to be built out and delivered with each incremental delivery.
- There is some operational support also required after the first increment goes live.
So now it is time to get to work. The first step is to get with the technical team and determine how the requirements would be allocated into a sensible release structure to meet the desired three-year time frame and provide enough value in each increment. In essence, we are grooming the backlog and defining an agile release train. After one meeting the team comes up with a proration of requirements into 3 releases as shown below.
The next step is to use a sizing utility with industry gearing factors to turn requirements into a sizing form that can be input to the SLIM Release Estimator. Figure 2 shows how the sizing utility is used to translate Release 1 enrollment requirements into a number of potentially useful sizing metrics like agile story counts, product configuration and RICE FW components, Function points etc. The inputs are shown on the right and the resulting outputs are on the left.
After each of the releases has been put through the translator we have the size estimates for each release. This is shown in terms of requirements and Implementation Units (IU’s). IU’s are simply an elemental unit of programming. It could be a configuration step in package implementation or traditional lines of source code.
At this point you are ready to start building the estimate. We start by adding two summary groups, one for the 3 application development releases and a second for program level support activities. For the application development releases we start with our SLIM out-of-the-box agile release template and we clone it three times. Next we add some schedule dependencies to control the amount of concurrency that will be allowed between releases but also provide for a smooth resource loading profile.
Next we adjust the productivity and peak staffing if our technical folks are able to articulate reasons for moving away from a “typical agile development,” which is captured in the SLIM agile template. We add Program Management and Systems Engineering. Then we make them a percentage of the overall program so that they scale up or down depending on the size and complexity of the program.For the Program Management component, we use a level load staffing profile. For Systems Engineering we pick a shape where the staffing profile peaks early and tapers off towards the end of the contract.
Now you are in a position to look at aggregate staffing, spending rates and cumulative cost as well as the schedules for each of the increments.
Next we need to add an infrastructure build for each application release. We start with the SLIM out-of-the-box infrastructure template and size the release to the required infrastructure components. We use the typical productivity and staffing from the SLIM database to get us started. Each infrastructure release is then linked to the appropriate application release. Finally, we add a help desk and data center component which are estimated as level of effort staffing based on prior contract program experience.
Our bid is starting to take shape. The staffing profile looks like it averages about 200 people with a short peak toward the end of the 1st increment at approximately 250 people. The estimated cost is approximately $130 million. Unfortunately, the schedule is a couple of months too long.
With SLIM there is a program level what-if adjuster. You simply make global or individual parameter adjustments to scope, productivity or staff and can immediately view the impact. In this case, we increase the staffing by 20% across the board to see if this will compress the schedule.
The increased staffing will allow the bid to conform to the schedule requirement but it will be approximately $5 million more expensive.
After exploring all of the viable options and deciding on the best bidding strategy, we can quickly generate an effort estimate for required labor to support this program.
This information can easily be turned into a table and passed to your corporate pricing systems if necessary or you can simply use the SLIM output as part of your bid. The SLIM templates have the ability to be configured to any set of labor categories and rates. Then the skills can be allocated as they will ramp on and off the release as they are needed.
The SLIM agile bidding solution will save you time and money and allow you to make more informed bidding decisions. It will help you win more business.
It is a top down modeling approach which is consistent with the level of information that is available at the bidding stage. It is easy to use and is quick and efficient at building alternative bids. It is a scalable solution that can work for straight forward single release projects or major transformational programs. It is collaborative and transparent because the assumptions are documented and easily explained. Finally, it can easily pass information to other corporate systems.
If you are losing too many bids get SLIM, make your capture team more agile and start winning.