Entrepreneur. Futurist. Clairvoyant. Narcissist. Incisive product developer. Call me what you will, but I think you'll want what we've built. I hope I'm right.
This is a position that's relatively new to me, though I realize that many, many an upstart have been here. I've made something and I'm going out on a limb on the hypothesis that enough people will want to buy it. So why do I think that?
Government contracting has been around for a while, and we all know it's an industry that's pretty slow to change; definitely a late-adopter in just about every way in which that term is relevant. And while hōrd is (we believe) innovative and incrementally beneficial, is not entirely virgin territory. Today we have 10 years worth of historical and current USAID data - most of it free and publicly available through various means. There are some government BD traditionalists out there who are doing just fine checking in on FBO or some other site once a week, thankyouverymuch. But one of the most important things to note is that those traditionalists are slowly realizing business-as-usual isn't cutting it so much these days. And this is the first reason I think you want hōrd.
Government contracting is changing.
While most of the country has a theoretical opinion about budget negotiations and spending cuts, contractors in the federal space understand and feel the significance of these changes in an immediate way. Government funding is increasingly scrutinized and large, broadly defined contracts ever more scarce. Gone are the days when a firm could rely on just a couple of multi-million dollar, multi-year contracts to remain in the black. Whereas 10 years ago a government agency would put out a few large bids with broad scopes of work, today they are more likely to put out twice as many precisely defined small ones.
The above graph shows the total number of awards and compares it to total funding obligations for USAID for the previous ten years. The two funding blips coincide with election years, when government agencies tend to load up on obligations before a new administration potentially takes over. 2004 also likely front-loads much of the Iraq and Afghanistan war-related obligations for the next few years. According to this data, USAID spending is either decreasing or remaining roughly flat (depending on whether or not you ignore the outlier years) while the number of contract awards has increased dramatically over the last four years. A reasonable reading of this trend is that the agency is moving toward a higher number of smaller contracts - probably with shorter periods of performance.
Those of you in the trenches probably know this already. You probably also know that responding to an RFP today requires just as much work, if not more, than it did in the heyday of the early 'aughts. The result is dramatically increased business development spending for government contractors.
There is also much more competition today. The small business market has exploded, both as a response to and part of the reason for the growth of small-business set-aside contracts. There are also an enormous number of independent contractors - government vets and subject matter experts who compete on their own or make themselves available to larger firms to shore up a proposed project team. All of this means that those people involved in business development need to do more with less money, they need to do it far more often, and they need to do it in a much more competitive environment - both inside and outside of their firms. GovTribe's hōrd app is a response to precisely these circumstances. It decentralizes access to procurement information, increases the speed with which you are aware of updates and new bids, and provides insight that could be leveraged for competitive advantage. As we add additional features to the app (stay tuned for more in-app analytics and trend analyses), the value of hōrd to our target market will become even more compelling.
That's the first reason I think you'll want hōrd. The government contracting business is changing. But not all at the same rate.
The Government isn't changing enough.
Remember when the age of open government began? It was supposed to signal an increase in transparency, collaboration, and informed public engagement in all sorts of things the government did. In the world of government contracting, many of us were told it meant greater accountability; for how contract money was spent, what was achieved, and how that aligned with larger national and international objectives. What it actually amounted to was the government made a lot of raw data and documents available to the public, but with little to no organization or examination. So transparency was, technically, achieved but expectations for what that would mean were drastically different from reality. There are a few exceptions to this, and incremental progress is being made. But on the whole, a lot of this data has just been sitting there, gaining little attention from the larger government contracting community.
With hōrd we're changing that. Our aim is to find, and help you to find, useful signal in all of the noise created by Open Government. Check our our Agency Insight blog posts for a small taste of what's to come in future versions of hōrd. I think you'll want that.
Existing technology is pretty bad. iPhone apps are cool.
If you've read previous blog posts, our facebook page, or anything we've written on this subject before, you know we have a low opinion of existing technology serving the government space. I won't reiterate all of our gripes, but I will say that most existing tech serving the government contracting BD world is designed with the enterprise in mind, not the individual. This is true with regard to features - most are time consuming to use and difficult to navigate. But more importantly, these tools are priced for the enterprise, with high monthly or annual subscription fees.
GovTribe's hōrd is intended and priced for use by the individual and is designed for easy integration with everyday tasks. We think our target customers will respond positively to a little more empowerment. My experience with BD was that, more often than not, I felt out of the loop, and was frustrated there wasn't an easier way to track what was going on. With hōrd, you can make a technology decision that makes your job easier without having to go through corporate IT. And we think you'll want that.
Plus, iPhone apps are cool. And there is far too little cool in government contracting. But don't just take my word for it.