Customer engagement drives innovation – COMSATCOM

Posted by Ed O’Hare
on March 23, 2010

Several weeks after Martha Johnson’s swearing in, I find myself continuing to think about the themes she addressed – Customer Intimacy, Operational Excellence and Innovation. In my last entry, I focused primarily on the idea of customer intimacy, which has been at the core of recent ITS initiatives.  Furthermore, I firmly believe that engaging the customer and capitalizing on strong professional relationships can drive innovation. As an example, I mentioned COMSATCOM, the partnership with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) for commercial SATCOM services. I’d like to take a moment to share more about this partnership.

Every year the federal government relies more and more on commercial satellite communications to provide essential, secure communications to disaster recovery teams, domestic emergency responders, and our men and women in the armed forces – we see the results on the television every day.

As the federal government’s need for commercial satellite communications services increased, both DISA and GSA created various competing contract vehicles to meet the demand. But why manage separate contract vehicles that offer essentially the same services?

Back in July 2009, with multiple contracts expiring by 2012, DISA and GSA joined up to launch the Future COMSATCOM Services Acquisition program, an innovative, collaborative solution that would not only replace the expiring contracts but simplify the acquisition process through a blending of IT Schedule 70 and multiple award indefinite delivery/ indefinite quantity contracts.  It would generate significant savings to defense and civilian agencies; state, local and tribal governments and, of course, the taxpayer.

So how did we do it?

It came down to trust and understanding, which can only be achieved through sincere customer engagement, active listening and proactively responding to customers’ needs.

We met with the key players at DISA. They explained their requirements and concerns with our processes and fee structure.  We listened, made some adjustments, and agreed to an innovative partnership that has set a new precedent in government contracting.

Now that is great government through technology!

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Customer Intimacy

Posted by Ed O’Hare
on March 9, 2010

As many of you already know, we now have a new Administrator at GSA!  I want to welcome Martha Johnson, and I think the fact that she is on-board promises many positive things for us at ITS.

I was lucky enough to attend Martha’s swearing in ceremony last month, during which she shared some of her cutting-edge thinking on how we can continue to improve as an organization.  During her remarks Martha referred to the work of Fred Treacy and Mike Wiersema, the authors of the book, The Discipline of Market Leaders: Choose Your Customers, Narrow Your Focus, Dominate Your Market.  They have argued that a great organization must be all of the following:

1) Intimate with Customers,

2) Innovative, and

3) Operationally Excellent.

Her vision, which I share, is for GSA to become the kind of organization that excels at each of these.

What I really connected to is her ideas on customer intimacy. Customers are at the heart of our business, and I have focused on building our customer engagement capabilities since my arrival at ITS last year.  I have put in place a number of initiatives, and I think we are making progress. To me, customer engagement means developing strong relationships – through active listening – which allow us not only to fully understand and respond to our customers’ current requirements, but to anticipate their future needs.

Recently, we capitalized on strong professional relationships to develop the innovative COMSATCOM partnership with DISA; and our conversations with customers indicate an upcoming need for solutions related to Cybersecurity and Sustainability. Now we must deliver those innovations with excellence – the last ingredient to sustaining valued customer relationships.

So, what about you? I am interested in hearing from those we serve – other federal agencies, industry, and stakeholders – about what customer intimacy means to you.  Please use the comments section and let me know.  I look forward to hearing your ideas and continuing this conversation.

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