Customer engagement drives innovation – COMSATCOM

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!