Part II – How to Leap Hurdles in the OTA Race 

By Iain Skeete

As I admitted in my previous post, it’s easy to stumble over obstacles as your team sprints toward solution delivery. Recurring challenges, told through generations of acquisition professionals, still remain as potent reminders to execute at a deliberate, thoughtful pace.  Being rapid for the sake of being rapid might create near-term excitement, but too many flippant shortcuts will lead to disappointing headlines.

3)    Data Rights & Wrongs:

There are three things that most tend to avoid when amongst company: religion, politics, and data rights. Conversations about intellectual property, and implications of how the data rights should be allocated, tend to become tense conversations, complete with verbal landmines and unintentional missteps.

Before you submit your proposal, reassess your core initiatives and determine what makes the most sense regarding what you will offer the government. Do you have plans to launch commercially? What is the real value (not just cost) of what your company is bringing to the table? If you hand over source code, will your company still be competitive in the future?

The government usually anticipates a level of rights commensurate with their depth of investment related to development. If a Program Office is funding the entire development of your white paper concept, then you’re likely entering unlimited rights territory.

In contrast, if you are manipulating a preexisting product that is internally funded by your company’s independent research and development dollars, then the scales of leverage shift in your favor. If this is the case, the government’s untethered ability to utilize and distribute your IP can reasonably be reduced.

Do not let the allure of a government contract overshadow the paramount duty of protecting your company’s future. Everything is negotiable. Like any proper negotiation, the outcome should benefit all parties –- especially war fighters in the field.

4)    Words Matter:

“Oh, that’s what you meant?” is a question frequently asked too late in the process. Early on, make sure there is a collective understanding of the words being used by the sponsoring office. Some specific phrases come to mind that always prompt follow-on debates: “fully agnostic,” “inexpensive bleeding-edge technology,” “future integration with yet-to-be developed systems,” “total non-proprietary solution,” and “government-owned source code” to name a few.

Does the government really want to buy and maintain source code, or do they just need the ability to plug and play with future peripheral systems without having to pay you, the technology originator, a fee to access and adjust the interface?

When engaging with industry, the government is known to indirectly solicit industry’s tolerance levels through use of instigating language. In response, ask questions and uncover the customer’s true needs.

A tremendous way to reinforce your dedication to the mission is through the delivery of meaningful questions, unbiased feedback, and honest dialogue about potential possibilities.

The butterfly effect resulting from a simple misstep can easily correlate to our forces losing steps in the marathon race of military superiority. Hopefully these reminders serve to highlight scenarios that can be positively influenced by a dedicated and aware team.