How Should I Conduct a Black Hat Review Process?

Government Account Management, Capture Management, and Proposal Development are rich with color-based processes. From small businesses to large Top 100 federal prime contractors, the processes remain relatively similar. This is attributable to the fact that they’re adaptable and valuable tools for planning and organizing an overall win strategy.

A Blackhat Review Process

A Blackhat Review Process is one of the tools, utilized in the Capture Management phase, which offers a format for identifying and analyzing the expected top competition of a given opportunity. Sounds easy enough, right? Actually, the Blackhat process itself is not that easy. However, as with most analysis methods, its usefulness is tied to the team that you assemble to participate in the process. Here is the process in a nutshell. The team has to pre-read and understand the requirements of the RFP, the Capture Executive’s understanding of the Customer’s perception of the current incumbent and expected new delivery. Then the team pretends that they are working for that company now (the company subject of the Blackhat) and how would they respond to the requirements, sell themselves, evaluate the competition, deliver the service/products and structure the Price-to-Win (PTW). Once you have “their” perspective, you can drive your response team to a better win strategy fighting against what the competition would do and say.

SWOT Analysis

One of the first tried and true methods for determining the initial aspects for a Blackhat is a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. Once identified, each of these components can be expanded upon. The SWOT, isn’t necessarily about the opportunity, it’s about the information you’ve gathered that is related to the opportunity, and more specifically, your competition.

How would your competition address the customer business problem(s)? What are their existing capabilities and past performance? Who are their key personnel? What does the Customer think about them? What are their differentiators? What don’t they do well? As these are identified, and categorized to identify gaps, specific mitigation strategies and/or action items are formulated to be an output of this exercise.

Who Should Your Blackhat Review Process Include?

The Blackhat Process should only include those individuals directly involved in the capture and opportunity intelligence processes, or those who have specific knowledge about the competition. The best Blackhat outcomes are when you involve people in your company who used to work for the company you are Blackhating.

This is a strategy session based on the information provided by all of the attendees. This is not an exercise to analyze the quality or quantity of your business intelligence; you are identifying their existing ability, inability, thinking process and pricing strategy. Then you work to implement the strategies to effectively win the opportunity.

Using the Blackhat Action Items

The strategies and action items that are identified at the close of the Blackhat Review Process should then assist your organization in continuing to evolve specific win themes that carry over into the proposal development process, and craft the direction and purpose of your proposal response. The win themes are high-level components of your technical and management approach and help identify the strengths in your past performance and support your pricing strategy as it relates to the specific opportunity.

At the conclusion of the Blackhat stage, it is equally advantageous to conduct a Whitehat review. This is where you follow the same process as above, just do it for your own company. The hardest part of this exercise is being objective about your own strengths and weaknesses. Once completed, you then map the competitions process with your own and see where they are strong and weak and where you are strong and weak. Now you can continue to talk to the Government and strengthen your position while helping them understand how you can solve some of their issues (ie. The competitions weaknesses).

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