Competing to win a contract is like playing chess with many chess masters at the same time: Before you decide on your strategy and your next move, you have to know your competitors so well to be able to think like them and predict their plan and next move. This is what a Black Hat Review does for you. It is a strategy session based on reliable intelligence with the goal of identifying the top competition for a government contract and to understand the way they will bid to win the contract.
GDIC has planned and conducted Black Hat Reviews for customers from various industries. Our large pool of SMEs and veteran experts in various fields allows us to create highly productive adversary teams that will provide your company a realistic picture of what your customer is looking for and how your competitors will respond.
Black Hat Review Process
Black Hat review is a stage in the Business Development Lifecycle. A component of the Capture Management part of the BDL, it is primarily conducted during Capture Planning and even before the Draft RFP is out. The process consists of the following stages:
- Competitors’ solution development
- Black Hat Session
- Implementing action items
During these five stages, the following actions are performed:
- Understanding customer’s needs, goals and preferences
- Identifying competitors
- Selecting Black Hat Review session participants and planning their activities
- Gathering information on competitors and their approach
- Performing competitive and SWOT analysis
- Predicting competitors’ win strategies
- Determining what solution each competitor will most likely offer
- Estimating the price of each competitor’s solution
- Using a Price-to-Win model to develop pricing options
- Developing a win strategy based on all the information gained in the Black Hat Review process
- Summarizing the strategy in a list of action items to follow after the process
The Black Hat Review depends heavily on our information about the customer and the competition. To facilitate this process, we must define questions to answer in order to complete our basic knowledge in order to prepare for the Black Hat session. Some of the questions that are asked are:
- Who are the competitors?
- What are their existing capabilities and past performance?
- Who are their key personnel?
- What are their differentiators?
- What previous experience each competitor has had with this customer?
- What does the customer think of each competitor?
After the initial intelligence is gathered and competitor teams are organized, each team conducts research of its own and answers questions such as those listed below:
- How would the competitor address the customer’s business problem?
- What solution the competitor is likely to present?
- Why and how will the competitor offer a better solution?
- The price for that solution
- What is the win strategy based on the previous contracts the competitor has won?
- What the competitor thinks are our strengths and weaknesses?
All the required information is gathered, each competitor team begins developing its solution and proposal and prepares for presentation in the Black Hat Review session.
The Review Session
In addition to our team and a team representing the customer, all competitor teams participate in the formal Black Hat Review session to present their solution. During the presentation of each solution, questions are asked by other teams in order to clarify the solution and better demonstrate its strengths and weaknesses.
Throughout the session, the team representing the customer scores each solution based on the evaluation criteria. At the same time, an enhanced set of evaluation criteria emerges out of this session to be recommended to the customer.
Our initial solution is also discussed and critically reviewed in the session by all teams. When discussing our initial solution, our win strategy, Price-to-Win model, technical approach, effectiveness of the presentation, its alignment with customer’s requirements, and most importantly, how it stacks up against the competition is discussed and the necessary changes are suggested.
Using the Outcome
The success of a Black Hat Review process is determined by the quality and richness of its outcome and how well we use them in the next stages of the Business Development Lifecycle. To make the best use of the results of the Black Hat session, we conduct a Whit Hat Review of our own solution. This is in continuation of the critical review of our initial solution presented in the Black Hat Review session. The quality of this review depends on how objectively we determine our strengths and weaknesses, which is not easily achieved. For that reason, we include a critical review of our initial solution by the adversary teams in the Black Hat Review session.
After the White Hat Review, we plan to mitigate our weaknesses and utilize our strengths to the fullest. This forms the basis of our win strategy.
What comes out of all these activities is a set of action items, tasks to be performed by specific personnel in order to realize our new win strategy and give our proposal the strength it needs to score above the competition and win the contract.
In addition, and based on this new knowledge and win strategy, you can communicate with the government to help them understand your capabilities and how your solution will solve their problem, and therefore strengthen your position further.