New WT report reveals where contractors fall short

Our latest WT Insider report reveals what government customers think of contractor performance and indicates several areas for improvement, including how primes manage their subcontractors.

We’ve established in part three of our WT Insider report, the Government IT Contractor Partnership, that too many of your customers can’t name a single best contractor.

That is concerning, particularly in a market where competition is intense and so many companies put a lot of time and energy into the concept of differentiation. That was the focus of my first blog on the new study.

To reach that conclusion, we talked to government customers to get their perspective, while parts one and two of the series focused on primes and subcontractor perspective.

Now, I want to take a deeper dive, and let’s start by looking at what participants in our study said about the collective group of contractors.

We asked questions around industry perception, teamwork and process. We also asked the government executives to give an overall rating.

The results for the collective group of contractors aren’t horrible, but they aren’t great. As our research partner Lodestar told us, this isn’t a train wreck, but there is definitely room for improvement.

Here are some positive takeaways.

Most of the scores came in the good to excellent range when we talked about industry perception. For example, we found that contractors got good marks in areas such as working relationship, compliance and technical performance.

But the marks weren’t as strong in the areas of schedule performance and communicating with customers. In fact, communicating with customers received the lowest scores in the very good and excellent range.

When we asked questions around process such as proposal development, invoice consistency, decision making ability, we began to see more negative scores. The percentage of responses giving poor as an answer remained at 4 percent or below. So that’s good.

The best scores for contactors were in the technical expertise and establishing contact areas, which all had good scores in the good, very good and excellent ranges, with very good leading the way.

But proposal development and invoicing got knocked a bit with neither scoring well in the excellent range, with just 14 percent and 13 percent scores, respectively.

When we looked at the attribute of teamwork, which included characteristics such as customer knowledge, strategic value, responsiveness, and flexibility, we discovered several areas for improvement

The only characteristic that scored a 20 percent in the excellent range was customer knowledge. It also had the highest good and very good ratings at 33 percent for good and 31 percent for very good.

But management of subcontractors had the lowest excellent rating at 11 percent. Handling disputes also only garnered an excellent rating of 13 percent.

By and large, contractor scores had their highest scores in the good and very good ranges and their lowest scores were in the poor and fair ranges, except for how they manage subcontractors, which had a fair rating of 17 percent and an excellent rating of only 11 percent.

So obviously, subcontractor management is an area companies should look at for improvement.

When asked to give an overall rating to their collective group of contractors, respondents said only 13 percent would fall into the excellent category, but on the bright side, only 1 percent gave a poor rating and 13 percent a fair rating.

The majority said that contractors were either very good (35 percent) or good (37 percent).

It’s the good and excellent ratings that are the most telling to me and show that there is definitely room to move the needle.

That’s particularly shone through when we asked participants to rate their single best contractor.

Here, the good rating dropped to 10 percent, while 52 percent said their single best contractor was excellent. Another 36 percent rate their best contractor very good.

In my next blog, I’ll dig deeper into what the single best contractors are doing so well, and what other contractors can learn from them.