Podcast

Episode: 469 |
Lido Ramadan:
Consulting with the Federal Government:
Episode
469

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Lido Ramadan

Consulting with the Federal Government

Show Notes

Founder of Aminad Consulting, Lido Ramadan has over 25 years of experience in founding, growing, leading, and sustaining services organizations. Prior to establishing Aminad, Lido founded multiple successful small businesses and led the operations of several rapidly growing consulting firms. In today’s episode, he talks about serving the federal government. To find out more about Lido’s firm or to contact him directly, visit LinkedIn or AminadConsulting.com.

Key points include:

  • 05:17:Consulting analysis unique to the government
  • 09:54: Surprising insights from interviews
  • 13:55: An effective strategy
  • 20:11: Projects for the SEC

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

 

  1. Lido Ramadan

 

Will Bachman 00:01

Hello and welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. I’m your host will Bachman and I’m here today with Lido Ramadan, who runs Avanade, a consulting firm that serves primarily the federal government, and its various agencies. Lido, welcome to the show.

 

Lido Ramadan 00:20

Thank you. Well, thanks for having me.

 

Will Bachman 00:22

So, Leto, I think because it’s the federal government, some of your work is matter of public record. And I think you told me that you could talk about some specific projects. And we talked about two of them. You want to start out with with the first one is a client that you’re currently serving?

 

Lido Ramadan 00:39

Yeah, sure. So I’m not is currently serving the Marine Corps within the Marine Corps, Marine Corps, a very large organization. But we’re supporting one of their major commands, which is the command, otherwise known as log comm. And we started working with log comm back in 2017. And we had a good good relationship with the senior executive there. And they came to us with a series of strategic issues. It’s kind of nice, though the work we do. We operate at a pretty high level within the client organizations that we work with. So you know, our client came to us and basically had a variety of strategic problems that he needed to address across the command. And he really wanted to start most of all blog comm has the responsibility for managing a lot of the inventory that the Marine Corps owns, as well as repairing a lot of the vehicles and ground equipment. And so a lot of his issues centered around that. So we tackled a number of different issues in these short business case analyses that we did. So we did a series of four, six to nine month business case analyses looking at different inventory segments that log comm was responsible for. And he really gave us free rein there to take a look at a segment really identify one what the as his picture was, from a performance perspective, from an inventory perspective, from a Just overall, meeting, the mission of the Marine Corps perspective. And then we did a lot of analysis to determine what some opportunities for improvement were, and laid those out in a series of courses of action that were presented all the way up to the commanding general of logistics command. And we’ve also had the privilege of helping them implement some of those recommendations. So I’ll real quickly and please stop me if you have any questions. But I’ll real quickly just talk about one of those in a little more detail to maybe give a little more sense of what it is exactly that we do. So one of the inventory segments was around there. depo repair parts. So like I mentioned log comm has the responsibility for you know, a, a piece of ground equipment comes in it goes to one of their two depots in California, Georgia, they fix it and they get it back out to the warfighter. That is really their top mission. And they have two large depots that that do that. So we were really looking at the operation of those depots, the inventories as a references, the parts that go on these and what they had, how long it took to repair something, what all the processes were in place, how standard they were across the two depots. And we identified a series of improvements, one, including having log comm work more closely with the Defense Logistics Agency DLA. And that was the major recommendation that came out of this was really to kind of come together in a more seamless organization. So as you can imagine, that requires a lot of change management, to behemoth organizations coming together in a way they hadn’t before. And we once that recommendation was approved, we’ve now been supporting implementation of that for the last three years. The recommendations have enabled savings of over $20 million to the Marine Corps, which is a significant return on investment for for their cost of coming to us. And that’s that’s really the type of work we do across DOD and across the Marine Corps.

 

Will Bachman 04:42

So let’s double click on that project a little bit. When you’re doing the analysis, maybe of this depot that does the repairs. Could you look what was the work plan there? What were some of the activities or some of the analyses that you did and You can highlight which ones which of those would be pretty much the same if you are looking at in civilian repair depot and which ones maybe for airlines or something, and which ones are more unique to the government?

 

Lido Ramadan 05:17

Yeah, I mean, really, most of the things that we looked at or the components of our work plan would be pretty consistent across, you know, any depo we might be looking at whether it be civilian defense or, you know, private sector, I think the biggest difference the one that would be an outlier would be the support to the warfighter from a mission perspective. You know, in my career, I’ve done a lot of work with the Navy, the Marine Corps, a little bit with the Army and the Air Force. And you know, at the end of the day, cost savings, improved operations, improved efficiency. Those are all major factors and reasons that they hire us. But it’s really the support to the warfighter that trumps everything, when, when it comes down to it, so we spend a lot of time in any of our work plans. And in this project, specifically, understanding exactly what the needs are of the warfighter of this specific warfighter what the response time or the turnaround time really should be in order to get these vehicles out to fleet. And it’s also dependent on you know, situations, the Marine Corps, you know, was not at war when we were doing, you know, these these projects, were not in a very active war. So there was actually a lot of vehicles that had come back from overseas. And so they had a lot of inventory sitting. So I guess my, you know, long answer, turning short is the the workplane components were really understanding processes. So really sitting down, getting a good understanding of as is processes from folks on the ground, through a series of interviews, as well as you know, requesting and collecting data. And then just getting actual data inventory data. One thing that is potentially unique in federal government consulting, for your listeners, who might be more used to private sector consulting, is that there’s there’s a lot of issues with data sources, sometimes just because the government tends to use a lot of systems that might have some outdated technology, or it’s just such a behemoth organization that you really end up putting together. Just data from so many places that’s not, you know, talking to each other. So we tend to spend a lot of time just, you know, really sitting down, you know, taking a step back, what picture are we trying to create, and then talking to people and understanding, you know, where we can potentially get the best data where we can get the next level of data and where we might have to do interviews to, you know, aggregate data manually. So that data gathering process is a big is a big step. And then just the qualitative side, sorry, go

 

Will Bachman 08:19

ahead. Yeah, you mentioned that part of this was understanding the needs of the, you know, the warfighter sounds. Tell me about how you actually did that it’s, you know, in a civilian project, you do have sort of a voice of the customer interview or survey. So did you do some interviews with various different Marine Corps users of these depot services? Or, like, who did you talk to the, you know, the generals or the corporals or the cat? Did you go about even kind of getting those interviews lined up? I’m curious about the nitty gritty of actually making that happen.

 

Lido Ramadan 08:56

Yeah, sure. A little bit of all the above, you know, again, we were lucky in that our executive sponsor for this project was the person who reported to the two star general who runs logistics command. So we did talk to the general, we did talk to the people who run the Depo, we did talk to customers of the Depo. We try to be really comprehensive and getting, you know, viewpoints across the board. Because each of those folks might have, you know, a slightly different perspective, maybe a higher level perspective. And oftentimes at the more senior levels, we also get the perspective of this might be the mission now, but what is the mission and, you know, 2030 and beyond, because we need to bring that into our recommendations.

 

Will Bachman 09:46

What what surprising insights emerge from those interviews, or was it pretty much what the depot expected?

 

Lido Ramadan 09:54

Well, the biggest surprise really came from I think two things One was just the the data that we were able to bring together from disparate sources showed it painted a picture that was very different for them than they thought. As far as how much inventory they had on hand, how much inventory was actually usable? How much inventory they actually needed. So, you know, the data painted a really interesting picture for them. That a lot of times they just because of the pace of the mission, they haven’t hadn’t had a chance to take a step back and really aggregate and look at

 

Will Bachman 10:38

and was the other end was it had more inventory than they needed? So they could reduce working capital or, or not buy as much in the future? Or what was the insight there?

 

Lido Ramadan 10:49

Um, yeah, I guess, twofold. One, they had a lot of inventory that they didn’t need. So space was an issue for law comm. So we, our recommendations enable them to free up numerous warehouse bays, which was significant for them from from a mission delivery perspective, to when they find inventory, that’s still that’s dormant, but it’s still usable, they are also able to sell it back to the Defense Logistics Agency, the other organization I mentioned, and they get, you know, maybe not exactly what they paid for it, but they get dollars back, which they can then use to further their mission.

 

Will Bachman 11:38

A nonprofit organization typically has several different bottom lines that they work towards, or social enterprise might have a triple bottom line, right of financial performance, but also how much impact are they delivering? How does a organization like a depot in the military? You know, they probably have some bottom line that they have to hit, you know, some they can’t have massive cost overruns. But they also have metrics of impact or, you know, sort of customer service, or what’s their KPIs look like?

 

Lido Ramadan 12:17

Well, they’re, you know, their biggest KPI that they look at is their ability to have the parts on hand in order to turn around for a depo to turn around the equipment they need to repair immediately. So they look at their percentage on hand, which they try to have in the mid 90s, which is often tough to do in a, in a mission that is moving, and kind of ever changing. The Marine Corps has a lot of different types of equipment. It’s not like the Air Force, where you have more standard, just to a lower set, as far as number of aircrafts, the Marine Corps has a lot of different types of equipment, a lot of older equipment. So it’s hard to be as predictive as possible. That’s their main metric. I mean, they they use that metric, they have financial metrics as well. The challenge and you’ll see this across not just DOD, but also the federal government is, you know, bottom line metrics are often related more to mission than financial performance. And so that’s where, you know, we tend to come in and really show them where they can do both. It’s a lot of, you know, you can improve mission delivery, while still, you know, saving money and while still improving efficiency.

 

Will Bachman 13:42

Yeah. What were some of the findings that you had around the benefits of combining together the DLA and the Marine Corps logistics command more closely.

 

Lido Ramadan 13:55

The biggest benefit was changing the point of sale. So the way that the Marine Corps had his store had historically handled this was they would buy, they would buy these repair parts from Defense Logistics Agency, and then they would store it in their warehouse until they needed it. What the integration of the organizations did was it brought DLA literally into the Marine Corps organization, and DLA would buy things predictively now, because they are helping the Marine Corps, do the demand planning side. So DLA now has the actual responsibility of purchasing in advance and then the Marine Corps only takes ownership of the good when they need it. So the Marine Corps is now not carrying inventory. They’re allowing DLA to do that and bear the costs of that and bear the risk of that. have unnecessary purchases and things like that. And DLA is mission is really around logistics, warehousing, and providing parts like that across the Department of Defense. So there was a lot of benefit to the Marine Corps, mostly in that area.

 

Will Bachman 15:18

And then I guess, overall for the system, it sounds like the benefit there would be instead of having the DLA having to have surplus capacity, so they could supply the Marine Corps, and then not having super visibility into that. And then the Marine Corps having to hold inventory, that they collapse that bit. So instead of having that whipsaw kind of effect, the just the DLA would have it. So you eliminated a tear of than the

 

Lido Ramadan 15:49

exact Exactly, exactly less inventory points, which leads to less access in the system.

 

Will Bachman 15:57

Wow, that’s interesting. You know, it’s all one federal government. But when you start getting the actual organizations working together within it, it’s interesting how you can get these inefficiencies.

 

Lido Ramadan 16:09

Yeah, and also having organizations whose mission is to do something, really take on the responsibility and allow another organization that has a different mission to focus on what they do best. And that was a big part of our executive sponsors message and, you know, helping us drive this across the organizations, let’s let let’s let DLA do what they do best. And let’s focus on running our depots and getting this equipment back out to the warfighter as quickly as we can.

 

Will Bachman 16:37

I can imagine there was probably some resistance to an idea like that, where the Marine Corps, I can imagine if I’m in that shoes might say, well, you know, we want to make sure that we actually have it in stock. And that the DLA might have different calculations, but we want to be more conservative and have it in stock if we need it. And not being able to control control it as directly, probably is probably concern. How did you overcome concerns like that if they came up?

 

Lido Ramadan 17:11

Well, definitely not. If they definitely came up, and they’re still there. I mean, this is still in the midst of implementation. But it’s it’s going live now. And there’s been resistance every step of the way. And it you know, not coming from a bad place coming from the place you just mentioned and really focused on, we need to make sure we have these parts, and we’ve always bought them and held them. And we, you know, don’t want to take any risk as when it comes to these things. So, you know, the way we address those was including all aspects of the organization and all the communications and in the decision making process of you know, why we’re making these decisions, what the benefits are allowing them to take tours of other places where DLA had integrated in a similar manner, they had done that with the Air Force in the Navy. So we took some of the Depo leadership to tour their facilities to talk to those leaders. We did a lot of, you know, just providing real data. And then it’s really been a relationship building process, you know, really the ensuring that the folks within DLA who we’re going to be driving this and the folks within the Depo and the Marine Corps that we’re going to be driving this we’re meeting regularly and starting to build a trusting relationship, because it really it really was all about trust there the change management. I mean, we had a full separate change management work stream that, you know, we had multiple people staffed in there. We’re constantly thinking about this and thinking about, you know, who the stakeholders were that we really needed to continue to share more information with, because it really impacted their jobs.

 

Will Bachman 19:00

Let’s turn to a another government agency, I think you’ve done some work for the SEC.

 

Lido Ramadan 19:07

Yes, we worked with the SEC, in a part of the organization called the division of economic risk analysis, DERA, and gira was chartered with creating a centralized data repository for sec economists and lawyers to access information to help make their jobs easier and in a centralized manner. So we were hired to help create that portal and also to create the data governance processes and you know, rules for accessing data and so forth. And how to maintain and manage that data over time and really create more of a data governance organization.

 

Will Bachman 20:05

And so tell me a little bit about the kind of phases of that project and what were some of the outcomes.

 

Lido Ramadan 20:11

Sure. So at first, it was coming on to share best practices from a data governance perspective. So we did a lot of information, providing to the leadership within Jira, on how other organizations have tackled these issues and how we tackle these types of issues elsewhere. We then created a small pilot portal, where, you know, we took some some sample data within just small, more small slivers of data within the organizations, you can imagine the SEC has a lot of data, a lot of it is highly confidential. So we took more publicly available type data, created a framework, got some quick wins through that created some really nice data visualizations, and then expanded the project into full scale, we worked with a partner, we don’t do a lot of the kind of back end it development side. So we brought on a partner to help actually create the portal. And, and we continued our work to build the data governance organization, our clients within Jira, actually, through through somewhat of some of the work we did went on to, during our support, become the first Chief Data Officer for the Securities and Exchange Commission. So one of our partners, organization, partner organizations, that’s kind of within the Avanade family Peregrin Associates is also now supporting him, as he builds out the Chief Data organization within the SEC, which is a really exciting initiative that we were glad to be a part of. He’s also a wonderful, wonderful guy, Austin Garrick. And he’s doing a great job as the SEC is first chief data officer. But the portal that we created is still being used, it’s been expanded, the data visualization team has been expanded. And it really has brought a lot of benefits to the SEC, just as far as visibility across the organization, easier access to needed data, and really having information at the fingertips of the people who need it, the lawyers and the economists when they need it. And, you know, bringing insightful data to folks in ways that they can understand it quickly and take action.

 

Will Bachman 22:36

Talk to me a little bit about data governance for someone like myself that doesn’t know much about the topic. What does that entail? And and you can maybe use the SEC as a case example of what are the different parts of the organization? Like what are the different organizational roles about it? What does it mean, how does it happen? What is data governance?

 

Lido Ramadan 22:57

Yeah, I mean, it’s a biggest picture. It’s really how, how you maintain, manage, share, and use data within an organization. And the kind of the, the minutiae of it is really around how you gather and aggregate data together and how you collected in a way that you can then use it in more focused specific visual ways to users in ways they need it. I think, you know, data governance is the way we’ve always, you know, promoted it and executed it is. There’s very structured ways to look at it that you need to around rolls around access around the goals of the data. But it’s very organization specific, you know, the SEC is an example, obviously, holds a lot of financial data holds a lot of confidential data that’s more on the, like financial trading side. And it holds a lot of personal information for users. So a big part of data governance at the SEC, is around controls around access around how you’re ensuring that you’re, you’re always not allowing data to get in the wrong hands. So security was a major aspect of it within the SEC.

 

Will Bachman 24:27

Let’s talk a little bit about how you’ve built your firm and particularly, how does one go about getting these contracts with the federal government to a lot of smaller firms that might be a bit overwhelming navigating the federal procurement processes. Tell us kind of how you’ve made it work?

 

Lido Ramadan 24:51

Yeah, sure. Well, it’s not easy from the perspective of just jumping in so I don’t blame people for being you know, overwhelmed if they’re not. If they haven’t suffered A long time, you know, I’ve spent my entire career in this space and learned a lot as I’ve gone on I, out of grad school, I went to work at Booz Allen consulting, which is one of the large federal consulting firms. And after just a year, I actually left and co founded a small business Sensio consulting group back in 2003. And really, kind of kind of learnt with kind of feet feet to the fire a bit. And the, I think the biggest thing that I learned, and that I would, you know, advise, you know, folks in the space is, there’s a lot of foundational building blocks that you really need to focus on. If you, you know, want to begin to win federal contracts as a small business, you really need to invest in, you know, some of your some of your infrastructure, from a contractual perspective, ensure that just all of your registrations is a small business, you have benefits in the federal government, so ensuring that you are registering for whatever small business certifications you can. And then one of the things that I think is the most important thing that I’ve really tried to bring to Aminata, that maybe when we found it Sensio, we weren’t quite as trusting on is you have to partner space, you know, you have to have trusting relationships with partners. Because it’s, it’s often hard to get contract vehicles, it takes a long time. Once you have them, it’s great. But it’s it’s not that easy to access, different clients within the federal government. And so you need to be doing a lot of networking and building relationships with other partners that might have complementary capabilities, they might have overlapping capabilities. But you know, if you can bring something to them as well, that will reduce the lead time and improve your access points within the federal government. And the other thing I would add to is, you really need to have some type of differentiator, there’s a lot of, at least in my space, and kind of the consulting management consulting space. There’s a lot of contractors that are trying to get in. So and I know it’s similar in the private sector, but a lot of times, you’ll have like minority owned firms in this space, who are just trying to use their minority certifications or other things to get business, but those firms don’t tend to be very successful. So it’s really that differentiation, the ability to partner successfully, and the ability to really understand, you know, how to navigate kind of some of those initial foundational building blocks.

 

Will Bachman 27:59

Do you need someone who is kind of an expert in federal contracting on the team to to be the contract manager and make sure you’re ticking all the boxes? And, you know, getting everything right in your submissions and so forth? Is that sort of a separate, professional role that you need to have on board?

 

Lido Ramadan 28:18

I wouldn’t advise a small business to necessarily have that role as like a full time role. I think you need that role. You need to fill that role somehow, if you don’t have it personally. You need to there’s there’s companies or you know, subject matter experts that you can tap into, there’s a whole industry around that around, you know, companies, small businesses, or even large businesses that help small businesses understand and navigate government contracting. So you can find that skill set. As you grow. You absolutely need to have that skill set. You you can’t you can’t really scale without it if you don’t have it in house.

 

Will Bachman 28:59

Fantastic. Well, Leto, this has been amazing hearing about, you know, the details of that work at the brain logistics and the SEC. folks wanted to follow up and find your firm online and reach out to you. Where would you point them?

 

Lido Ramadan 29:14

Yeah, our website, www dot Avanade consulting.com. we revamped it this year. So provider last year, I guess. So it provides a nice, nice summary. And then we do a lot of social media. So you know, our Instagram, I’m an on consulting and our LinkedIn page. Gives you a nice sense of us as well. And you can contact us through the through the Contact Us pages on all of the above.

 

Will Bachman 29:43

Interesting Instagram, do you see much activity there?

 

Lido Ramadan 29:48

We do that mostly for employee-centric communications and future employee centric communications. We we think of it as a really strong recruiting tool. It shares our culture and We can be a little more whimsical than we are on our LinkedIn page.

 

Will Bachman 30:04

Okay, interesting. All right, well, I’m gonna check that out. I don’t know a lot of recruiters who kind of in this consulting space using Instagram, so I’m looking forward to checking that out. We’ll include those links in the show notes. Leto, thank you so much for joining today.

 

Lido Ramadan 30:18

Thanks. Well, thanks for the opportunity.

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