Winning against entrenched competition

Situation:  In January of 1998, MultiGen, Inc. was a small product oriented company needing to find and develop new sources of revenue.  The US Air Force Distributed Mission Team had just released a RFP (Request For Proposal) to major integrators for the development of F-16 flight training simulators including various Mission Training Capabilities (MTC). This system will be the Air Force's first Air-to-Ground simulation system including a synthetic environment with full field-of-view 360 degree visuals.  The major system integrators bidding for the project included Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon. Each of these integrators immediately began looking for a partner to develop a visual system for the US Air Force RFQ.

Our first challenge was to develop relationships with the integrators and help the partner win their proposal. After surveying the competitive landscape we decided to focus our efforts on Lockheed Martin. We faced a number of competitive threats in our quest to win this bid. The lead competitor on the Lockheed Martin team was an internal Lockheed Martin Division that had experience delivering visual systems for F-16 simulators.   


The second competitor was Evans & Sullivan. E&S is recognized as the leading visual systems supplier and had recently been awarded a major contract with the US Air Force. MultiGen had no prior experience delivering visual systems. A major challenge was to convince Lockheed Martin that we should receive an invitation to play in this game. The next challenge was to provide a roadmap that could prove capabilities. Our competitors could point to installations as proof of their abilities.  Another barrier, the Air Force RFP was influenced by E&S. 

Critical Issues:  The US Air Force was looking to "train as they fight".  The decision markers (a committee of Pilots and Generals) were focused on solutions that provided eye-limiting resolution.  In other words, what the pilot viewed in the simulation would give a feel that they were in a plane.  The US Air Force was frustrated that previous visual systems could not keep pace with the changes in technology.  The existing systems came from proprietary technology (delivered by E&S and Lockheed Martin).

In simple terms, pilots like to fly. They hate to train in simulators.  The main reason they become jet fighter pilots is the thrill involved in flying the craft.  The cost of fuel for training is expensive so the Generals prefer simulation.  The Generals want to make certain that pilots remain at a high level of readiness.  In the past, flying the plane was the only way to keep skills sharp.  A common complaint from the community was "my kid's video games provide better graphics than our multi-billion dollar visual systems." 

Vision: Through a list of key contacts, I worked closely with the US Air Force to paint a vision that included selecting a system that promoted Open Systems.  The vision supported the needs of future pilots (Nintendo Generation) that will demand graphics performance.



Result:  The US Air Force issued a final RFQ that required the use of open systems as part of the bid. Our competitors were now at our level. None of them had delivered a visual system based on open standards.  In fact, the costs to change from a proprietary system to an open system created additional overhead for the competitors.  Two years prior to the RFQ, MultiGen was responsible for leading an industry effort for an open file format used in defense, aerospace and gaming for visual system development. We teamed with Silicon Graphics to establish our credibility.

Lockheed Martin selected us as the visual system supplier.  As a result of this selection, MultiGen purchased a visual system supplier Paradigm to help with the delivery process.  The US Air Force selected the Lockheed Martin team including the MultiGen visual solution. This project selection was a multi-hundred million dollar award for the visual system.