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Content Guide

A guide on how to write clear, consistent, and
accessible content at Skylight.

Definition of terms

At Skylight, we use a number of specialized terms to describe our way of working. Refer to the below definitions whenever you come upon a term or phrase that’s new to you, but commonly used within Skylight.

  • Activity: any specific action or pursuit.
  • Admin operations: refers to all the administrative activities (e.g., bookkeeping, timekeeping, data management) that are part of the company’s business operations. Also known as “backoffice.”
  • Agile acquisition: structuring acquisitions using an agile development process, allowing government agencies to reduce risk, increase flexibility, and award contracts faster and to more qualified vendors.
  • Applicant tracking system (ATS): a software application designed to help teams organize recruitment and hiring data.
  • Authorization to proceed: an agreement authorizing a contractor to perform a certain portion of work.
  • Bid & proposal (B&P): a plan (proposal) and proposed cost (bid) for fulfilling the conditions outlined in a solicitation, such as an RFP (request for proposal).
  • Business development lead: an individual responsible for developing and executing Skylight’s overall strategy for winning a strategic business opportunity.
  • Business model: describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value, in economic, social, cultural or other contexts.
  • Business operations: refers to all the day-to-day actions that are necessary for running the company and generating income.
  • Business unit: a relatively autonomous division of a company with responsibility for a particular range of products or activities. Organizational unit is generally a synonymous term, although business unit is used more often to refer to an organization with P&L responsibility.
  • Capture: an industry term describing the efforts that precede a formal proposal submission. The broad goal of a “capture” effort is to develop a strategy that puts Skylight in the best possible position to win new work or retain existing work with a customer.
  • Civic technology: technology that enables greater participation in government or otherwise assists government in delivering public services and strengthening ties with the public. In general, civic tech focuses on the public.
  • Client: someone who engages with Skylight for professional service/support. There’s a lot of literature that goes to great lengths to draw distinctions between the terms “client” and “customer,” but we generally use them synonymously at Skylight, with a preference for “client.”
  • Community of practice: a group of people who share a common concern, a set of problems, or an interest in a topic and who come together to fulfill both individual and group goals.
  • Consulting: the process of helping clients solve problems or issues. In Skylight’s case, we primarily consult with different government agencies to improve delivery of public services.
  • Consulting agreement: a contract between a client and the consultant that provides their service. It explains the terms of the professional relationship as a method for keeping both parties accountable when it comes to the type of work and compensation expected.
  • Continuing resolution (CR): a temporary funding measure that Congress can use to fund the federal government for a limited amount of time. The day-to-day operations of most federal agencies are funded on an annual basis by appropriations. When those appropriations bills aren’t enacted by the start of the fiscal year on October 1, Congress uses a CR to avoid a “government shutdown.”
  • Contract: a legally-binding agreement between Skylight and a customer or teaming partner detailing the exact work to be accomplished and other relevant terms (e.g., period of performance, financials, legal terms).
  • Contract line item numbers (CLIN): federal contracts are typically funded at the CLIN level, which breaks the contract down into items being procured (e.g., labor hours, travel funding) and provides accounting classification traceability.
  • Digital procurement: the way the government buys technology to support improved digital experiences for the public. The term “digital acquisition” is synonymous with digital procurement.
  • Digital transformation: the integration of digital technology into all areas of an organization, fundamentally changing how it operates and delivers value to customers.
  • Direct manager: someone who is the direct line manager of an employee. If you encounter the term, “supervisor,” that’s synonymous with direct manager. We try to avoid using the term “supervisor,” as it reminds us of industrial-era management.
  • Director: a type of people manager who oversees managers, individual contributors, teams, and sometimes other directors. A director is expected to work across the company to get things done and drive results with little or no supervision. At Skylight, we typically refer to a director as the “Head of X,” such as the Head of Recruiting.
  • Engagement manager: someone who oversees the successful execution of a contract, including building positive relationships with the client and managing multidisciplinary delivery teams. This role is also known as “delivery manager.” We prefer the term engagement manager over delivery manager as the former better connotes the relationship-management component of our client work. However, we do use the term delivery manager in public materials, such as job advertisements, as it’s a more commonly-known term.
  • Executive: a type of people manager who oversees directors, managers, individual contributors, teams, and sometimes other executives. An executive is expected to plan and execute the direction of the company in a results-driven way. Titles of executives include CxO and Vice President.
  • Federal fiscal year: the accounting period for the U.S. federal government, which begins on October 1 and ends on September 30.
  • General management: all the executive-level activities involved in managing the profit & loss and business operations of the company. Sometimes referred to as “general management & operations.”
  • Gold team review: review session to ensure the proposal is submission-ready. At this stage, the proposal should be complete in all sections, all information, all graphics, and fully compliant. It’s formatted and looks exactly like it will for submission. Review is usually done by 2–3 senior executives or managers.
  • Government contracting: the process by which the government enters into contracts with large or small businesses and solutions vendors.
  • Government-furnished equipment (GFE): equipment owned by the government and delivered to or made available to a contractor.
  • Government technology: a catch-all term to describe technologies related to the public sector and civic life. In general, we use this term to describe technology where the primary beneficiary is the government rather than the public.
  • Guilds: intended to be long-lived groups focused on continually improving and maturing Skylight in a particular area of practice that’s outside of or in support of the standard practice areas (e.g., Research & Design). Because Guilds work on continuous improvement in focused areas — areas that don’t lend themselves to one-time solutions — Guilds generally have an indefinite duration.
  • Heartbeats: the regular rhythm of an iterative project. Establishing a consistent rhythm of a fixed iteration length can simplify planning for a team and its stakeholders.
  • Individual contributor: a professional with no direct reports and whose expertise and experience are central to the success of the company.
  • Manager: a type of people manager who oversees individual contributors, teams, and sometimes other managers. A manager is expected to drive results for the company with some support. Depending on the context of the term, “manager” may be in reference to someone’s level of responsibility (e.g., manager vs. executive) or to an employee’s direct manager, who could be at the executive, director, or manager level.
  • Method: a particular form of procedure for accomplishing or approaching something, especially a systematic or established one
  • Objectives and key results (OKRs): a tool used by individuals, teams, and companies for setting goals to maximize alignment and transparency. OKRs are a more collaborative process as opposed to a top-down bureaucratic process.
  • Operating model: describes how an organization delivers value and is a subset of the larger “business model” concept.
  • Out of office (OOO): indicates that someone isn’t available to work, especially at a time when they normally would be (e.g., taking paid time off).
  • Outreach: an umbrella term that we sometimes use for brevity’s sake to refer to the business functions of marketing and communications, which are related, but different.
  • People operations: a strategic business function that focuses on creating great employee experiences. It’s an umbrella term that’s inclusive of HR and talent management. Sometimes referred to as “people management.”
  • People manager: an executive, director, or manager who provides leadership and personnel administration (e.g., performance evaluations) in support of the individuals and teams they oversee.
  • Period of performance: the time period during which the proposed work will be completed and the funds awarded are available for expenditure by the recipient. A number of government contracts are structured with a base period (e.g., 12 months) and one or more option periods. An option period gives the government a unilateral right to purchase additional services/supplies or to extend the contract for a specified period of time.
  • Personal Business Plan: a document that we use at Skylight to help employees outline a plan for achieving high performance over the course of a calendar year.
  • Pink team review: a strategy brainstorming session for your proposal. The pink team addresses content, approach, or intent in every section of the proposal. Some organizations describe the goal of a pink team proposal to be 65–70 percent complete.
  • Position description (PD): a statement of the major duties, responsibilities, and supervisory relationships of a position. In its simplest form, a PD indicates the work to be performed by the position. Sometimes also referred to as a job description (JD), but at Skylight we prefer PD.
  • Practice: the customary, habitual, or expected procedure of doing something.
  • Practice area: a generally recognized or distinctive area of knowledge and expertise.
  • Prime contractor: a contractor who works directly with the customer. They manage any subcontractors, and are responsible for ensuring that the work is completed as defined in the contract.
  • Professional development: the process of improving skills and gaining knowledge that will help employees continue to progress in their roles. Sometimes referred to as “prof dev” or PD, but we prefer not to shorten this term in writing as PD can get confused with “position description.”
  • Professional services: a category of products and services that can be offered on the GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) Contract. This category includes consulting, training, financial, engineering, environmental, marketing, and language-related services.
  • Proposal contributor: broad term for anyone who participates in the creation of content for a proposal response or otherwise participates in the development or review of proposal content. Content types can vary (e.g., narrative, presentation materials, illustrations).
  • Process: a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.
  • Public interest technology: refers to the study and application of technology expertise to advance the public interest, generate public benefits, and promote the public good.
  • Red team review: review session to discuss changes, additions, and corrections identified at the pink team review. At this point, the proposal should be nearly complete. Some organizations like to quantify it by saying 85–90 percent.
  • Request for proposal (RFP): formal request by a customer to solicit bids for certain work. Also known as a Request for quote (RFQ).
  • Service delivery: the process of providing a service to customers or the internal clients of an organization. It typically includes processes to design, develop, deploy and operate services.
  • Socioeconomic program: refers to a special program set up by the government to limit competition to certain types of qualified small businesses. Example programs include 8(a), Woman-Owned Small Business Program, and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program.
  • Squads: intended to be time-bound, project-based teams focused on implementing important, specific strategic initiatives or operational improvements. The best outcome a Squad can hope to achieve is to wind down to a conclusion, because that means it’s solved the problem or improved the area it was created to investigate.
  • Subcontractor: a person or company who works under a prime contractor.
  • Team lead: someone who provides guidance, instruction, direction, and leadership to a group of individuals (the team). Anyone can be a team lead, including a people manager or an individual contributor.
  • Teaming agreement: a contract between a potential prime contractor and another company that wishes to act as a subcontractor under a specified customer contract.
  • Teaming partner: an external party, such as another company, who agrees to work with Skylight in some capacity to win and/or deliver on a customer contract. Also known as “vendor partner.”
  • Technique: a way of carrying out a particular task.
  • Template: a preset format that serves as a model for others to copy.
  • Tool: an instrument used to carry out a particular function.
  • Toolkit: a collection of authoritative and adaptable resources.
  • Utilization: a common metric for evaluating the economic contribution made by members of staff. It’s typically computed as the individual’s actual billable hours divided by the number of standard work hours in the period in question, usually 40 hours per week.

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