Bill Scheessele


BD isn't just about capture anymore

The key is to shift left, shape early and smart capture

Most capture processes are based on the assumption that existing or new business is available to be “captured.” Unfortunately, the government contracting world has changed significantly in the last six years and the days of capture-driven business development driving revenue growth have gone the way of horse-drawn carriages and buggy whips.

Yes, smart capture is critical, but in reality, it is only one of three legs in the strategic BD triad. Before capture, it is important to “shift left” in the process in order to “shape early” in the opportunity. Shifting left is giving attention and resources to the focus and alignment phase and having a disciplined opportunity identification and qualification (OI&Q)i phase built into your internal BD processes.

If an agency has already defined needs and defined requirements, you and your BD personnel are in a reactive, dependent capture mode and your proposal is seldom better than that of your competitors. Shifting left in internal and external processes—these are two separate processes critical for shaping opportunities and both must be aligned to map together—allows you to engage early with an agency, department or customer where there may be defined needs but undefined requirements. It allows you to shape those requirements to your expertise and services.

Provided your program, capture and BD personnel are well-trained in the (OI&Q)i thinking, behavior and methodology, you can engage potential customers even earlier at a point where their needs are not yet defined and their requirements are not yet specified. This proactive approach allows you time and latitude to create opportunities for your products and services and, at the same time, minimize competitive challenges.

The Shift Left, Shape Early approach and customer engagement is critical to move from a reactive dependent BD culture to a proactive independent culture. This culture change and process shift allows program managers, capture personnel and BD personnel to move away from the frequent, nonproductive, expensive and reactive capture activity. More importantly, it allows them to align their finite bid and proposal assets with opportunities that have the best probability of return.

As a vice president of business development recently shared, “If you stand up your capture team at draft RFP and the customer 'cone of silence' starts, you’re much too late. … The only thing you’re standing up is a proposal team and they’ll need to write better than Hemingway to influence the outcome.”

Shift Left, Shape Early and Smart Capture. It takes all three components of the strategic BD arsenal to win today.

About the Author

Bill Scheessele is the CEO of MBDi, a global business development services firm providing expertise in Business Development best practices in the national security, defense, scientific, energy and engineering industries. The firm offers BD consulting services in addition to education workshops to help BD professionals and teams identify hidden strengths, barriers to progress and opportunities for improvement. Learn more about MBDi, their revenue growth resources and their new virtual training options at or 704.553.0000.

Reader Comments

Thu, Mar 27, 2014

I agree....this is not new information.

Tue, Mar 18, 2014 Melvin Ostrow Wash., DC

All these suggestions make sense. However, despite the modern terminology and labeling, the actions recommended sound exactly like what prudent marketers would do at the dawn of government services contracting. Do people pay other people for such advice?

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