OPINION

Bring the power of project management to your BD process

When you hear the term “project management,” you don’t typically think about the value it can bring to your business development work. You might think about a large-scale IT implementation or the redesign of a major business process.

But the value of project management extends far beyond IT and business process improvement projects. In fact, the project management discipline has tremendous applications for business development professionals looking to win government contracts.

Federal business development professionals can improve their results by leveraging project management to approach their work and "projectize" their activities. This is possible because many business development activities and their supporting tasks have a discrete beginning, middle, and an end—just like projects.

Two of the largest activities in federal business development—the capture and proposal phases—generally have a discrete beginning and an end. The capture process is a little more open-ended because of the relationship-building dynamic, but it is still much like a project in that it is centered around a finite opportunity—particularly in the federal business development space. A proposal is a textbook example of a project—you draft it, write it, revise it, and submit it.

Applying project management methodologies to your business development work can have myriad benefits including:

  • Ensuring the desired level of quality in business development deliverables such as proposals.
  • Optimal utilization of human and financial resources.
  • Providing a centralized point of contact accountable for deliverables.
  • A clear, effective, and efficient communications cadence;
  • and increasing the probability of winning contracts

The key is scalability. The federal business development professional needs to scale the project management methodology to fit their needs. To create value, you don’t need to overlay the entire project management methodology—along with all of its artifacts—onto business development work.

There are a few key areas where you can harvest value by “projectizing” your business development work. There are areas in particular where you can realize major benefits by applying project management rigor: Scope Management, Time-Phased Plans, and Cost Control.

Scope Management

Effective scope management is one of the hallmarks of any successful project. In defining the scope, you articulate what the project will achieve to create value for the organization, how you will do it (at a high-level), the key stakeholders involved, and what the successful end of the project will look like.

Thinking about your business development activities—particularly your capture and proposal work—through the lens of scope management can help focus your time and effort on the highest impact tasks. Business development can be an ambiguous and haphazard endeavor because so much if it is dependent on relationships and requires a heavy reliance on the so-called “soft skills.”

But you can reduce the ambiguity of this work and increase measurability by practicing good scope management. Clearly defining the scope of the business development activities by market, customer, and contract opportunity will result in a more efficient deployment of resources

The mere exercise of writing these down in a scope document will yield key benefits, because it will force you to analyze your business development work in a holistic fashion—helping to identify duplication and synergy and avoiding the “shotgun” approach to business development.

Time-Phased Plans

Once you’ve clearly defined the scope, you can break the work into discrete tasks, sequence them, and assign them completion dates as well as individuals responsible for completing the tasks. You don’t need to go to the nth level of detail for this to be valuable.

The key is identifying the major tasks and ensuring that they are completed by specific dates (whether by yourself as the capture manager or a member of your team). This helps create a culture of accountability.

By building time-phased plans, you can measure the progress you are making. If you miss a deadline, you will know. If you miss a milestone, you will know. And the onus will be on you to take corrective action. Without these types of plans accountability is elusive and you will find your business development work drifting toward the ambiguity and haphazardness we mentioned earlier.

The capture and proposal phases are the perfect candidates for time-phased plans. Why keep all of your capture activities scattered? Consolidate them into a plan, reduce ambiguity, increase measurability, and increase your probability of capturing the business.

Cost Control

A good scope and solid, time-phased plans create the conditions for financial prudence. If you go through the process of identifying individual tasks, assigning human resources, and selecting a completion date, you are more likely to think deliberately about the costs associated with each task—and the return on investment (ROI) for each task.

Trade association conferences and industry luncheons aren’t cheap; neither is developing and printing fancy marketing materials. Considering these activities as part of a time-phased plan will have a forcing function when it comes to cost analysis and control. Of course, this is not a surefire way to realize cost savings, but if you apply project management rigor to developing capture and proposal plans—and think about costs in a deliberate fashion—you will surely help to reduce your sales and marketing costs and increase the ROI on the dollars that you do spend.

The same benefits realized by applying project management methodologies to IT and business process improvement projects are attainable for business development activities—better quality, more disciplined expense management, optimal resource management, and, of course, an increased probability of winning government contracts.

Effective business development is both an art and science. The “soft skills” such as relationship building are at the heart of the discipline but there’s no reason that major elements of the process can’t be “projectized” to increase your chances of being successful.

About the Author

Tom Skypek is the co-founder and CEO of GovBizConnect, which helps government contractors find great teaming partners.

Reader Comments

Wed, Aug 5, 2015

Agggreee w 3 Aug comment. I guess your advice goes for someone brand new to the business. Anyone in it tries to organize and manage as you suggest.

Mon, Aug 3, 2015 Tom Skypek

Thanks for the feedback on the article. Project management has a lot of untapped potential in most organizations. Folks need to think of its utility outside of IT-related efforts. I agree that building/developing this capability in-house can reduce the dependence on outsourced staff. Applying project management to business development initiatives really does have a host of great benefits.

Wed, Jul 29, 2015 Mike

Anyone using stackfield for managing projects out there?

Tue, Jul 28, 2015

Wonderful advice. Common sense is always refreshing. This is so straightforward, firms will not need outside consultants, nor will they need to hire specialized staff. Just keep people late and follow these rules.

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