‘We Have a Process in Place!’

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The fundamental misconception about the relationship between best practice and processes

Having a solid process is the basis for any high-performance bid team. However, implementing best practice means far more than drawing a process chart with a sequence of approvals and sign-off points.

Does Roger Federer play ‘best practice’ tennis? Most of us will probably agree he does. He was ranked by the ATP as the world’s number one player for 310 weeks (including a record 237 consecutive weeks). He has won 103 ATP singles titles, 20 Grand Slams (including a record eight Wimbledon men’s singles titles), and a record six ATP year-end championships. He has been one of the very, very best. If you asked him the reason why, he might say, “It’s the process.” But he won’t. Tennis is more about trained skills than know-how.

Just as process is not the key success factor for Roger Federer, your bid process is not the key success factor for your proposal win rate. Sure, every organisation needs processes to manage the interaction between departments, employees, and external suppliers. But there is a widespread, fundamental misconception about best practice: that bringing it into their organisation means re-designing their processes.

This is fundamentally wrong. Processes describe the sequence of certain tasks, independent from the quality of how these tasks are performed. Of course, tweaking the process is the easiest part of change management. You go to your drawing board, move a couple of boxes and arrows, and then tell your staff to follow the new process. Done!

However, compelling and winning proposals are primarily the result of the well-orchestrated cooperation of a team of trained and skilled professionals. In a complex B2B environment, every bid project is different: submission deadlines, bid team structure, business case structure, client requirements. Everything is different, every single time. As a result, the bid process must be flexible and adaptable enough to accommodate these changing factors. This can only be done through the definition of roles (not functions!) that are re-assigned for every bid.

The role description must contain the tasks and responsibilities within each process step. The roles stay the same, but the allocation of these roles to team members might be different each time. The underlying process (the sequence of activities) should serve as the navigation aid for all team members involved. The combination of a good bid process with the associated role descriptions exactly defines what needs to be done by which role in each step of the process. This is where many organisations fail.

In many organisations, the bid process consists of a few key tasks like ‘RPF analysis’ and ‘bid preparation’, garnished with a series of approvals (solution approval, business case approval, document approval, etc). Nothing wrong, but not very helpful. They often have only high-level role descriptions (if at all) which are not linked to the process steps. For instance, it must be crystal clear who should provide the target price in which phase. It should be clearly defined which role is responsible for proofreading, editing and formatting the proposal text. Bidding is an extremely cross-functional and cross-departmental exercise which needs more attention to detail than other processes in the organisation. The bidding process must be tightly linked to clearly defined roles assigned for every tender project.

In most organisations in the complex B2B space, there is a different bid team for every opportunity. As a result, it is more important to document, communicate, and train these roles than in other parts of the organisation. Even when organisations have a well-documented and well-engineered bid process, it fails to apply when team members are insufficiently informed about their roles and responsibilities.


A good bid process is more than a sequence of approvals and sign-off points
(here: CSK’s BidMaster Framework).


And finally, it is equally important to grow a trained bid team with the skills to develop a compelling proposal. Like tennis, proposal writing is more about skills than know-how! This includes sales professionals who are actually able to fulfil the client’s underlying needs (not just the requirements stated in the RFP) and experienced bid managers who provide team leadership throughout the bid cycle (with its usual time pressure and occasional chaos). This enables the bid team to develop compelling win themes that go beyond the usual ‘We are the leading provider of…’ twaddle.

Good processes are important and helpful but they are not the only driver for success.

This article was written by Chris Kaelin.

Chris is a global authority on bid and proposal management. He was co-founder and chairman of the Germanspeaking APMP chapter and regional director for Europe/Africa. He is APMP-certified at Professional Level (CPP APMP) and is an APMP Approved Trainer. In 2013, he received the prestigious Fellows Award.

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