Breaking Down Barriers

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As a bid manager, it’s no longer good enough to just be a great project manager and creative mind.

I know friends within the industry will disagree with me, particularly those in the contracting market where a portfolio of clients from across sectors is more common. But when we’re talking about in-house talent, sector experience matters.

The maturing of both bidding functions and the role of the bid manager has meant businesses are looking more and more to bid managers to bring sector knowledge and experience to the role they play in winning work. This is especially true in companies providing services; for me that’s the construction consultancy sector. An understanding of the subject matter and the bidding models used in the sector are critically important.

Perhaps we have brought this upon ourselves. I started as a bid manager 15 years ago when clients’ RFP requirements were relatively simple and using quality, repeatable content was common. Subject matter experts had more time to scrutinise, improve and enhance proposals, leaving me (as a bid manager) to fulfil the role of the project manager within the bid.  But over time, tenders have become more complex and the demands on bid managers have increased.

Procurement professionals have also matured in their approach, finding new ways to test, challenge and attempt to separate bidders. This leads to much less standardisation in the way bids are run, and an increased difference in approach between sectors.

Organisations now look to the bid manager to be the project manager and also the coach and guide for subject matter experts, a challenger and reviewer on quality, and a skilled professional who can navigate much more bespoke, sector-specific RFP requirements.

So, does that mean the ability to move from sector to sector is gone? Have we pigeon-holed ourselves as professionals? As employers, have we reduced the talent pool available to us?

I’d argue no. But being cognisant of the differences between sector requirements becomes a lot more important whether you’re a job seeker or employer.

As a leader with a brilliant cohort of over fifty professionals in my team around the globe, I’ve woken up to the need to provide more onboarding support for those joining our team, to help them understand the nuances of what a great proposal looks like in our industry. A foundation of experience via previous employment and APMP certification is important but holding, or being able to quickly build, industry knowledge is critical to hitting the ground running and building trust with subject matter experts and leaders across our business.

What does that support look like? I’m still working that out, but site visits, time with project teams, formal training, work shadowing and helping subject matter experts recognise that new colleagues may need a little more time to unravel all the technical lingo and three letter acronyms in our industry will go a long way to bridging the knowledge gap.

I recommend you think about the same. Investing in early support for a new employee, beyond corporate inductions and onboarding will open up the resource pool you can draw from. It opens up new avenues for new talent to join the amazing world of bids and proposals, and helps us to learn as an industry from those who join us from outside of it.

We’ve got to keep evolving. Breaking down barriers to work in our industry has to be one of the next ways we do that.

This article was written by Mike Reader.

Mike Reader is one of the UK’s leading work winning professionals, helping senior leaders navigate the bidding and sales world. He leads a specialist team at Mace who work across all continents pursuing mega built environment and infrastructure projects. He also loves cold water swimming, politics and good food.

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