Which Comes First? Solution Development or the Kick-off Meeting?

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Many businesses tell me, “We follow an industry standard process for bids.” Which is fine – I’m a big fan of a well-established review process. However, many of those processes are remarkably silent about solution development including when and how it takes place.

The issues I see are most often among companies opting to develop their solution during the proposal writing phase. Often this is linked to the way the company is structured. If the Sales Team follows and qualifies leads – and is influential in making the decision to bid – then it is usual for the bid to be passed to a Bid Team to develop. In many organisations, the decision to bid for an opportunity is followed by a flurry of activity such as Hot Button, Win Theme and Value Proposition workshops. Internal governance processes can be tricky to navigate, so effort is put into ensuring that everybody who should know about the bid, does know about the bid. Diaries are booked with review meetings, leave is cancelled, commercial discussions and competitor analyses kick off in earnest.

Solution architects may not become involved until several weeks down the line when it’s time to write the response to a complex technical question. The solution architect is the subject matter expert who looks at (and really understands) the client’s requirements, compares them with our go-to solution and announces, “We can’t do it.” At this point, too much cost and effort has gone into developing the proposal to cancel the bid or to redevelop the solution. In addition, too many reputations are at stake. This is when poor quality proposals can arise, with ill-fitting solutions hammered in sideways to keep the price competitive.

Sound familiar? So, when should you work on solution development?

I encourage the businesses I support to start their solution development before the Bid/No Bid decision. I’m a big advocate of bringing in solution architects early to help sales teams qualify the opportunity. This enables you to get under the skin of the client’s requirements to identify what the client wants, needs and fears – and to ensure we can meet (or exceed) their requirements within budget. The devil, they say, is in the detail: enthusiastic Sales Directors often rush to bid, whereas seasoned solution architects often spot something that will nobble our go-to solution. Our go-to solution, or a close variant, is our best friend because we have the evidence, statistics, benchmark costs, credibility, references and case studies to support our response. The less we have to reinvent, the better our chance of winning.

In my experience, we achieve a better solution from the start when solution architects’ findings influence the Bid/No Bid decision. This approach results in less late-stage solution re-engineering and fewer unpleasant surprises and red faces. A business deciding to No Bid because of a poor solution will maintain its reputation and preserve its bid budget/resources for better opportunities with more viable solutions.

This article was written by Karen Croshaw.

Karen has been involved in bidding and tendering for nearly 25 years, firstly with universities and training providers, then in large private sector organisations. She now runs her own successful freelance bid consultancy. Her consulting career spans public and private sector bids including government frameworks, nuclear, rail, road, construction, digital, defence, healthcare and skills. She has strong Middle East bid/project delivery experience gained by living and working in the UEA, Saudi Arabia and Oman, where she also trained and qualified as a scuba instructor

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