Utopia can be interpreted in many different ways. A utopian ‘bid society’ might be one where everyone is happy and its systems and processes run perfectly to deliver the perfect solution.
It’s not surprising how ubiquitous win-rate is when I raise the subject of bid utopia with my colleagues. To many people, bid utopia conjures up images of a 100% win-rate. But what does utopia mean to you? Do you imagine a world where you win every deal? Or perhaps a world where completing bids becomes as effortless as swiping an app on your phone? Maybe you simply wish to leave work on time and spend more time with family? The concept of utopia is largely subjective and will mean different things to different people. Within bids, the perfect world may seem somewhat unachievable, or at best aspirational in the context of the extreme time pressures and often scarce resource.
However, being an optimist I was keen to consider the possibilities of utopia and see where some visionary thinking could take us on the journey towards this illusive place.
I’m delighted to say that our panel of experts have delivered up some fantastic ideas, concepts, and views on this somewhat intellectually challenging subject. We have nine different perspectives for you to peruse – some of our experts certainly share the same views, others are somewhat more ‘out there’.
Whatever your view on bid utopia, the challenge is achieving the desired outcomes, or at least taking the first step on the journey. The more I grapple with the subject of bid utopia, the more I start to question whether it’s really about the journey or the outcome. I’m not sure bid utopia lends itself to both. A 100% success rate and monopolistic approach certainly wouldn’t satisfy the needs of all customers. Would a utopian bid society ultimately lead to commonality and conformity of offering? If so, where is the fun and innovation in that? The ‘eureka moment’ of discovering a new way to articulate value and differentiate from your competitors surely has a place within bid utopia?
In its very simplest terms, bid utopia to me is a place where we proactively learn from our mistakes and stop the cycle of repeating failure. Each lesson learnt forms an ever more focussed qualification process. It’s a place where we set measurable and achievable goals and constantly aim to improve, never resting on our laurels.
My personal views are probably coloured by the challenges and difficulties I have faced over the years when running large bids. To really clear your head of this baggage is difficult when trying to imagine a world of perfect bidding.
I’m instantly drawn (and perhaps somewhat predictably) to the idea of synthetic humans or robots doing much of the ‘grunt’ work of bidding. With their ability to learn I could quickly see them managing content libraries and pre-populating documents for me. They could be tasked with continuously scouring big data to uncover the latest competitive intelligence. Frustratingly, I still find today that nearly all competitive intelligence is anecdotal and very rarely based on facts and genuine research.
Personally, I believe the biggest hurdle to attaining a utopian bid state is the ability to shift the entire process from reactive to proactive. This in itself is reliant upon procurement also recognising the need for change but as our procurement expert Beth Wallace explains, there is an appetite for change from within their ranks.
I am a firm believer that the current process of issuing RFPs and scoring responses is fundamentally flawed. Whilst I understand the logic behind it, very rarely (in my opinion) does it create a level playing field or allow buying organisations to compare apples with apples. Whilst this situation allows some bidders to gain a competitive advantage, I’d argue it doesn’t always provide customers with the best solution. You only have to consider how often public sector procurements go massively over budget.
I’d prefer to flip the process on its head and rather than have procurement teams pose hundreds of questions, they are able to satisfy their main information needs (80:20 rule) from some form of standard system that all bidders subscribe to and update information proactively.
Rather than responding to endless RFPs, this would allow sales people to focus on selling and articulating a solution and encourage more collaboration with marketing. It would also allow bid teams to proactively produce and maintain the best possible information and content from which potential customers could shortlist potential suppliers. This for me would be one small step closer to bid utopia and ensure customers really get the best solution and real value for money.
I really hope you enjoy this issue of Bidding Quarterly and encourage you to share your ideas and challenge our experts.