by: Tom Skypek
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.
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.
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.
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