Bids & Proposal Management: Opportunity-to-Cash Process
Visualize a professional services business or any company that undertakes projects and programs for external customers. Generally called as Opportunity-to-Cash (O2C) or Quote-to-Cash (Q2C), we could split O2C as –
The life cycle of O2C projects and programs could be distinctly bucketed as –
- Bids & Proposal Management
- Project Planning
- Project Execution
Organizations continue to struggle to deliver O2C projects & programs – profitably!
When we take a close look at the causes of project failure, it would dawn on us that the seeds of project failure were laid either during the bid & proposal stage, or during the project planning stage, or the project execution stage.
Let us quickly review the causes of project and program failure at each of these stages along with potential solutions.
Stage # 1: Bids & Proposal Management
The foundation of a successful and profitable project is the proposal management stage. Unfortunately, many a project fails at this very crucial stage itself.
- Bid & Proposal Documentation
As-Is: Depending on the company background, the value of deals pursued could swing from USD 50K to USD 5Million or more. Despite such a broad value-range, it is not uncommon to observe proposal teams use ad hoc and non-standard processes for documenting bids and proposals. They take it even further by working on standalone Word/Email documentation that leads to an inefficient and ineffective proposal creation.
When organizations pursue deals for diverse products and services (engineering, software, hardware, services, etc.), going with a one-size-fits-all or ad hoc is the first step to project disaster.
Way Forward: Teams must move towards Proposal Management software solutions that can configure ‘proposal templates’ based on size, value, domain, complexity, etc. There could be a deal here or there that is an ‘outlier’ that could be dealt with as an exception!
- Bid & Proposal Estimation
As-Is: In most cases, proposal management teams find it very convenient to use Spreadsheet/Excel-based estimations for timelines, resources, and costs. While this may appear quick and easy for low
value/duration deals, it may not be the best approach as the deal duration and value increase. Imagine how cumbersome, tedious, questionable would be the quality of – estimates, basis of estimates, assumptions made, high-level risks, resources, and the multiple versions that these estimates go through. Throw in some last-minute changes – you have a recipe for a classic information-cocktail that is hard to digest!
Way Forward: Business leaders must deploy bid & proposal management software that has deep functionalities of proposal estimation along with an automated ‘Proposal Builder’ – a comprehensive proposal document that gets generated keeping in mind nitty-gritty such as proposal background, solution, estimates of time, costs & price, and right up to grammar, company credentials & logo, document formatting, standard disclaimers, T&Cs, etc. Best-in-class proposal management software lets you create proposals in a jiffy – leaving your teams to focus on ‘proposal value addition’!
Further, such software allows comparisons across multiple versions of the proposals.
Stage # 2: Project Planning
During the proposal stage, the level of clarity and information may not be 100% or not available. The gaps must be addressed during the planning stage.
The focus of project planning must be to minimize project uncertainty by gaining as many inputs and information as possible; if not, appropriate risk management plans must be put in place.
It is pertinent to reiterate that project planning involves numerous dimensions:
- Ensure alignment of project goals, objectives, and business value in line with the proposal.
- Incorporate scope, quality, schedule, resources, costs, risks, procurement, and communication aspects into project planning – according to the needs of diverse project stakeholders.
When projects fail to deliver expected value, it becomes obvious that the teams offered just lip service to project planning with the foolish misadventure – “we will somehow manage.”
Way Forward: An integrated and holistic project management solution must be the catalyst for project success – covering scope, quality, schedule, resources, costs, risks, procurement, and reporting. Further, proposal managers and project managers must be able to seamlessly connect Customer Proposals and Project Plans and ensure – nobody drops the ball!
Stage # 3 Project Delivery
This is when the rubber meets the road!
Plans may be great on paper, but value delivery is in flawless execution, the foundation for which is in ‘collaboration’! Many project failures are attributed to collaboration issues with difficulties to get local, global, virtual, or cross-functional teams on the same page – every time. Collaboration becomes complex when they are multi-modal – phones, meetings, face-to-face, chats, etc. Teams struggle to make sense of information floating in all possible forms.
Tracking the project progress is a mind-numbing exercise for the project teams. When organizations do not have guidelines or when there are no mechanisms to monitor the project guidelines, whatever is said becomes the project’s progress.
It is no surprise that projects progress quickly to 90% and then stay there forever! Reliance on Spreadsheets, Emails, Documents – you just entered project management hell!
Amidst the project management chaos, project managers find it arduous to synchronize project delivery with plans and further back to proposals.
The project manager is just not able to analyze – Proposed Profitability vs. Planned Profitability vs. Actual Profitability! The project is dead!
Way Forward: Professional Services Automation is not an option – it is a hygiene factor! A robust project management solution / PSA Software integrates proposal with project plans and finally with project delivery. As part of project execution, the solution must offer the capabilities to track the finest elements of projects – WBS, work packages, milestones, tasks, subtasks, resources, costs, vendors, risks.
The solution must be built on the latest technology that offers alerts, notifications, etc. – empowering project teams towards decision making instead of data collection and analysis. A social collaboration platform is no longer a nice-to-have!
We no longer need separate solutions. We need solutions that are:
- Comprehensive – from proposal creation to project planning and project execution; or
- Integrated with applications such as CRMs, Scheduling, HRMS, ERPs, and Accounting.
- Project profitability is the joint responsibility of proposal teams as well as project teams.
- Continuous back-and-forth collaboration is critical to project value delivery.
- Organizations need solutions that seamlessly move data across the life cycle of proposals-project planning-project delivery.
- Opportunity-to-Cash software solutions must be configured to the needs of the industry, organization, and project value & complexity.