The Work To the Left of Proposal, part 2

The Work To the Left of Proposal: In Part 1 of this 2-part series, we discussed the importance of the actions of the first 10% of any project. We also mentioned the Buyer/Seller relationship in any complex project, and the role of Business Development in assuring success. In this part, we disclose a bit more of the importance of Business Development. Then, we introduce another key role that every complex project requires.

The Attraction of Business Development

Why should Project Managers include and embrace the role of Business Development (BD) Managers in The Work To the Left of Proposal? Several reasons, from our perspective. First, many organizations too-often relegate PM from strategic to tactical. It was not always this way. In an earlier era, the PM was the “go-to person” who participated in the analysis of changes needed to establish competitive strategies. She or he also planned those actions needed to implement them.

Over the last 30 years we have lamented that we we must, as we say in our article, “Cure The Dumbing Down of Project Management”. While we came to PM from a Strategic Planning background, most others do not. And that is where BD comes in. Just as with Strategic Planning, BD is wide and thin. Project Management tends to be narrow and deep. A match made in heaven! Not only that, PMs could learn a thing or two about getting closer to customers. And we must assure that our efforts are in alignment to organization strategy, and assure business results. On the other hand, this divergence in perspectives helps explain why some PMs don’t get along well with BD Managers.

Meanwhile, less-competent PMs worry too much about the long-obsolete triple constraint or golden triangle. NOT whether the organization actually benefits from project efforts. So the gap has significantly widened between Organization Strategies, business needs, Business Development interests, and some flavors of PM. Of course, that is one reason we formed IPMA-USA: to help return to the days of PM advancement.

My Project Management consulting firm matched proposal teams with the delivery teams in the 1980s, to improve initiative success. Today, we are matching competent PMs with stellar BD Managers to improve project success and buyer benefit realization.

The Role of Contract Managers

The key third party in this troica of organizational change agents, after PM and BD is the Contract Managers. Consisting of Functional Managers, Lawyers, Procurement Officers and others, these are the parties on both sides, Buyer and Seller, who assure that both parties meet their commitments and needs. While Shakespeare is said to have his character in Henry VI proclaim, “first thing we do, we kill all the Lawyers” (I believe they called them solicitors then), today’s Contract Managers are the best friend of the PM–and of the buyer’s stakeholders.

The USA boasts two professional organizations for Contract Managers. IACCM, The International Association for Contract and Commercial Management, serves both buyers and sellers in organizations. This makes for a very interesting arrangement, as buyers and sellers are learning to collaborate, and through this innovative organization, are establishing an entirely new approach of win/win. An International organization, IACCM is also a Strategic Alliance partner with IPMA, International Project Management Association, of which IPMA-USA is the USA Member.

NCMA, the National Contract Management Association, focuses upon improving performance in Government contracts. One NCMA initiative, Shoulder-to-Shoulder, is bringing buyers and sellers together, to reduce risk, improve performance, reduce cost to government, while improving seller profitability–all while improving the practice of Contract Management. These are the types of actions we achieved in our consulting practice throughout the 1980s, to truly eliminate the overpriced hammers and toilet seats–and now NCMA is helping get it all done!

PM View of CM

More about The Work To the Left of Proposal: Some PMs have a negative view of Contract Managers (CM). Unfortunately, some of that view is well-earned. CM as blockage, CM as not-always-trustful, CM as raising last-minute barriers. On the other hand, the Contract Managers we have spoken with have their own stories about PM: Involving Contract Managers too late to save the “deal”. Ignoring them when they raise risks; blaming them for the failures.

And now, because of the efforts of the two organizations named above, plus countless dedicated Contract Managers, plus the efforts of IPMA and IPMA-USA on the PM side, we are making tremendous progress in learning how to work together, building on our common strengths, and learning more about our teammates’ competences. We have spoken at the major events of each of these groups this year, and extended an open hand to their participants. In both cases, the combination of relief and excitement were huge.

Easy Improvement of Contract Results

We suggest that you visit the Contract Management association websites highlighted above. Our learning over the last several years, as we became actively involved in these organizations, has been huge. Our clients have already benefited from these newfound (for us), and unique in the PM community, insights. Have you?