Agile Bid Management
Like pretty much every other industry, the Project Management discipline is undergoing significant change and evolution. As licensed PMPs, we need to keep abreast of developments of our profession and stay ahead of the curve by acquiring new skills. While agile is not new, personally, I needed to better understand the agile mindset before committing to it.
For the past 10 years, I’ve been working as a global bid manager (certified PMP) leading high magnitude opportunities. Has Agile helped me in my profession? A lot! And I’ll walk you through my personal experience.
Working for a global organization that is mostly driven by traditional project management methodologies with well-defined procedures, implementing agile methodologies is possible. The bid management practices are dependent on these precise processes and the actual bid on hand. The bid specifications frequently change during the bidding process. These are triggered by the discussions with the client, by other bidders asking for clarifications and by regulations anticipated to be implemented. It is critical to discern any changes needed (iterative development) and easily adapt redefining the bid management strategies. In other words, be Agile!
Creating Business Value through Stakeholder Engagement based on Transparency, Collaboration and Continuous feedback
When managing complex opportunities – design, build, operate, maintain (DBOM) projects - that involve operations and maintenance contracts for 7+ years, adopting a holistic approach is key to delivering strategic business value to our customers and organization.
An effective stakeholder engagement creates a unique opportunity for customers to be fully involved throughout the bid process. To deliver high-quality proposals, I liaise with a wide range of internal and external stakeholders and interact with various functions - Sales, Application Engineers, Procurement, Legal, and various partners. They all have an input to the proposal process. The teamwork should be based on open and constructive dialogue, strengthening cohesion and my role is to enhance these favourable circumstances. It’s important for our customers to perceive us as a united team, delivering on our promises, aligned in principles and processes, while meeting their requirements. Sometimes we educate the customers to adopt the best technology that would benefit them in the long run.
My bids are developed in sprints. I organize regular touchpoints for all stakeholders with a focus on increasing the client’s trust and fostering internal alignment. We discuss with our clients their needs and key drivers behind the project, the project’s vision, priorities, concerns and challenges and our proposed path to meet their expectations. It encompasses prioritizing technological features, iteration planning related to providing operations and maintenance services, review sessions with the customer, and confirming the envisioned roadmap. The clients are encouraged to be deeply engaged in the project since trust has been established in the team’s ability to deliver high-quality technological solutions. Qualifying the bid opportunities through formal processes in a collaborative and transparent environment, better understanding our customers’ needs, achieving consistency through tools, determining the risk/reward of each opportunity in our pipeline, will greatly improve the chances of winning.
Receiving continuous feedback from my customers and my global bid team offers plenty of benefits in achieving the desired outcome for all stakeholders. A big component of agile is ensuring my bid team feels comfortable and open to exchange ideas.
The moment my process team outlines the cradle to grave technological solutions, one of my challenges to them is to design in a manner that can enable future development, if further required by the customer, either due to new quality standards and regulations, or project expansions.
Continuous Improvement through Retrospectives / Lessons Learned
All lessons learned workshops help my team identify and capture the positive and negative experiences during the bid process. It’s always possible to improve any winning bid and learn how to win, even when you lose.
The 4 “WHYs” highlighted in organizing these “lessons learned”: to better collaborate in the future; be agile in responding to changes; be valuable in our offerings and driving success; to win the next critical opportunity.
Same as in Agile, we collectively identify and prioritize these experiences based on a survey sent to the bid team and partners after submission. We plan to implement the critical action items that were driven by this outcome, and within our next opportunity, we will review and check for progress. If it’s not working, we plan to readjust/pivot.
Collaboration and Commitment
Success with Agile comes from iterative development, collaboration, and regular stakeholder
feedback. These complex bids showed us that, an Agile mindset offers a more adaptable approach. These bids evolve in a rapidly changing environment and the initial request for proposal specifications is often modified during the commercial confidential meetings with the clients. If there is a limited collaboration with the clients if they are not treated as partners, and if their feedback is not gathered and incorporated as appropriately, the process design is hindered. It is critical to include the feedback from all stakeholders, be proactive and flexible to accommodate additional design configurations while optimizing the proposed solutions. By strategically planning on positioning ourselves followed by a tactical approach, while collaborating and exchanging ideas on an ongoing basis, agility in implementing changes, less time is spent in fixing things. The processes and tools are critical, however, if there is no collaboration and willingness to (re)adapt and work in an iterative approach, there will be less continuous improvement and less rapid adaptation to change. We cannot control our client’s deadlines or requirements, unresponsiveness, but we can control our reaction to them, our internal strategies and we need to be ready and strategically positioned to sometimes apply Plan B.
In any complex bid, the proposal team’s collaboration and commitment is essential. To implement an agile bid management framework, the team should be best positioned to co-design and co-create the solution cooperatively with the business.
An Agile Bid Team is characterized by the following values: collaboration, trust, feedback and constructive disagreement, self-organizing, value-driven, welcoming change and responding to it, empowered to make decisions for continuous delivery. All these emerging trends in Agile Project Management are in alignment with the modern trends of improving
employee motivation: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose, as described by Daniel H. Pink in his 2009 book "Drive".
Autonomy – people are trusted and encouraged to take ownership of their own work and skill development.
Mastery – people see the limitless potential and are given the tools needed to continue improving their skills.
Purpose – people are encouraged to use their skills to achieve a "greater" purpose.
As final thoughts, implementing an agile framework in bid management is possible if we will focus on developing an agile mindset instead of stringent work practices, and outcomes instead of outputs.
Andreea Florea Bid Manager at SUEZ - Water Technologies & Solutions
About Andreea Florea
Andreea is an energetic, reliable and results-oriented professional, with over 20 years of experience spanning bid and contract management, business development, communications planning, marketing and strategic analysis. She is a tenacious and resourceful bid manager with outstanding project management and organizational skills, coupled with a solid approach to achieving business objectives, through strategic planning and creative initiatives, in addition to implementing continuous improvement and efficient business processes.