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Best Ways to Apply Project Management Principles to Proposal Management

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Baskar Sundaram

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Proposal teams share many similarities with project teams, so it’s no surprise that project management principles can also benefit the business development process. Many principles of project management (PM), as defined by the Project Management Institute, can be applied to the business development (BD) process. Applying PM principles improves the selling quality of bid, creates smoother handovers, and reduces risk.

Integrate and align your BD and PM processes

Integrating PM best practices into the proposal management process provides a more comprehensive approach to managing this portfolio. BD teams work with PM teams to create a sustainable, streamlined, and integrated approach to proposal development. This integration provides BD and PM teams with a common language and similar tools.

Adopt an integrated project lifecycle

To use PM tools most effectively in the proposal process, organizations should aim to execute integrated projects, rather than emerging or lagging projects. Planning for an integrated project starts at lead/inception and ends at handover and clearance, passing through the phases of BD and project execution. An integrated project mitigates conflicts by generating a more thorough understanding of the project lifecycle at the beginning of the proposal process.

Establish a controlled environment

Competitive bidding environments provide enough uncertainty to challenge the most talented Project Managers and Proposal Writers. This uncertainty can be partly managed by introducing controls. Controls foster an “all team” culture by ensuring that everyone is operating on the same page, with the same goals and expectations.

Controls also help proposal teams make informed bid/no-bid decisions by defining success on a project-by-project basis. Controls can be based on many factors, including risk, cost, timing, quality, benefits, and scope. Controls help guide the bid team when a proposal begins to experience turbulence.

Monitor the business case of your BD project

Every project requires a purpose, also known as a business case. Bids are no different. As you learn more about the project’s requirements, costs, and risks, you should re-evaluate the business case to see if it is still viable. If controls are exceeded or unmet, or if the situation changes, a project’s business case may no longer be justified.

Qualification and the business case are continuously tested as the situation and your knowledge of it develops. The focus is on whether the business case is still valid and whether you still have a strategy that can win. The Project Manager maintains the business case as a live document and checks that it is still within approval limits.

Define roles and responsibilities

A bid team, like a project, is a temporary organization. It typically cuts across organizational and functional boundaries and has reporting lines in addition to team members’ normal lines of management. The Project Manager, therefore, must establish a clear functional organization and reporting structure for the project. Roles can be combined to reduce organizational size, or they can be split across resources when size demands it.

Focus on deliverables, not activities

To manage a project effectively, focus on what must be produced (products or deliverables) rather than on what has to be done (activities) to create the deliverables. Products are visible: they are either finished or not. Technique and processes (the activities) are the framework of PM. A good Project Manager works within this framework to stay focused on the goal (product): a successful project or a profitable contract.

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