PM has Improved Delivery of the Contract Life Cycle

Most aspects of bidding and running outsourced contracts have taken on project management approaches and techniques as integral parts of delivering effective and efficient outcomes. Perhaps the first was the implementation phase where a range of changes needed to be made within a set time period to get the contract in place – of course some contracts (particularly in construction) are programmes in themselves.

Bidding for contracts has also become a project oriented activity in most businesses, with a repeatable set of activities and checks within set time frames to achieve a specific outcome (the profitable win). The Association of Project Management even runs the official accreditation exams for the Association of Proposal Management Professionals.

Over the past few years even the pre-bid phase has moved into the project sphere, with the Capture Planning process ‘normalising’ the process of getting to know the customer’s needs, building relationships and building a solution pre-bid.

[ribbon-light]But there is still one ‘Missing Link’[/ribbon-light]But there is one area of the contract life cycle where many companies have still not incorporated project management processes and approaches to make the most of their position and to increase their likelihood of success. That is the recapture phase – where an incumbent is preparing to bid to retain an existing contract.

Some might contend that Capture processes cover this activity. But our experience (and that of a lot of incumbents and procurers) says different. When you are looking to capture a new contract, you are looking freshly at the opportunity, aiming to unseat the incumbent (or the in house solution), seeking out information about the activities and customer, looking for weaknesses in what they are already getting as a service or product to show how you can deliver better. You are attacking.

As the incumbent you are already delivering the solution and have a lot of data. You already know the customer and they know you. You have assets, staff and processes already in place. You are (hopefully) already making a margin on the existing business. You are defending. And as in war and sport, attack is different to defence. You have different objectives, use different tactics, need different skills and even different people.

[ribbon-light]Common Mistakes[/ribbon-light]Many incumbents, by failing to treat the recapture stage as a specific and different project make a number of common mistakes, for example:

  • They don’t start the process of recapture early enough
  • They fail to properly capture the data from their existing contract to use in the rebid and in creating their new solution
  • They rely too much on existing customer contacts – not necessarily those who will have decision making power on the rebid
  • They assume the new contract will be the same or similar to the existing contract – underplaying customer change requirements, relying on existing assumptions, being pulled back from making change by the inertia of their existing solution

The reason for these mistakes is often the same: complacency. Assuming its position is unshakable the incumbent doesn’t put in place a clear, coherent set of actions, implemented with urgency, properly resourced with people from the contract and new innovative thinkers, and regularly reviewed to check progress against plan. In short they fail to put in place the actions that would be at the core of a well thought through and properly implemented project. Too often the result is that they lose a lot of their incumbent advantages and arrive at the rebid poorly prepared. And ultimately they lose the rebid.

[ribbon-light]Features of Success[/ribbon-light]So what are some of the features of a successful recapture project?

  • A clear and early project initiation. Some incumbents ‘drift’ into preparation and find they have left it too late, and put too little effort in as a result. Clearly setting out the starting point of the recapture project – ideally before the customer is starting to make their own decisions about the scope and specification of the rebid means everyone is aware the process has begun. • Setting out the actions and timings required for the project period. A good start can be wasted if there is no clear set of activities for the period of the project. People will be pulled back to their ‘day jobs’ or other more urgent requirements. A good recapture project clearly sets out the activities required, the timings, who is responsible for delivery.
  • Regular reviews of progress set within the timetable. Too often there are no reviews set up – again leading to actions drifting and being completed too late or not completed at all. Whilst some companies do have Governance based sign off reviews (for instance bid / no bid), these are not the same as progress reviews within the rebid team to ensure they are on track to deliver what is needed to win. As with bids, these sign off meetings often focus on whether the bid effort should progress – they don’t focus on how well the bid is progressing in terms of quality.
  • Clear action streams on the areas that count. This will vary from sector to sector but generally streams focused on the following will ensure the right areas are being focused on:
    – Collating and analysing data from the contract
    – Customer relationship ‘rebuilding’ focused on those who will influence the rebid decision
    – Understanding the next contract period and the changes the customer needs / will include in the rebid
    – Developing a new solution for the next contract period
  • The right people being involved. The best mix is taking people from both the operational team and the bid / sales teams, creating the right balance of experience of the existing contract, plus new, objective, challenging and innovative thinking.
  • A clear objective and end point. The project should aim to complete – or more accurately hand over to, the bid project itself, either at the point of OJEU announcement, or when the first stage of customer documentation is released (the PQQ or RFI). The objective should be to put the incumbent is the best possible position for the rebid phase- with all information to hand, clear understanding of the customer’s needs, and an outline of the solution (and costings) for the next contract solution complete

Treating your pre-rebid preparations as a recapture project will give discipline to the effort. It will also create a repeatable set of actions for your rebid preparation that the business can learn from, improve and repeat for all future rebids. Ultimately it will lead to more rebid wins – and create the foundation for your new bid wins to deliver real growth, rather than just replacement of lost business from existing contract ‘churn’.

[ribbon]Author Bio:[/ribbon]

Nigel Thacker is owner and Managing Director of the UK based firm Rebidding Solutions, which specialises in helping incumbents run successful contracts and win their rebids. He has 19 years experience in the outsourcing market having worked at divisional and Board level in Managing Director and Group Business Development roles for international businesses as well as smaller and medium businesses in the UK. He has also led development of corporate processes in bidding and rebidding and trained hundreds of managers in 13 countries on their use and delivery.

Nigel publishes regular articles on different aspects of successful business retention. He has also presented as a speaker on the subject to the APMP in the UK and the USA as well as at other events in the UK and Europe. More papers and articles on rebid best practices and recapture planning can be found at the Rebidding Solutions website.