An open letter to the Bid team from the PMO

Or what the PMO wants the bid team to know

A Bid PMO typically constitutes experts or senior management who are expected to pool in their expertise and knowledge so as to facilitate the Bid team in collating and structuring a well thought out and well-reasoned project proposal including winnable techno commercial proposal content. The PMO would dissect the proposal through an investigative process of asking questions that the Bid preparation team is expected to have answers to.

1. How have we addressed project scope?

An explicit and uniform understanding of the prospect’s definition of the project scope and delivery expectations, business justifications for proposing the project, including clarifications sought and responses received prior to bid submission, is critical to the composite bid team. In most organizations, the bid process does not move forward until the understanding process is completed.

2. Is our effort estimation/pricing rational?

Good and reasoned effort estimation/pricing plays a large role in determining if the project proposal bid is successful and profitable. Bidder organizations generally prefer to play it safe on estimations/pricing and therefore on project value in trying to safeguard profitability, sometimes at the cost of losing the bid to competition. On the other hand bidders might price their bid aggressively in their attempt to win the deal, often at the cost of curtailing estimations defined by the delivery management team. This is a dicey choice for most organizations to make when bidding for the deal and in answering the question - is our effort estimation/pricing rational? Successful bidding organizations are those that have mastered the art of winning bids while retaining reasonable profitability. This does not mean they win every bid they propose for. It just means they are prudent in their estimation/pricing in addition to scoping and assumptions, and their internal bidding and delivery processes are better tuned to the demands of an ever competitive industry. It also means not wanting to win every bid at values that don’t make profitable sense.

3. Have we optimized proposed delivery scenarios/timelines?

Clients look forward to practical and well-structured project delivery plans, as one of their decision making criteria. The delivery organization should have answers to queries on delivery timelines, resourcing arrangements, pilot/mini projects, parallel task execution, contingency plans, etc. The PMO would like to understand these aspects in the bid proposal and look for answers to the above aspects. Structured project planning addresses a substantial portion of effort and time estimation, which in turn has a significant bearing on proposal timelines and costs, and may mean the eventual difference between a winning or losing proposal and profitability. E.g. in a greenfield software development/ implementation project, which was fairly complicated (300+ business processes to be automated), the project management team (client & delivery team) decided to define and execute a pilot project on a representative sample of the project scope (12 business processes), to test out various aspects of deliverability and take corrective actions to improve delivery/implementation plans.

This method actually helped the project build a template for project development and implementation and reduced a significant amount of time for delivering the remainder processes, although the initial pilot project took a longer time that anticipated completion.

4. Are our delivery assumptions/limitations/disclaimers comprehensive?

Bid proposals are usually built based on understanding of scope, definitions, dependencies, assumptions and limitations expressed by the prospect in their bid documents and clarifications. Despite factoring in these, It is critical that the bidding organization define its own delivery assumptions , limitations, and disclaimers as comprehensively as possible without violating the terms of the proposal. For e.g. there could be assumptions around potential growth in user population for a software application. While the prospect may have defined growth in user population as 20% per annum, but if the real growth is more than the assumed growth, the proposal would fall short of delivery expectations. There could be potential impact on hardware and/or software resources which may degrade or impact the performance of the delivered solution.

5. Do we have strong & positive client reference stories?

The Bid team should research historically executed projects that contain similar scope and possibly in a similar business domain as the prospect, to be able to collate a great story to sell the project proposal to the prospect. The bid team would be expected to position a winnable proposal as uniquely as possible (considering competition) to maximize the prospects interest across their decision makers, by raising the bar (i.e. elaborating and defining solution characteristics that meet and potentially exceed their defined expectations). This would entail researching for available experts/resources within the organization that could be positioned as part of the delivery team, so they bring in value to the client through their experiences with past projects. A prospect would definitely look favorably on a proposal that lists case studies on similar projects that have been executed for clients in their business domain, e.g. FMCG, Insurance, Manufacturing, EPC, etc.

Experiences across multiple projects, regardless of size/value, indicate that even the most well scoped / thought out projects do undergo change across time. Technology/business landscape keeps changing and the project under execution often needs to undergo changes to accommodate and prove the business value. Thus, it’s also important that Bid team captures the outcome of the project in terms of the variance between estimate and actuals. This will help them refine their estimates/BOM better for similar projects in the future.

If you are prepared with answers to these questions, expect no more open letters from the PMO.

This blog has been authored by advisor Paul D'Souza. Paul has over 33 years of experience in business consulting and IT advisory & implementation. He has worked on conceptualizing, bidding and delivering multi-million dollar projects for clients in Retail, Distribution, Government, Manufacturing and Healthcare verticals. During his tenure he has worked with organizations such as - KPMG, Capgemini, Dept of Health Abu Dhabi, etc.

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