Think of a symphony orchestra.
An orchestra of 20 musicians or more but without a conductor, can it produce a magnificent music?
A busy road without traffic lights, can someone guarantee no driver blow the horn and vehicles move smoothly?
Or a wheel of many spokes but without the hub, can it function as a wheel?
Similarly, can we effectively produce a bid response and potentially win business without applying bid management discipline?
So, what's bid management, anyway? Simply put, bid management is a discipline that provides centralisation and direction of activities to produce high calibre and compelling response of a bid or a tender.
To produce or create such responses, it takes collective effort of a team -- a team whose members are drawn from cross-functional roles. Indeed, they are like many spokes of a wheel or a group of musicians who play diverse kinds of instruments.
Like in an orchestra, each musician must concentrate on his/her parts to beautifully produce music together. Yes, together! Because if we ask one musician to play his/her part alone for half a minute or so, the music is often unrecognisable -- sometimes it sounds odd, too. It is so with each member of a bid team: he/she must concentrate on his/her area of expertise to contribute and produce responses as specified or defined in a bid/tender. But it only makes sense when these responses are put together.
And like the traffic lights that control vehicles from every direction, bid management provides direction for each member to follow, in fact not only direction but plan and strategy to win as well. One of the main strategies to win is producing winning response.
Winning response? What is it like? You may ask. Have you ever heard about a "silent" sales person*?
Well, if the bid/tender response -- thoughtfully produced and put together in a logical and sensible order -- is able to answer not only questions -- technical, commercial, financial, operational, delivery, etc.--but also address concerns (including emotional ones) of the reviewers' -- then the response is worthy to be called a "silent" sales person that speaks loudly and clearly, thus worthy of a business.
Bid manager or bid leader, do we need her/him? Absolutely.
Bid/tender process has become so complex these days; to win business through bidding or tendering, we really need an individual with a dual characteristic. One who can lead and also manage. Not anyone who can cook is a chef. Not anyone who can produce a bid response (by only collating documents) is a bid manager.
Again, imagine the conductor of an orchestra, although some composers may indicate instructions in the music score, but it is the conductor who interprets (Peter F. Drucker, The Practice of Management) and shapes effective ways of communicating instructions to the musicians in order to produce harmonious and melodic whole.
Tacit knowledge. It takes more than just collating documents to win a bid/tender. In fact, it takes knowledge: know "what" and "how" that is relevant to every aspect of the potential project; and also tacit knowledge -- a special knowledge that is gained through experience, a knowledge that knows "why".
Furthermore, it takes the whole heart and mind too. For what, you ask? To build and shape a winning path: motivate a team, lead its members with confidence through the path and win, of course!
So what is exactly the task of a bid leader and a bid manager?
First, wear a hat as a leader -- bid Leader. As a leader he/she must have a vision to win. Know the art of going into a deeper unknown: assessing and qualifying the opportunity; investigating what kind of responses that may address and uncover its reviewers' "hidden" wants and needs technically and emotionally, establishing connections with them in the response -- in the writing, building a team who will be capable to produce such response; and thus, making the unknown becomes known, and communicating it to the team -- this is the ultimate task of a bid leader.
Second, once the complex unknown becomes known, the bid leader switches her/his role to become a bid manager: managing and executing activities, allocating tasks to the members, empowering and encouraging them to produce works as expected, and most importantly, orchestrating and weaving these works into one great piece of art!
One thing, though, the switching of the roles between leading and managing is not permanent, this means that this person, throughout the bid production stages, must be capable of knowing when he/she has to switch back and forth between leading and managing to constantly provide directions in times of confusion or inspire the team members, hence bring the best out of them, in times of doubt.
Is that all?
Theoretically, yes. But in practical, bid management is a constant "battle field". A general in a battle can never rest until the war is over and peace is established. Similarly, a bid manager can never rest until the bid is won and becomes a project that is successfully delivered.
To conclude, perhaps the following excerpt describes better, the real duty of a bid manager:
... "A wonderful man was this Caesar! You are a writer, and I am a fighter, but here is a fellow who could both write and fight, and in both was equally skilful!" (From "The Courtship of Miles Standish" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
*other suggested reading www.14arcaustralia.com/blog/successful-silent-sales-person-have-you-seen-one
About the author:
Fourteena, a professional bid manager, acquired her strategic bid management skills through a fully residential tutoring program in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2001. Since 2000, she's led and managed virtual bid teams to successfully win about 45 airport's IT Infrastructure tenders/bids, worth $US80 million, across Australia; New Zealand; the Asian Pacific countries: India, China, Taiwan, Japan; and countries in the South Pacific Islands. View her profile au.linkedin.com/in/fourteena
Photographs by Felix O. Halim for Arc Australia