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Capture Planning in 2019

John PanCTPI

Capture Planning

Customers today are deciding whom they prefer to buy from before proposals are even being submitted. The goal of capture planning in 2019 is to position the customer to prefer your organization and solution to the exclusion of competitors, or to at least prefer to do business with your organization prior to proposals being submitted.

Capture planning is the process of identifying opportunities, assessing the environment, and devising and implementing winning strategies oriented toward capturing a specific business opportunity. Consistently successful capture planning requires written, action-oriented capture plans.

The primary audience for a capture plan is each person who will manage, approve, or execute the plan, the proposal, and the resulting contract. A good capture plan will be realistic and specific, detailing the objective, action, responsible individual, timing, and frequency of review.

Implement a capture planning discipline to capture new business more efficiently.

To meet the organization’s goals, sufficient specific business opportunities must be won. The discipline associated with best-in-class capture planning aligns organizational objectives and investment with high-win probability opportunities within approved strategic business objectives.

Capture planning nests efficiently within existing business development and planning processes. Strategic business plans contain data about markets, trends, buying history, and competitors. Some organizations will prepare a strategic plan and a separate, annual business plan.

Enhance capture planning effectiveness by aligning activities and capture plan elements.

To move from an unknown to a known position with the customer, research, analyze, and validate your data with the customer. Validation is key because the only relevant view is the customer’s view. The next step is to develop and define your solution, strategy, cost, and price to win from a known position. The listed capture plan elements comprise tools and templates that help you develop and document your position. Next, implement your action plans to influence the customer and improve your position. Change requires action.

Select a compatible medium to develop, review, share, and update capture plans in your organization.

Envision a capture plan as a framework, a series of folders or buckets where you assemble and organize data by topic. Ask capture team members to add, update, share, and purge data as relevant and permitted.

Many organizations select presentation-based plans instead of text-based plans, primarily because they are easier to prepare, review, and update collaboratively. Some business development managers use the presentation format to collaboratively construct the first draft with a prospective capture manager. They use the initial gate review to gain maximum participation and input, turning the review into a facilitated free-for-all. Handled diplomatically, this is an effective, constructive approach.

An additional advantage of presentation-based plans is that they are web-conference adaptable, which eases scheduling of busy executives, reduces meeting costs, and secures input from geographically dispersed experts. Presentation-based formats are easily customized, both a positive and negative aspect. A disadvantage of presentation-based templates is the omission of supporting detail. Ask preparers to link, reference, or attach support files or folders.

Keep the process dynamic, flexible, interactive, and current.

Keep your capture planning process flexible to permit adjustments depending on the importance of the opportunity to your organization, the competitive situation, and the resources you can afford to commit. Avoid becoming a slave to your process. Adapt to the needs and acceptable norms of your organization.

Build the plan interactively to support a fast start with reasonable effort and to encourage regular updates. Capture plans are living documents that are repeatedly updated as you gain information. Information will change and become more specific as the opportunity matures.

Maintain a balance between planning and execution.

Changing perceptions requires action. Detailed plans without action are a waste of time because they fail to influence customers’ perceptions. Limit your plans to the resources available. If more resources are needed than your organization will commit to win, reconsider your pursuit decision. Effective capture planning requires a balance between action and planning.

Gain and maintain senior management approval and support.

Top management must endorse and help communicate the plan to everyone managing and executing the plan, as well as those impacted by the reassignment of individuals to support the plan. Management support must begin with the pursuit decision and continue through to the signed contract. If the opportunity remains worth winning, keep management sold by emphasizing the value to your organization.

Commit the right people to the capture team.

Organizations pursuing competitive business should assign their best people to capture teams. Organizations that assign only the people they can spare from other activities usually lose the sale. In addition to the triumvirate leadership, capture team members’ skills must be suited to their assigned action, whether direct customer contact, internal development, or assisting the proposal team.

Assign specific, measurable objectives, schedules, and completion dates to different department managers by name.

Most capture team action assignments are part-time and for a limited duration. Only the managers of the assigned individuals can ensure task completion.

Many capture efforts fail because the individuals assigned to the task are expected to complete the task in their spare time.

Get serious about completing the task, eliminate the task, or no-bid due to lack of resources. The single biggest reason for losing competitive business is the failure to adequately influence the customer prior to proposal submittal.

Establish regular decision gate reviews to determine whether to advance the opportunity to the next phase or end the pursuit.

Decision gate reviews are milestones between business development process phases. Focus on four key questions:

  1. Is the opportunity winnable?
  2. Do the potential returns justify the expenditures?
  3. Is the capture team prepared for the next phase?
  4. What additional resources are required to win?

To keep reviews short and effective, focus on reviewing the actions taken, analyzing the results of those actions, and then adjusting future actions. Base every decision gate review on the current capture plan. Keeping your capture plan updated eliminates the need to prepare for each review.

Establish organizational standards for each review. Set clear expectations by specifying review inputs and outputs linked to the value of the opportunity, selling environment, and strategic importance to your organization and the customer.

Maintain a positive, constructive tone. Avoid penalizing contributors who raise unfavorable information that might lead to no-pursuit or no-bid decisions. Remember that the most successful organizations eventually pursue less than 30 percent of their pipeline and achieve win rates of 70 percent or greater. Seek good decisions while avoiding a bias towards go-forward decisions. Eliminating personal opinions, bias, and ego is difficult in most organizations.

Early warning signs leading to a no-bid decision are limited information, indecision about where to obtain needed information, and limited capture team or senior management commitment. Winning competitive business requires laser-focus on winnable opportunities. Losing bids are the most costly bids. No-bid decisions free you to shift limited resources to winnable opportunities.

Schedule color team reviews to improve the product—whether a capture plan, strategy, proposal, or underlying processes.

The essential quality-improvement principle is to review for the right things at the right time. Use color team reviews to solicit constructive recommendations for improvement.

Differentiate color team reviews and decision gate reviews. Focus color teams on quality improvement; focus decision gate reviews on whether to advance, defer, or end the pursuit.

Adapt the number and types of reviews to your organization, your business development process, selling environment, and the importance of the opportunity.

Both the number of reviews and color designations for reviews vary widely by organization.

Align the background of the reviewers to the color team review. Seek reviewers that offer varied perspectives on the customer, competitors, selling organization or team, and solution.

Seek comprehensive and constructive recommendations for improvement. Appoint an independent, experienced facilitator to manage the review team. Train inexperienced reviewers, and then establish clear instructions and standards before initiating the review.

Request consolidated recommendations from the review team. The capture triumvirate and executive sponsor then must decide which recommendations will be implemented, who will implement them, and debrief the team. Avoid direct color team debriefs, as unfiltered recommendations might have negative consequences.

Use the capture plan to jump-start the proposal planning process.

Relying on the capture plan to quickly prepare the initial proposal management plan saves both time and maintains a consistent message. Without a capture plan, a newly assigned proposal manager starts from scratch, often with little help and under severe time constraints.

Information on the customer, requirements, and competitors transfers directly. The capture strategy needs to be extended or converted into a proposal strategy. Only the proposal outline, compliance checklist, proposal preparation schedule, and the writer’s packages need to be created.