Earlier this month, our partner Lohfeld Consulting Group launched WinCenter v3.0 at the APMP 2014 conference in Chicago. It was big news for practitioners of complex business development. I was there to support Lohfeld. In this article, I’ll talk about how the product was received and how it reflects the changes in the best practices of practitioners.
WinCenter is a software system for integrated capture and proposal management. It is built using CorasWorks and runs on Microsoft SharePoint. It is purpose-built for Federal Government Contractors, but, can also be applied to complex commercial business development. Unlike database systems or document management systems, it is process-centric reflecting the phase-based process used by Federal Contractors or commercial organizations.
Up until now, the activities of capture and proposal development have been served by separate tools – largely, CRM for capture and document management for proposal development. With WinCenter, these activities become part of one system, driving and reinforcing the well known process of business development. The benefits in productivity and win effectiveness are dramatic.
APMP Practitioner Experience
The majority of APMP practitioners work with the Federal government. However, this year there was about 30% of participants that manage complex RFP responses for commercial organizations. For both groups, WinCenter is the first off-the-shelf product that provides integrated capture and proposal management. The best practice (on paper) is a phase-based process that integrates the two activities. So, practitioners were very interested to see how it all comes together in a software system.
The experience differed depending on the role of person that we were demoing. If the person was a BD exec, they quickly got the value of an integrated tool. They fully know the pain and loss in productivity of having separate teams and tools with little visibility. If they were a capture person or a proposal person they would initially come from their perspective. Importantly, they didn’t necessarily know what the other group did or how they impact their work or are impacted. Through the demo they started to get a feel for the full process, their role within it, and, how they could work better.
An important part of WinCenter’s design is that while it is one process, it is role based. So, users can see the full picture, but, their work is presented to them in an optimized way.
APMP and Increased Capture Emphasis
Historically, APMP has focused on proposal work which is why APMP stands for Association of Proposal Management Professionals. Yet, this year there was an increased emphasis on capture. This is being reflected (or some say driven) by the local APMP Chapters. This evolution is simply the industry recognition that winning is the real driver and winning requires both capture and proposal activities that are good and coordinated. Clearly, WinCenter addresses this situation.
Phased-Based Process for Commercial
In addition, there are changes in the commercial world. Much of commercial business is now complex solution selling. The practitioners in the Federal space have a well defined phase-based process. Increasingly, this phase-based approach is being adopted by those pursuing commercial business. A phased-based approach to business development is very different from using a CRM like Salesforce in a classic database, transactional mode. It is about guiding, driving and automating the work that drives an opportunity through the phases of the process. WinCenter addresses this also.
Old and Young – Old School and New School
The APMP practitioner crowed has many older people and a whole new crop of young people. It is good to see the younger people coming into the profession. And, APMP does an excellent job of promoting mentoring relationships between people and companies.
The “old school” folks still see BD as a people game. The “new school” sees winning as the results of a defined process that is optimized. They are looking at software tools to drive efficiency and competitiveness. BTW, just because some people are older age-wise doesn’t mean they are old school. Some of the most enthusiastic people driving new school change are older people who have spent years wanting to drive towards a more automated, integrated system and fully know the pain of the old way. The younger people are very quick to pick up on the next generation of tools like WinCenter, so there is an army to work with.