Prioritizing from the Get-go

As you may know, I believe many corporate resourcing & delivery issues stem from not properly prioritizing customers & projects. You can read my recommendations on how to approach those in my prior blog post. Today, I’d like to take a step back and look at prioritization from the onset of customer project introduction. In government contracting, this is called the gate review process.

A business faces immense pressure to succeed these days, facing obstacles from all directions. This might be driven from competition, or budget reductions and uncertainty, investor return or simple from cash flow concerns. Amidst all this chaos, the only real thing the business can control is how they behave. It is up to the business to pursue the business, then accept the business and support the business. Ideally all parts of the business are in sync about the choices being made. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. In my experience, most businesses pursue any prospect of business with a vigor and stubbornness, minimizing any negative feedback or concern. Many times this is done by simply not including other parts of the organization in the sales process.

These challenges can be overcome by simply asking the right questions (and following through with the outcome regardless of the answer) throughout the process. This process does not need to be too tedious. However, it should be thorough enough to have all pre and post involved departments participate in the conversation, being able to have their concerns heard, acknowledged and if possible, mitigated. Three simple questions you can ask during this process are: Can we do it?, Can we win it? and Can we make money?

Can we do it?

Fundamentally this is the first step. This step is really about reviewing your capabilities as and organization and determining whether you can deliver. Some ancillary questions include:

  • Do you have the resources? Can you get them in time?
  • Do you have the applicable skills?
  • Have you done this before?
  • Can you identify and mitigate the risks?

Can we win it?

This step is determining how you stack up to your competitors. It is also about doing an honest assessment of the work involved to ensure you can price within the required range to win it. Questions to consider include:

  • What is your existing relationship with the customer?
  • How do you stack up against the competition?

Can we make money?

While there may be reasons to pursue opportunities with limited margin, the answers to this questions should be most honest. Businesses exist to make money. Continuing to pursue opportunities where the prospect of doing so is limited puts the whole business in jeopardy. This discussion will put some key business assumptions to test about efficiencies, repeatable processes, or the reality of custom work. Questions to consider include:

  • What is the customer’s budget?
  • What is the contract type? Where does the risk lie?
  • Where do your competitors end up with price?
  • Can you mitigate the financial risk?
  • Are their efficiencies you can gain?

It is at the intersection of “yes” to all three of these questions where the optimal place exists for your business to pursue new customers or projects.  It becomes a slippery slope when only two questions result in “yes.” You may strategically choose to pursue business when you have two out of three, but these come with very severe risks. Wasted resources and degradation in customer success are two potential outcomes.

Prioritization is critical to business success. Having checkpoints at multiple stages throughout the sales & pipeline, customer success and PMO processes significantly improve your ability to work on the right projects for your customers. It also helps your ability to delivery and make money from your initiatives.

I want to thank David Stearman for his presentation on Gate Review Decision Making at the Association of Proposal Management Professionals-National Capital Area (APMP-NCA) Mid-Atlantic Conference last week. This blog post is a compilation of my notes and thoughts regarding project discovery & decision to move forward.