Conference notes and more future predictions for proposal profession

As promised two weeks ago (see blog post below), here is my report on my presentation at the APMP Conference panel where I spoke alongside Steve Shipley (the founder of Shipley and the proposal profession), Steve Myers (the creator of SM&A who also says he was the actual founder of the profession), and three other colleagues. I don’t know exactly who gets what credit for founding the proposal profession, as I only heard Steve Shipley’s story in a filmed interview that I will post on the web soon.  Steve M. just said it was him, period, in his notorious self-assured style, so I may interview him at some point to get the story straight.

On a side note, it is interesting how the Shipley and SM&A companies’ personalities are consistent with their founders’ approaches. For example, Steve Shipley is rather sweet. Did you know he has six kids and 19 grandchildren? Or that he was a missionary in Ghana during the brief period when Shipley company was sold? This is very much consistent with Shipley company’s approach of sharing their toolset with the entire world. It looks like a fully congruent business model with Steve S.’ personality.

Steve M. was very different. He flew his own plane to the conference just in time for his talks, and left promptly.   Steve M. had a very engineer-like approach. He also said he and his company were “the best in the world” several times. His advice to me was on the point, without extra words spared. He had a piercing gaze and an upright stance. His demeanor may be intimidating to many because he would be right at home at the “Shark Tank” show. By the way, if you have entrepreneurial leanings and haven’t watched the show, do – it is excellent. Again, Steve M. was very much like what SM&A (that he recently sold) is known for.

It all made me think of what OST is like. I think OST is congruent with my own approach to life: share the knowledge freely with everyone to make this profession easier and more enjoyable. Focus on efficiency and practicality of its application, and highlight the finer points that are keys to proposal mastery. OST is a thought leader that’s hard-working, lean, mean, and innovative, but also kind and fun. I hope you have picked that up from our communications.

So, with that long introduction (which, ironically, wasn’t lean and mean but I was bursting to share), here are some more future predictions that I shared at the panel on “Proposal Pioneers and Today’s Warriors.”

Here are the likely changes in the proposal field in the next 10 years:

  • Continued decrease in proposal budgets due to lower margins, smaller deals, and higher pressures on contractors
  • Greater competition overall; more sophistication and competiveness, especially among small businesses
  • More proposal professionals joining the consultant ranks
  • Increased use of “social collaboration” – virtualization will do to proposals what social networking did to connectedness and disconnectedness
  • Expanded use of performance metrics to figure out success rates, monitor productivity and workloads, and track status of proposals in the pipeline dashboards
  • A move to a thin, rather than a thick, process with a shift of emphasis onto the intelligence behind it, as well as the proposal content
  • Two conflicting (or balancing) forces intensified:
    • Commoditization and a resulting drop in compensation because of the greater number of proposal professionals
    • The opposite of commoditization – increased professionalism leading to acceptance that proposals are not an administrative task and that all professionals are not created equal

The keys to avoiding commoditization are in getting deeper training and cross-training because of how the proposal field works, as shown in this graphic:

In other, “lean and mean,” words, better trained and more versatile proposal professionals who can cover more areas of the BD Lifecycle will be more competitive and will command higher pay.

Please, let me know what you think about my predictions. I know that not everyone will agree. For example, Steve M. was debating with me on thin process, disagreeing with the agile handling of the proposal steps.

 

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