Helping to Prevent the Next Multi-Million Dollar Overrun

As the rough outlines of a $1 trillion infrastructure revitalization package begin to emerge, an essential element that will ensure its success has less to do with paving and construction than it does with effectively matching a company’s capabilities with the needs of a government agency bidding out a new project.

The downside of a poor match can be costly, leading to budget overruns and schedule delays. Sometimes they are the fault of the contractor, other times they are the fault of the agency. But one certainty is that with careful planning at the front end on both the part of the government agency and the companies bidding on projects, the largest public works program in generations will be a major success and taxpayers will be the beneficiaries.

As part of any infrastructure package or program to rebuild bridges and roads destroyed by recent hurricanes and subsequent flooding, Congress should direct government agencies to improve the quality and the consistency of their request for proposals, or RFPs.

This issue is far from an arcane contracting matter. It could literally save millions of dollars, depending on the program. Poorly written RFPs can cause delays because they generate an excessive number of questions by the bidding companies. They may even discourage the most qualified companies from participating. They may spark protests from contractors who lose the procurement, resulting in costly delays. They can lead to cost overruns and reputational risks for the government agency and contractors.

The most current survey of government and industry proposal professionals found plenty of room for improvement in the proposal process. Some 80 percent of proposal experts who took part in the study said that draft RFPs issued by government agencies are too schematic and could be more specific in laying out the needs of the agency.

What’s more, government proposal experts who issue RFPs and those proposal experts in industry who respond to them overwhelmingly agreed that improving the quality of RFPs and their consistency would reduce costs and result in a better value for taxpayers.

For companies bidding on government RFPs, improving the process rests squarely on whether the government can change its approach and communicate better from the outset of a procurement, according to the 2014 survey by the Association of Proposal Management Professionals.

But federal officials and industry experts diverge on how much communication is enough. Industry experts want more communication from the agency. They are reluctant to commit extensive resources to bidding on a contract unless they have as much clarity as possible about the requirements the government seeks to fulfill. At the same time, it’s a delicate balance for the government agency issuing the RFP, which must follow a raft of regulations and be careful not to be perceived as showing favoritism for one bidder over another.

This tension is why more than 90 percent of industry respondents surveyed wanted communications open from the issuance of the first draft RFP to the final draft of the RFP, a process that could top months or years depending on the breadth of the program. But only 60 percent of government respondents saw this as a necessary change.

The survey and report, titled “Closing the Procurement Gap,” noted “a gulf of understanding between industry and government that can be reconciled through dialogue. … The basis for understanding and improvement exists.”

The problem is not intractable. Both agencies and contractors want the highest value for the taxpayers and both agree that better communications can help. With so much treasure at stake in the infrastructure package and post-hurricane rebuilding, procurement professionals have a vital, if unsung, role to play in ensuring that taxpayers are well served and that the nation receives the best possible roads, bridges and highways.

This OpEd piece appeared on InsideSources.com on October 31, 2017.  It was written by Rick Harris, executive director of APMP.  Any APMP member is encouraged to reprint or repost this piece.  It is intended to promote bid, proposal, captures and presentation professionals who make up our industry.  The orginial text can be found at http://www.insidesources.com/helping-prevent-next-multi-million-dollar-overrun/

APMP’s People Power: Turning the Mirror On Ourselves

There is no question that APMP has enjoyed great membership growth these last few years.  We are up 70 percent since 2011 and our nearly 8,000 members have helped to define this tremendous industry.

Over the past few years we have spent a lot of the time focusing on APMP as an association.  This includes everything from making sure that the business runs correctly, the educational content is solid, the staff is in place, our accounting and business practices are transparent and that we are returning value for your $150 annual investment.

We have spent the last few years focusing on APMP as an association because we want our current and prospective members to understand what the association is, how we are all better when we work together and what we can be in the future.

Now that APMP is a fiscally sound, high performing association for its members where do we go from here.  APMP’s Board of Directors has decided to look at the association from the inside out.  Our first step was to look at what profession stands for and how we define it.  We want to understand who we are, how we work, how we work better and for whom.  We are looking at you!

We wanted to understand the individual professionals that make up APMP and the bid, proposal and capture industry.   One of our first initiatives from a visibility perspective is to shine the light on who we are and what we do.  You will continue to see the personal stories about how our members are making a difference in their companies their economy.

Other things to come include understanding how others see us (you) and how we want them to see you.  We want them to know that we are a profession dedicated to winning business and we want to get that word out with messages about professionals like you who want to become APMP members.

We already have a trusted certification program as a best practice measuring tool, APMP Compensation Reports, APMP’s Writing Professional Bids & Proposal for Dummies and other benchmarking tools as reference points to show others how we make a difference in the business winning part of our industry.  We’ve come together through chapters, to learn, share, help and network and help each other in ways professionally and personally.

You will hear a lot about APMP members and the power of the people who make up this great association.  You’ll hear less about the theory of how to win, and more about the people who do win.  You will see a lot of names and faces, many of whom you’ve never seen before.

Our members are the economic engines in their own companies.  A contract isn’t won without APMP member’s fingerprints all over it. APMP members lead the way to keep businesses thriving by pursing and winning the right deals, with the right strategies at the best cost.

You are going to be hearing a lot more about what you do and how you generate the Power in your association and how it works for you.  We thank you for your support, your commitment to our industry and for building this “people power” driven APMP.

APMP Announces Call for Board of Directors Nominations

The Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) announced recently a call for nominations for their Board of Directors for the 2018-2019 term. They will be electing up to 3 new board members to serve for the next term and want you to submit your self-nomination before Wednesday October 11, 2017 at 5pm EDT. APMP is looking for motivated leaders to join their Board of Directors and help build the future of the organization.

There are certain requirements that must be met in order to serve on the Board of Directors for APMP. You must be a current APMP member and prior leadership experience (maybe in your local APMP chapter) is preferable. Applicants must also have their APMP foundation level certification or be willing to attain it within the first year in office. The biggest commitment of this position however, is being able to attend various meetings over the course of the year.

You must be available to attend up to two face-to-face Board of Directors meetings during the year at your own expense (though sometimes employers may be able to assist with these costs). The 2018 meeting is in San Diego, CA in mid-May and the other meetings in the last quarter of 2018 and 2019 have locations to be determined. There are also bi-monthly APMP Board conference call meetings on the 3rd Thursday of alternating months. While this may seem like a lot of meetings, they are necessary in continuing to make APMP the great organization that it is and this Board membership will reflect wonderfully on your resume. It takes a lot of skill and leadership experience to make APMP work so effectively and we look forward to electing new members to join us in this endeavor.

Aside from filling out the Board of Directors form available here there is also a small writing assignment required for prospective board members. At the request of past nominees, this year’s candidates are encouraged to include an essay of 500 words or less on “If Elected I Will Help APMP and the Industry in the Following Way.” Which will then be reviewed by APMP’s selection committee before the voting occurs on new membership. The current board is most interested in learning just how you think you could assist APMP and the industry, as opposed to just reading a full biography.

If you’re interested in this amazing opportunity, email rick.harris@apmp.org for more information, or fill out the 2018-2019 APMP Board of Directors form linked above. APMP will declare the results of the election by Friday November 3, 2017. We look forward to welcoming our new board members and continuing to build an excellent future for APMP in the coming years.

If you would like to self-nominate click here!

The Top Five Networking Tools to Promote Yourself in Your Company

Every day we clock in and clock out – running that race – working hard to earn a living so we can provide for ourselves or family and save for the future. We spend time saving and investing money for our retirement, but often times we don’t think about investing in our careers in the same way while we’re working. If you’re investing in your career, you’re also investing in your future and there’s no better way to accomplish your long-term goals of saving more money for retirement than to network your way into new opportunities at work and the possibilities of promotion.

Most people work hard and hope that their work gets noticed by their bosses. We call this the “Did You See What I Did?” or “Hey, Look at Me” affect. You can stop waiting to be noticed and take control of your inter-office trajectory by following these sure-fire ways to ensure that your superiors always see you on their radars. Here are the top five things you should consider when investing in you through in-house networking.

  1. Volunteer for Internal Project Activities

Nothing will catch the eye of a superior more than a staff member who always puts their hand in the air to volunteer for company projects. When you throw your hat in the ring for a new opportunity, it gets your name out there and in front of people higher up than you in the company. If you do this frequently enough, they will see you as a dependable and reliable team player who’s always ready to help out. For instance, you could help organize the company picnic or stay late to wrap up a project. If you regularly step forward and volunteer your time, you will get noticed.

  1. Suggest and Execute a Charitable Campaign

Most companies are altruistic and want to be seen as champions of causes, especially in the current era of corporate social responsibility we live in. Look for ways that your company can support causes in your community – thinking global but acting local is very trendy and there’s no better embodiment of that than contributing to the community. For instance, if you work in an IT based company, organize a program with your local Microsoft store to provide computer training for underprivileged children. Lead the ideas by suggesting topics like “Learning Excel for Business” or “Resume Writing 101”. Keep in mind when deciding on a charity campaign that it shouldn’t benefit you, your family, or friends. It’s only charity when you help others outside of your immediate circle. Another great idea is raising money through GoFundMe for food for those less fortunate during the holidays.

  1. New Employee Orientation

It can be a trying experience for people when they first start in a new company, and volunteering to assist these new coworkers is a great way to help them and yourself. Ask your boss if you can volunteer for new member orientation. This will reinforce to your employer that you not only love your job, but you also want to help new people love their job as well. For example, create a first day plan for the new employee where you volunteer to walk them around and introduce them to others, show them where the copiers are, how to mail something, and take them to lunch. Follow-up by letting them know you’re there for them as a resource for questions. This will help you be seen as an advocate for your company and a leader in shaping the future talent in your organization, simply by being a positive influence first.

  1. Take the Accountants/Bookkeepers to Lunch

This is some of the best advice I ever received from anyone. Accountants/bookkeepers have a very tough job – toiling over the numbers day in and day out. They have to tell you that your bill coding is wrong, that you need to correct your expense reports, or keep up with the more mundane parts of the job while you project manage or create. Invite the accounting team to lunch and let them know how much you appreciate their efforts and thank them for keeping you on task. Ask them personal questions – about their families and their interests over lunch – because other co-workers rarely take the time to get to know them. Do this and you’ll win friends in the office and you’ll also see benefits in the business – your expense reports will likely get processed first. I do this twice a year, just because it’s the right thing to do.

  1. Look for Work!

When things are winding down with a project, go into your boss or team leader and ask them if there’s anything you can do to help them out. This includes taking routine or menial tasks off their plate such as filing, printing, folding, etc. They will see this as a personal favor and may return the favor when it comes time to put someone up for a promotion or future opportunity.

If you do these things mentioned above, your boss will see you as a true resource, a major contributor, a future leader, an employee on the move, and someone who cares about colleagues, the community, and the company. Sometimes caring is enough to separate you from the rest of the crowd within your company and to help you invest in your career and your retirement goals now. I did all of the things I’ve mentioned and was promoted to a VP in my organization by 35 – the youngest by 15 years. These are my keys to success and they can help you too!

Defense Secretary Mattis Encourages Collaboration with Private Industry

While many people may disagree on their political beliefs, the power that those in leadership positions have is indisputable. Occasionally, these people in positions of power forget that they serve and should listen to the people that voted them into office. We are glad that some people are welcome to open communication that can truly create change for our great nation.

As recently reported in Defense News, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis established himself as one of those collaborative leaders whom listens. He also encourages others in government to expand collaboration between the government and our private industries. Secretary Mattis said that when he ascended to his current position, he met with many industry professionals and was open to advisement – something they didn’t previously see as an option.

Mattis is quoted as telling Defense News, “I want to encourage all of you, strictly within ethical regulations: do not have imaginary legal restrictions on your leadership responsibility to find the best bang for the buck, the most far reaching innovations are out there.”

The Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) applauds this practice and encourages all government leaders to expand their communications to all in industry. APMP sees this as not only a huge step in the right direction, but as good advice to ensure fair, open, and better government-procurement. Secretary Mattis’s suggestion of collaboration between private industry and government will help to bridge a large gap that has been growing for years. If other branches of the government join the Department of Defense in this initiative, we could continue to bring expert advice from private industry to the government. APMP’s Procurement Improvement Committee has made its mission to improve better government and industry collaboration, and have been educating federal procurement officials to do this for years.

The “approach” to open collaboration between our private industry and government in the past has improved our economy immensely. In a post-World War II America, the economy was booming thanks in part to a successful collaboration with private industry and government throughout the war effort. During the era of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, many government programs sought to work with private industries to improve the infrastructure of our country. FDR also encouraged the diversification of private industry which helped build a strong foundation for our nation’s future.

Though we’ve come a long way from FDR’s America, things have changed drastically and APMP thinks Secretary Mattis has it right. We should relax the imaginary legal restrictions that we’ve built between industry and government and start talking with one another.

James Humes once said “The art of communication is the language of leadership” and we agree. With more communication at the highest level, it will encourage more communication throughout the industry and government and build better relationships for a better future. Only good comes from government collaboration with industry, and we want to build that collaboration and bring more good to our nation.

APMP wants to thank secretary Mattis for noticing this disconnect and speaking openly about the positive change he wants to see.

APMP Hurricane Harvey Relief Effort

Hurricane Harvey had a devastating effect on the state of Texas, and our nation as a whole. This destructive storm caused over $170 billion in damage from its intense winds and unrelenting downpour that caused much of the state to remain underwater even days after the storm had passed. When natural disasters like this occur, it causes an immense amount of suffering for those affected. There is one upside to all of this wreckage, is that an entire nation rallies behind those afflicted and band together in an attempt to lend a hand. The Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) has given their support to those affected by Harvey, and raised over $17,000 in less than two weeks to assist its Houston area members in resuming their lives.

Of the tens of thousands of Texans left underwater by Harvey – a number of these were our industry friends, our colleagues, and fellow members. When the call to service was put forth, APMP answered with helping hands. APMP International contributed $10,000 to the cause, while 59 other members from the Nor’easters and South Africa chapters contributed the remaining through a GoFundMe campaign. We are especially thankful for our platinum sponsors – Qvidian and Shipley Associates who gave $1,000 and $500 respectively to support the relief effort. One hundred percent of all donations raised will go directly to food for APMP’s Houston area members.

Kristin Dufrene, APMP’s Chair and Vice President, Proposal Development of Vencore, said “The Lone Star Chapter’s Chair, Sonya Wooley told us they needed money for home repair and food and that’s what we are sending them. Helping our friends and colleagues in a time of great need is a fulfilling part of belonging to an association,” Dufrene finished. The success of this fundraising campaign and the support of our members all over the world makes us especially proud of our passion for the industry and our compassion for our fellow APMP family in need.

APMP will be sending e-gift certificates for food to about 85 of its members from Houston and surrounding areas that have been impacted by the storm. We estimate that each member will receive around $200 in aid, which may not sound like much but at a time like this every bit helps. With the amount of damage caused by Harvey, rebuilding Texas to its former glory will be a long and slow process but thanks to the help of APMP and many others across the globe Texas will emerge stronger than ever before.

 

People of APMP Part Five: Steve Koger

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Steve Koger, CPP APMP Fellow, is the Proposal Operations Manager for Aerojet Rocketdyne in Canoga Park, CA and is a nice person.  He has been a part of APMP since 1998 (19 years) and has been instrumental in keeping the western part of the United States engaged in the association.

We are highlighting Steve because he is one of those people who is a background guy.  He is comfortable letting others take the spotlight while he moves APMP forward in quiet and effective ways.  He never looks for the spotlight.

You may know people like Steve in your own company.  The kind of person that everyone likes, respects, and looks to when guidance is needed.  He has been a past APMP Board Member and is an APMP Fellow, but Steve will tell you that one of his first loves is his work with APMP’s California Chapter.  He has lead the California Chapter through good and challenging times and worked hard with other volunteers to advance APMP best practices one person and one member at a time.

We salute Steve today for the simple reason that every organization needs a Steve.  Every company has a Steve and everyone should know a Steve because it is good for the soul.  Find the Steve in your company today and thank them for their quiet leadership and let them know how much you appreciate them, just like APMP appreciates our Steve.