Adapting Agile/Scrum to Business Development and Marketing Activities



Blogs focused on management trends or books hyping the business model du jour tout a better way, but many times fail to deliver at execution.  For those genuinely good ideas, is it resistance to change, corporate culture, or the risk that sabotage such endeavors?

Many times, stepping out on a new and different path with associated investments in time, change management, reorganization, and costs scares people.  We convince ourselves living with a broken system is better than failing in the implementation of a new one.  For these reasons, change leaders are most effective when they can present concepts and ideas in non-threatening ways – minimize the rocking of the boat.  Consider this: repurposing an existing and trusted business process is not as ominous as a complete overhaul.  One such model to consider is the agile/scrum software development process.  A management process at its core, it appeared a reasonable endeavor to map and adopt the mapping of agile/scrum to business development bid and proposal activities.

An associated piece of this concept was analogous to agile methodology “epics.”  In agile, epics are large bodies of work that can be broken down into several smaller tasks.  In the case of business development, customer stories (needs, pain points, etc.), solutioning stories, pricing, technical approach, staffing were approached as sprints.  Moreover, not all sprints need be sequential.  Many can run in parallel.  This approach was ripe for the picking.

Now let us put it in context.  Today’s need to adjust to “red ocean” realities (LPTA, little innovation, rock bottom pricing…) places added pressures and win emphasis on both operations and business development.  For business development, pressure to increase proposal production without an increase in manpower requires finding ways to streamline the business development and capture process.  For DTSI, the first part of the effort led to recognizing rigid organization structures had to give way to self-governing teams. 

With a self-governing team construct, adopting agile/scrum processes becomes the next task.  DTSI already had an agile/scrum framework on the operations side.  Therefore, the business development team took an up-close look at the process and blueprinted it to their business development and capture management framework.

There are challenges to work out, but here are a few observations:

  • Capture managers must focus on envisioning the implementation and collaborating more deeply with the solutioning team, proposal manager, pricing team and writers.  This also includes understanding the scrum framework in which many professionals are accustomed to or educating those new to the concept.
  • While scrum is a software development process framework, it can manage knowledge work and allows teams to think how something can work, try it out, reflect and modify.  We see where the construction industry has adopted and is using agile/scrum.
  • Proposal managers must understand the sprint concept.  Specifically, the “timebox” in which the team produces a product increment.  Having knowledge and insight into the sprint will allow proposal managers to work more effectively with the team.

The complexity of tasks inherent in business development (business intelligence, opportunity identification, research and analysis, capture, and proposal management) demand business development and marketing teams step up their game.  Further, the realities of increased marketing velocity, emerging technology know-how, keen and low pricing strategies, and exceptional writing requirements demand team collaboration.

The more agile “best practices” are set in place by the business development and marketing team, the better the response from the tech team will be.  Since operators are already emersed in the agile/scrum mindset, expanding to bid and proposal activities will find wider acceptance across the entire organization.  At DTSI we look forward to maturing this agile state of mind.  Focusing on effective team interactions and the work of proposal production through the adopting of agile/scrum is our task at hand.  Our success will be measured in win rate.  Hopefully, the experience will also provide professional and personal satisfaction across the organization.

William Foote is Director, Business Development and Marketing for Diversified Technical Services, Inc.  He has 10 years’ experience in business development and capture management.  Before his time in the private sector, he served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force.  His last assignment of his 31-year career was serving as the Director, Personnel Services at the Air Force Personnel Center

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Diversified Technical Services Inc