A Drawbridge, a Plan, and a Miss

We arrived at the procurement office in ample time. But where was the team from the incumbent? And what does a drawbridge have to do with project planning?

A drawbridge raised and stopped traffic from crossing the river
In the words of Paul Harvey, “and now … the rest of the story.”

The IT provider for which I worked had developed a marketing strategy to break into a niche industry where we had not previously been involved. The initial foray into the industry was to respond to an organization’s Request for Proposal (RFP) in our home city.

The pressure was felt from two fronts – a new opportunity to open this niche and a local client. It was what is known in the industry as a “must win.” (I’m not sure what happens if you don’t “must win,” but as proposal manager for the procurement and Project Manager for the delivery, I was not about to find out.)

With the help of a dedicated proposal team, many of whom would join me on the project if we won the bid, we developed an aggressive solution – both from a timeline and a budget perspective. Our thought was that the incumbent for the legacy contract had grown complacent, and would likely not bid as aggressively. We had an opportunity to unseat them while entering this new niche.

On the day the bids were due, all of our proposal copies were properly copied, bound and packaged according to strict submission guidelines. We had spent the previous day performing a desk check of every copy, ensuring every page was correctly in its place, every foldout inserted, and every binder correctly labeled. We rented a pickup truck with a covered bed to safely transport the boxes of proposal copies.

As we signed in at the procurement office, we casually looked to see what other bidders might have signed in prior to us. Our major competitor, the incumbent, had not yet arrived, so we went across the street to the coffee shop to watch for them. The submission deadline was 2 p.m., and by 2 p.m. they had not yet arrived.

Now we were concerned. They were the competitor we had to beat. Had they chosen not to respond? Did they know something about the new project that caused them not to bid? If we won, would we regret bidding so aggressively

We did win, and the project execution was going well. Months later I met a member of the competitor’s bid team. Curious, I asked why they had decided not to bid. She confessed that they had prepared a bid; but in putting together the project plan for the proposal development, they had recorded the due date incorrectly in the plan. Just before the bid was due, they realized their error, and scrambled to complete the proposal and prepare the requisite copies.

Racing against time to get to the procurement office before the bid closed, they had to cross a river. As they approached the bridge – a drawbridge – it began to slowly raise to allow boat traffic through. They were stuck on the wrong side of the river with no contingency. They had missed the deadline.

As Paul Harvey also said, “Good day.” (at least it was for our firm).


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