Body of Evidence: Big Data Provides Proof in Tenders

Isn’t it ironic that at a time when consumer brands are swooning over the opportunities presented by Big Data, professional services firms are still, for the most part, failing to extract and analyse the intelligence within their own systems.

In fact, an alarming number of firms are not even capturing the basic data points. Yet, all professional services firms boast about their matter management, case management, file management, workflow, knowledge management and relationship management software and systems.

This failure is compromising their business development efforts. How? Because data provides evidence, and evidence mitigates risk.

Think about it: you have two firms pitching for the same piece of work:

Firm A submits a proposal that is rich with comparable project examples, testimonials from clients within the same sector, performance statistics, and relationship history.

Firm B submits a proposal that reads more like a generic brochure.

It’s a no-brainer.

There are a lot of reasons why professional services firms are failing to make the nexus between BD and data:

  • Too many professional services marketers lack business acumen or even a genuine interest in business. They’re mindlessly pulling expertise together without stopping to think and talk about the issues the client is facing.

  • Most mid to large marketing departments are siloed and disintegrated. The data (CRM) team is neglected and excluded from the BD conversations, and the BD managers are systems-averse.

  • Tender coordinators are predominantly self-taught in the art and science of tendering. A fortunate few might have attended a breakfast seminar or been sponsored to attend a day-long Shipley course but very few have been exposed to world best practice methodologies. Who knows what KIA or IFBP stands for?

  • Even some of this sector’s well-entrenched consultants are failing to lead by example – they’re engaged as external experts but are themselves missing, or not challenging, the lack of evidence.

In competitive tendering – or even less formal business development efforts – ‘smart companies’ will back every statement with proof.

When asked about value-added services, most firms copy what was in their last submission, presenting an unoriginal, largely value-less, list of offerings. ‘Smart companies’ will tailor their value-adds to the opportunity, and when re-tendering for an existing client will extract from their CRM system a history for every contact from that organisation: what they have subscribed to, what content they have received, what they have been invited to, what they participated in. Proof points.

When asked questions about local sourcing, most firms will get flustered and fall on a generic statement of willingness. ‘Smart companies’ will analyse their workforce, suppliers and client base by postcode, and then graphically present their contribution to the region in question. Proof points.

When asked to demonstrate their knowledge of an industry sector, most firms will claim the sector is one of a handful it focuses on. ‘Smart companies’ will segment their client base by industry, have a track record of disseminating sector-specific content, be able to draw a list of practitioners who are not just members of relevant industry associations, but who are actively engaged as councillors, and through steering committees and taskforces. Proof points.

Not long ago, while consulting to a global law firm, I led a major opportunity that spanned the infrastructure, transport and energy sectors. The prospect, a listed company, had long been a client of arguably the most prestigious law firm in Australia but through the efforts of my client’s relationship partner was willing to switch. The submission we made took weeks to develop because it involved an intensive analysis of what the project would entail, and an interrogation of the firm’s systems to identify those who had experience which was recent, as well as precise. Our submission was successful, representing a multi-million dollar, multi-year appointment.

Over dinner this week a friend from the same firm revealed that internally this proposal is still heralded by the CMO as best practice. Simultaneously, she bemoaned that so little of the content could be reused.

That’s exactly how it should be: if you’re a ‘smart company’, your tenders will be so client-centric, so project-specific, that others can’t cut and paste from them.

Whether in business or government, those in procurement positions must demonstrate they are acting ethically and transparently, and making evidence-based decisions.

Data provides evidence, and evidence mitigates risk. I have proof of that.