Creating a unified corporate focus on winning new business through knowledge management

How difficult is it to collect proof points, metrics, resumes, or past performance related to an opportunity you’re trying to pursue? One way to improve access to your organization’s information assets and improve your win rate is by improving your internal Knowledge Management (KM) system(s).

What is KM?

Davenport[1] defines KM as “the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge.” KM is a key element in successful business development (BD). Effective capture, storage, integration, and analysis of information is essential to understand and defeat your competition, create a winning solution, and represent your company as a capable, best choice for the job.

Consider all the information you capture and maintain as a company:

·  Resumes ·  Past performance
·  Metrics ·  Boilerplate
·  Templates ·  Checklists
·  Best practices ·  Success stories and kudos
·  Financial data ·  Certifications and awards
·  Graphics ·  Debriefs
·  Lessons learned ·  Contracts, subcontracts, and amendments
·  Contract progress reports, deliverables, and reviews ·  Technical solutions
·  Management and subcontracting plans ·  Marketing materials
·  Transition and quality control plans ·  Logos
·  Reusable materials ·  BD, capture, and proposal artifacts
·  Competitor and partner intel ·  Customer intel

I’m sure you can add to the list. As a proposal manager, you want access to it all! Imagine a world where you have a current, searchable, secure knowledgebase that captures and links all this corporate data!

Today’s realities

This is a challenging task for many organizations. Corporate America tends to be highly stove-piped, with business units and even BD teams that capture, retain, and safeguard corporate data they do not freely share. Deltek contains your finance data; Salesforce captures BD data; and SharePoint, share drives, Dropbox, cloud databases, and local hard drives contain disparate and distributed data assets and intelligence that are highly guarded by their owners.

Many companies don’t even realize all the information they possess.

Whether you’re selling services, products, or both, considerable focus must be placed on collecting and maintaining employee and corporate qualification records. It’s really powerful when you can integrate or link your qualifications and other corporate knowledge into a searchable database that’s accessible by your BD and proposal team.

Success story

When I took leadership of the proposal group at a small company some years ago, the situation I inherited looked like this:

  • Proposal processes were non-existent;
  • No corporate linkages to information assets existed;
  • Share drive and local hard-drive folders were the main storage mechanism; and
  • Email was the main venue for data sharing.

I set out to engage the company in building a knowledge repository linking all corporate data to related opportunities. This required a complete corporate culture shift—driven by a shared desire to win.

Based on my experience and lessons-learned, here are suggested steps to identify, integrate, and achieve buy-in for a major corporate KM integration activity.

1. Obtain senior management endorsement

Most important is to obtain corporate commitment, beginning with executive leadership. With senior management support, people become engaged and willing to work towards a common goal. The project requires investments in time and technology, so plan your budget and present it up front.

2. Identify an integration team

The integration team should have representation from each business unit and function. This includes HR, finance, contracts, BD, proposals, marketing, and operations. Participants should be knowledgeable about the information assets and processes owned by their business unit.

3. Identify corporate knowledge assets

This is best accomplished through brainstorming and collaboration meetings with the integration team. Communicate the BD and competitive advantages an integrated corporate KM approach can achieve. Help participants see how their information can support BD and proposal preparation and bring the company to a win. By making everyone part of the process, you achieve buy-in and willingness to share information.

4. Analyze the information

This requires more collaboration by your integration team. What common elements span assets? How accurate is the data? How recent? What links to what? Are there any gaps?

5. Define the structure of your knowledgebase

Define how your data will be linked and stored. In my success story, we divided our information assets into two categories: corporate and opportunity.

Corporate assets are not linked to a specific opportunity. These include standard operating procedures (SOPs), standards, templates, checklists, marketing materials, metrics, retention rates, boilerplate, corporate certifications, press releases, and logos. They also include resumes and teaming partner information, but these fall into a special category since each resume and partner may also be associated with one or more opportunities the company has pursued and/or won.

Opportunity assets are associated with a particular opportunity. These include early project intelligence, capture data, and all solicitation artifacts; proposal and post-submission artifacts like evaluation notices (ENs), final proposal revisions (FPRs), and other negotiation details; the award notice, contract documents, modifications, CPARs, and subcontractor teaming agreements (TAs), non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), and agreements. They include recognitions, accolades, or awards; status reports, deliverables, and performance metrics; and invoices and other correspondence.

6. Create and populate the KM system

Research tools to house your KM solution. Selection criteria should include, at minimum, secure remote access, version control, and robust search capability.

We selected Privia as our KM platform; other options include SharePoint, Dropbox, and a number of tools. The key is to pick a platform and establish the structure and linkages for your information within that platform. To link assets, we maintained a master opportunity list and assigned each opportunity a unique project ID. We then used the project ID as a file attribute on each file. The master list contained links to related opportunity date in external systems like Salesforce and Deltek, enabling those systems to be used for their respective functions while linked to each opportunity. All other data was then populated into the common platform for easy search and retrieval.

The objective is to have access to all corporate information artifacts associated with both the bid you are pursuing and historical data/past performance about other opportunities pursued and/or won by the company.

7. Build processes around your new KM model

The last step is to create standards and procedures to support the new information architecture. We developed a data dictionary and procedures for managing the KM repository and procedures for then using the KM system for BD and proposals, capturing project information, and keeping resumes current.

Benefits of a corporate KM system

The benefits received by my company in this success story demonstrate KM integration was worth the effort. We realized:

  • Cooperative, happy, functional proposal teams and internal corporate relationships;
  • Enhanced productivity;
  • Improved win rate;
  • Informed decision-making and bid decisions;
  • Consistency and standardization that supported quality recognitions like ISO 9001 certification;
  • Reduced time to produce proposals;
  • Ability to quickly find relevant information to support each new opportunity;
  • Ability to identify gaps in information assets and plan ways to fill them; and
  • A unified corporate focus on winning new business.

The one truly significant outcome was a complete shift in our corporate culture. Working together, we achieved complete corporate integration of people, tools, and information—and created a shared vision and passion for winning.

by Maryann Lesnick, Managing Director at Lohfeld Consulting Group, CP.APMP, PMP.

Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals.

As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Go-to-Market Strategy, Capture Planning and Strategy, Proposal Management and Writing, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, and Training. In the last 3 years, we’ve supported over 550 proposals winning more than $135B for our clients—including the Top 10 government contractors. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at and join us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.

[1] Davenport, Thomas H. (1994), Saving IT’s Soul: Human Centered Information Management. Harvard Business Review, March-April, 72 (2)pp. 119-131. Duhon, Bryant (1998), It’s All in our Heads. Inform, September, 12 (8).