Understanding the World of Project Management – The Bid Manager

bid manager

Every organisation that provides a specific service to other businesses or individuals will have to deal with the bid process, and being able to sell your services is essential to your organisation’s success. This is why having an effective Bid Manager is hugely important, and yet despite their integral role, there’s a lot of confusion about what a Bid Manager (BM) does. To help demystify the role we explore what it is they do within an organisation, and what steps are typically taken to get into the field.  

What does a Bid Manager actually do?

A Bid Manager’s main responsibility is making sure that bids and tenders are completed, submitted and hopefully won. But as with every job, there’s a lot more to it than that; when completing a bid document the BM has to make sure that everything asked in the bid has been answered, and that the service offered accurately meets the needs of the prospective client, but equally important, that the organisation can actually provide the service. This can be a difficult balancing act between trying to please the customer and meet their needs, budget and timescale to win the work, and being honest about the capacity and ability that is actually available in the organisation. As such Bid Managers spend a lot of time discussing a bid with other stakeholders, as well as the people who’ll be responsible for delivery. They have to have a comprehensive understanding of everyone’s input and how it all ties together to provide the solution that will meet the parameters of a bid. Depending on the structure within a bid team, the Bids Manager may or may not be responsible for actually writing the bid, but they will take overall responsibility for ensuring it gets completed, answers the questions and is submitted on time.

Where do they work?

Bid Managers will work in any organisation that provides a service to external clients (typically other businesses). This can cover a whole spectrum of industries, but some of the most common are construction, engineering, professional services, IT, health and social care, and facilities management. A Bids Manager may work for one company full or part time, or they may work on a freelance or consultant basis, offering their expertise as and when needed.

What do they need to know?

There are no formal qualifications needed to become a Bid Manager, and there are a number of routes into the role. Many individuals do not actively seek out a Bid Manager role but may progress into the field via an interest in related roles, sales or business development, for example. Often individuals will gain indirect exposure to the bid environment before electing to pursue this as a career, and almost all will start in junior bid writing roles, or similar, before becoming Bid Managers.

Some of the skills that are typically need include commercial awareness, organisational skills and the ability to communicate clearly, both verbally and in writing. As this is a senior role, Bid Managers will also usually manage a direct team, making leadership skills highly important. There are a variety of training courses available to support individuals in developing their Bid Management skills, but it is not a requirement for appointment.

How do they fit into the PMO?

Bid Managers are not necessarily part of the PMO in an organisation, but due to the role they play in winning and setting up projects for a business, they are closely linked and will work collaboratively with the PMO. Bid Managers will support the PMO in understanding the requirements of potential projects, and the PMO will support the Bid Manager in completing the bid by clearly outlining the availability of resources and feasibility of the project. As such the two are closely interlinked, although they may work as separate entities.

Profile

Name

Stefka Heathcote

Job Title

Bid Manager

Company

Thales UK

How long have you worked there?

I’ve been working here for three years now

Describe a typical day

When the business opts to bid for a piece of work I play a major role in making sure that the right people are involved at the right time, and I do as much as I can to de-risk the bid. I have to take the information from various sources and calculate whether we can actually deliver the service requested within the customer’s budget and timeframe. Some people think that once a bid is submitted that’s the end of the bid manager’s role, but in reality I keep track of all the bids that we win too and make sure it’s all going as planned. Because I feel responsible for the submitted bid, I want to make sure it’s a success if we win it, so while a lot of what I do revolves around winning new work, I also keep an eye on what’s going on once it’s won.

How did you get into it?

I originally wanted to work in Project Management, but after having the chance to work in the bid environment, I found I really enjoyed the variety, dynamics and pace. I previously worked as a project co-ordinator, which was actually very similar to what I do now, and before that I was involved in proposal scheduling and estimating.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?

I really love the feeling you get of camaraderie and support when working in a really good team; bid management requires a huge amount of input from a lot of people, so having that sense of support is really important.

Most important skills

The ability to see the big picture is a really important skill, it’s too easy to get tunnel vision, so you have to make sure you see where everyone and everything fits in. In addition to this, the ability to communicate ideas across a range of different levels is really vital. As a bid manager, you’re talking to people from every department and level of seniority, so you need to be comfortable doing that. I also think you need to be self-aware of your own behaviours because you have to work very closely with a lot of other people, so you have to be able to work well with them to get things done. At its core, bid management is a balancing act, so you need to be able to balance the needs, interests and requirements of everyone involved, which again links to being able to see the big picture.

Stefka’s top skills:

  • Ability to balance the needs of various parties and achieve best outcome
  • Ability to see big picture
  • Communication skills
  • Self-awareness
  • Ability to work with others
  • Sense of humour is a must!

It’s clear that being a Bid Manager is a complex job, with a lot of different facets to it, but it’s also a really rewarding and dynamic role where individuals can get involved in a range of different activities and really contribute to the success of a business.  But if Bid Management doesn’t seem like the role for you, there are plenty more to choose from, and each month we’ll keep reporting on the various career options in the PMO.