What is capture management?

Capture management is a disciplined methodology for a bidder pursuing a specific government contract opportunity and improving the organization’s probability of winning (P-win) the opportunity.

Capture management is both an art and a science.

The art is the leadership, intuition, and savvy of the organization engaging in capture management and competing for the opportunity. Typically it takes an organization years to mature and refine their capture process so they can consistently win government contracts in a standardized way, while controlling the time and costs associated with bidding. It takes an individual capture manager several years of hands-on experience to become an expert.

The science is the disciplined methodology of the bidder for managing and measuring the health of specific elements driving the P-win. The 11 major elements that drive the success of a specific capture pursuit are the following.

Opportunity Fundamentals: Understanding of the specific fundamentals of this opportunity for capture planning purposes

Acquisition Timing and Capture Progress: Allows capture planning to make progress toward improving P-win against acquisition timeline

Corporate Capabilities to Win: Ability to demonstrate qualification to perform and a compelling offer to the customer decision-makers

Customer Intelligence: Understanding of the customer organization as a whole, as well as the politics, power structure, and preferences of individual customers

Solid Customer Relationships: Possessing a high-quality relationship with customer, where the customer knows, likes, and trusts the bidder and wants to do business with their organization

Building the Dream Team: Selecting subcontractors and partners that amplify the Prime contractor/bidder’s overall offering

Competitive Intelligence: Understanding of the companies or teams competing for this opportunity to allow for capture planning and strengthening the offering

Resources to Bid to the request for proposal (RFP): The organization possesses ample qualified people, time, and budget to bid on the RFP, based on the acquisition schedule and proposal requirements

Winning Solution: The bidder has a clear, articulate strategy for winning in technical, management, staffing, and past performance based on its understanding of the requirements.

Price-to-Win and Pricing Strategy: The bidder understands the price they need to propose to win and has a strategy to architect a proposal that will meet that price.

Leadership Buy-In: The capture management team is aligned internally with the organization’s leadership team in order to orchestrate the capture effort

In short, organizational maturity and higher win rates occur more rapidly when an organization invests in experienced capture managers who understand both the art and science of capture management.

What does a capture manager do?

Leads pursuit of specific opportunity. Develops a comprehensive strategy to improve organization’s win probability or P-Win.

Builds/leads cross-functional teams to support the capture including: business development (BD), consultants, contracts, finance, human resources, marketing, pricing, program teams, proposal, subcontracts, subject matter experts, etc.

Ultimately responsible for success from opportunity qualification to post-proposal submission.

What companies need a capture manager?

Companies and organizations that routinely pursue government contracts would greatly benefit from having a dedicated capture manager if the opportunities they are bidding:

Have multiple or complex technical requirements—not commodity items
Require a team of people—not just 1 or 2 positions
The acquisition process is competitive—not a sole source contract, or on-contract growth on existing work
The acquisition strategy is complex—e.g. requires an orals proposal, video, lengthy technical volume, etc.
Government agencies cannot simply go to the mall and buy the products and services they want. Government procurements are subject to laws and regulations to ensure the government acts as a good steward of the tax payer’s dollars. Organizations need experienced capture managers to manage this complex, lengthy, and competitive process to enhance their chances of winning more government contract awards.

What kind of skills does a capture manager need?

The essential skills a capture manager must excel in (without exception) include:

Leadership – ability to lead and drive the capture team; persuade the team to do challenging and uncomfortable tasks; make hard decisions; and prioritize important initiatives including the 11 major elements that drive the success of the capture.

Management – ability to manage the multiple daily tasks, meetings, reports, and briefings; handle inter-personal conflict; manage the budget allotted to the pursuit; allocate resources including hiring and firing.

Communications – ability to effectively communicate in both written form and in writing with stakeholders within the organization and outside of the organization, i.e., clients, partners, and subcontractors; communication is in a variety of media including briefings, meetings, conferences, emails, proposals, marketing materials, etc. Emphasizes the ability to effectively negotiate and persuade. The ability to LISTEN is vital, as described in this blog.

Strategic Thinking – ability to visualize and think through the big picture; apply analysis frameworks and mental models to predict outcomes, analyze alternatives, and make informed decisions on how to proceed.

Other complimentary, useful skills:

Finance – understanding of finance, pricing, and strategy can enhance the capture manager’s skills in developing pricing strategies, price-to-win, business cases, understanding financial risks and opportunities, etc.

Marketing – understanding of marketing e.g., website, social media, public relations, advertising can enhance the capture manager’s ability to connect with and engage with clients

Psychology – understanding of human psychology can help the capture manager understand human motives, fears, and motivations, which helps with messaging, positioning, and negotiating.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) — capture managers with STEM knowledge or experience can enhance the technical offerings and solutions by applying their specialized subject matter expertise

Advanced Computer Skills – capture managers with advanced computer skills can get things done in new and novel ways automating their own work and apply their advanced computing to technical offerings and solutions for customers.

What new skills does a capture manager need in 2020 and beyond?

Bernard Marr, the internationally best-selling author and futurist, identified the 5 most critical skills for the future. These future workforce skills also universally apply to capture managers.

Emotional intelligence-Capture is a team sport. That is why emotional intelligence (understanding your emotions; others’ emotions and managing your emotions) is critical to effective leadership

Creativity – In order to differentiate an organization’s bid from the competition, creativity is required at every stage — from your technical solutions, to you proposal graphics to your value proposition, and more.

Flexibility and adaptability – With the rapid pace of technological, political, social, and environmental change, an organization must be flexible and adaptable stay ahead of the curve. Challengers often unseat incumbent contractors in a recompile because they lack flexibility and adaptability. A seasoned capture manager understands this and leverages it to win.

Data literacy – With the shear amount of data, it is important to have a system to harness, interpret, and take action on the data. Mature organizations manage data on the number of bids they submit, win rates, win rates on recompetes, profitability, bid and proposal costs, and more. The more mature the organization is in analyzing leading and lagging key performance indicators (KPIs), the more successful their capture managers will become.

Tech savviness — understanding how the emerging technologies are woven together to create comprehensive solutions is important to capture. As the government increasingly moves to digital transformation and focuses on user experience, capture managers who can grasp the emerging technologies and how to apply them will be more successful.

What kind of experience does a capture manager need?

Capture managers lead and mobilize different groups within an organization to pursue a specific government contract opportunity and improve the P-win. They lead with no formal authority typically. In other words, the capture team has different managers and they only reports to the Capture Manager during the capture. Captures are long, complex, and competitive processes. Thus, capture managers need specific skills acquired via prior experience to be effective. Capture managers cannot be hired into that role without prior work and leadership experience. Capture managers need to have experience in leadership roles in at least one of the roles below to be equipped for success.

Business Development Management – Before an opportunity is handed to a capture manager to pursue, a business development manager is responsible for qualifying the opportunity. Business development managers typically are assigned to a customer account and identify and qualify a pipeline of opportunities the organization could bid. Business development managers build relationships with customers and industry partners. They gather and provide intelligence about customers (e.g., preferences and hot buttons) and industry (e.g., competitors and teams). They attend industry-specific events. Their client-facing, relationship-building skills and their involvement in the front-end, provides them a valuable vantage-point and skills, which are useful if they move into capture management.

Proposal Management – The proposal manager leads the most frenetic period in the process, which is developing the proposal, the last step in the process. After the business development manager qualifies the opportunity, and the capture manager achieves a certain level of maturity in building and executing a capture plan, the proposal manager can begin. Proposal managers ideally begin before the RFP is released until it is submitted and all post-award submissions are complete. They work closely with the capture manager, solution architect, and writers to architect the proposal outline, schedule, annotated outlines, storyboards or annotated mockups, and graphics. They incorporate the capture strategy and weave in the win themes, discriminators, features and benefits into each section of the proposal. Their close working relationship with the capture manager and their unique vantage point of bringing the capture plan to life in a proposal can be useful skills if they move into capture management.

Program Management – The program manager is responsible for leading and managing a government contract. They are responsible for managing people and deliverables, and meeting the cost, schedule, and performance objectives the program. Internally, they are also responsible for reporting their progress, financial reports, and any customer issues. Managing the customer relationship is also a significant part of their job. Their experience working closely with the customer and understanding the specific programmatic requirements and challenges affords them a unique vantage point. This, combined with their management capabilities and understanding of finance can be a set of useful skills if they move into capture management.

Solution Architecture – The solution architect is responsible for understanding the requirements and synthesizing the customer hot buttons and preferences, and competitive factors into a total solution for the capture and proposal. The solution includes the technical, management, and staffing. The solution can include: methodologies, approaches, concept of operations, roadmaps, tools, software, and hardware. Solution architects are responsible for mobilizing and leading a team of subject matter experts, engineers, estimators, technologists, and more. Solution architects ensure the team understands their vision for the solution and manages the team to provide the necessary inputs that buttress the overarching solution. They work closely with the capture manager and proposal manager in creating the solution that will resonate with he customer during the capture phase and articulated in the proposal within the proposal requirements during the proposal phase. Their understanding of how to create a winning solution during both the capture and proposal phases provides them a unique vantage point. This, combined with their ability to manage teams and technical acumen can be useful skills if they move into capture management.

Competitive Intelligence – Competitive intelligence (CI) experts research data on competition and customers to support the capture. They provided detailed packages to capture managers with information about the competitors’ organization, key managers, corporate initiatives and capabilities, key contracts, press releases, and any publicly disclosed financial information. CI experts research government agencies and provided detailed packages to capture managers on their procurement process, how they award contracts, which companies they contract with, and any key initiatives, publicly provided statements, strategic plans, press releases, and more. CI experts synthesize the competitive and competitor research. They lead and facilitate Black Hat exercises where capture teams model how a competitor will respond to a specific opportunity. Their exposure to the capture process and their detailed understanding of competition and strategic thinking skills provides them a unique vantage point if they move into capture management.

Price-to-Win and Pricing Strategists – Price-to-Win (PTW) is responsible for synthesizing the CI data and the proposal requirements to determine a price target for the organization. Pricing strategist is responsible for understanding the proposal requirements and synthesizing the solution and the PTW target. They then create pricing strategies and tactics, so the organization can maximize its P-win my meeting the PTW, while meeting its financial objectives. With their detailed knowledge of pricing, strategy and tactics, and competition both PTW and Pricing strategists have unique vantage points if they move into capture management.

What kind of education does a capture manager have?

Typically, a capture manager has a Bachelor’s Degree as the minimum required education, but many capture managers have Master’s Degree and some have Doctoral degrees. Many also have industry-recognized certifications in program management and other disciplines.

How do you become a capture manager?

There are five steps to becoming a capture manager.

Work in a government contracting organization and pursue one of the career tracks listed above and gain experience.
Obtain training in the listed skill sets above from reputable organizations
Obtain relevant industry certifications
Join and actively participate in professional organizations
Find mentors and other supportive industry leaders and references