A major international engineering firm required a means for their professional staff to “account” for the time they spent marketing while on client engagements or as opportunities became known. A part of every professional’s job was to market the firm and pursue new business. The firm wanted to track these efforts and also allow the professional staff to allocate time to develop new business while managing the resources necessary to complete existing engagements.
The firm used a very robust project management software package that allowed them to manage resources and projects individually and collectively in groups and in total. The professional staff was currently planning and reporting their work within the project management software. Since marketing efforts unfold over time just like a project, the obvious approach was to use the project management software to implement a solution. That tool was evaluated in detail to determine what features and capabilities existed within the package that might be used to develop a marketing planning component.
The project management software contained capabilities for using templates to create new projects. By using templates, professional staff could quickly build a new “marketing project” that they could use to plan what actions they needed to take to pursue the opportunity and allocate the necessary time to those tasks to make sure they were completed on time. The marketing projects could be rolled into the corporate wide project database to analyze resource utilization and potential schedule impacts.
Templates were developed for various types of marketing projects. These included 1) new major contract opportunities, 2) mid-size contract opportunities, and 3) small and add-on contract opportunities. A pilot was conducted with two dozen engineers and other professionals. The pilot was successful but highlighted the importance of training the staff to use the new templates correctly. This included setting staff allocation priorities to facilitate resource allocation across existing work and marketing efforts. The pilot also made it apparent that corporate management needed to reinforce the importance of this new tool and monitor compliance until it was fully embraced by the professional staff.
The new marketing project planning system was fully implemented. All professional staff were trained. Training was also incorporated into the corporate new hire training curriculum. Several key benefits were realized. Over a two year span the firm increase the number and percentage of proposals accepted. This was attributed to more focus on planning for and allocating time to new business proposals. Project managers attested to increased ability to manage and allocate resources since previously unaccounted for marketing time was now evident and manageable. The firm was also able to track firm-wide staff utilization reporting billable client project time, administrative time, and marketing time. The professional staff were also very approving in their feedback. They felt that their marketing efforts were now more visible to management. They also were able to manage their time better since project resource requirements could be managed to allow them to pursue their marketing opportunities.
Fifteen months after the marketing planning process was implemented the firm asked for a substantial enhancement to use the data being captured for forecasting. They requested that professional staff have the ability to enter the potential dollar value of the opportunity and adjust that value as their understanding of the opportunity evolved. Further they wanted the professional staff to enter probabilities that the new business would be acquired. This data was also to be adjustable throughout the marketing activity. Lastly, the firm requested that generic templates be created to add a high-level project plan to the opportunity that was prepopulated with a timeline and generic resources. This essentially created a potential future project with some probability of happening. This was used for projected future revenue, cash flow, and resource requirements.
They enhancement was made and the firm was able to forecast potential new contracts weighted by the probability of acquiring them. Cash flow was projected based on standard contract payment terms. Each generic project attached to a marketing opportunity projected future resource requirements based on the weighted probability of acquiring that new business. When this data was consolidated with current project resource plans any resource gap or surplus could be easily identified.