My minority opinion on the APMP-AWBP brouhaha

About a month ago, the Association of Proposal Management Professionals posted this video on its YouTube channel.

It did not go over well.

Before discussing what the video said and why it’s controversial, I’ll explain my perspective on proposals, which helps to explain why I am happier about the move than some other people.

My five year itch, times two

Back in the summer of 1994 I had left my previous job and was consulting when I learned about an opportunity to write proposals for a company called Printrak. I had never written a proposal before, and the one Request for Proposal (RFP) that I had written basically consisted of a long checklist for which prospective vendors indicated what they could and couldn’t do. (Some vendors checked every box without reading them. None of them won the bid.)

I didn’t get that consulting opportunity, but Printrak had a second opportunity later in the year and I got that one. (Yes, proposal manager Laurel Jew was so outstanding that it took two people to replace her when she went on maternity leave.)

As it turned out, both myself and the other consultant ended up becoming employees at Printrak, and (if I may say so myself) valuable members of Printrak’s Proposals Department. The company was winning bids, and after a few years I joined the Association for Proposal Management Professionals, eventually going to the San Diego conference.

But after five years, I got an itch. (Five years, not seven years.)

By Published by Corpus Christi Caller-Times-photo from Associated Press – Corpus Christi Caller-Times page 20 via en:Newspapers.com, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37860629

I began to feel that there were limitations in proposals. The process that LEADS to a proposal is a long process; those familiar with the 96-step Shipley Business Development Process know that the Request for Proposal isn’t even released until around step 64. Yet in most cases, the proposals team didn’t even get involved until step 64, when the salesperson announced, “Hey, here’s an RFP. Win it.”

I wanted to move to the left of the timeline.

So I became a product manager.

I was a product manager for about a decade, but due to a corporate reorganization, I landed back in Proposals again. I enjoyed the work, and got to manage proposals for some new products, including my company’s first cloud solutions. My APMP membership had long since lapsed, but I rejoined the organization, ending up at the Chicago conference. I also participated in local chapter events, first via ESRI headquarters in Redlands, and later at my own company’s headquarters in Anaheim.

But after five years…I got the itch again.

This time I ended up in strategic marketing, and also performed significant work in product marketing, event marketing, and later competitive analysis and corporate strategy.

After leaving IDEMIA, I’ve found myself doing a variety of things, some of which involves proposal work. In some cases I’ve been confined to responding to RFPs or writing sole source letters, but at other times I’ve been able to perform more strategic duties that affect in the long term how companies…um, win business.

So from my perspective, the name change of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals to the Association of Winning Business Professionals appealed to me. There are a variety of ways to win business, and proposals is just one of them. From my perspective, it even tied in to past APMP efforts, including the 2013 creation of the Center for Business Development Excellence.

So I was delighted with the news.

But others weren’t.

The majority opinion on the APMP-ABWP brouhaha (but is it truly the majority?)

In this section of my post, I will be quoting liberally from a petition entitled “Call to stop rebranding and to commission an external audit.”

Note that this isn’t just a call to stop the rebranding. It’s one thing to object to an organization’s decision. It’s another thing when there’s a demand for “an external audit.” Money talks.

This is the expressed opinion of a number of APMP members. As you’ll see below, it’s not necessarily the opinion of ALL of the APMP members. Nevertheless, the petition writers are not happy.

To set the stage, the video at the beginning of my blog post appeared with great fanfare on June 21….and appears to be a surprise to the petition writers and the APMP members in general.

The APMP Board of Directors (BoD) led by the CEO (‘the Leadership Team’) has attempted to change APMP’s long-established name, brand, and positioning – the name change undermines the very purpose of the organization and the voluntary work that many of us have done over more than 20 years to promote the profession of proposal management….They announced this fundamental ‘rebrand’ through a faceless, poorly crafted 2-minute-video on social media. When members began airing their concerns on the very same platforms, the Leadership Team largely refused to openly address these concerns.

For what it’s worth, that original 2-minute video currently has 6 likes and 23 dislikes. Not a huge sample, but clearly those 29 people who chose to express an opinion expressed a negative one.

Incidentally, as of today, the most recently posted minutes for the Board of Directors dates from March 2021. The rebrand was NOT mentioned in those minutes.

By June 24 (three days after the original 2-minute video announcement) another video was posted to the APMP account, announcing a “pause” in the rebranding and the establishment of a “brand transition council.”

That video currently has 36 likes and 4 dislikes. Of course, it’s impossible to tell whether people liked it because of the promise of more deliberation, or that the people liked it because they hoped that the APMP would stay the APMP.

But wait, there’s a more!

A new video was posted on June 28, with twice the number of speakers (Rick Harris joined Krystn Macomber). Macomber repeated her comments from June 24, and Harris emphasized this, while using the words “moving forward” to describe where the APMP (or whatever it will be called) is going.

That video currently has 16 likes and 2 dislikes. The one thing that you can conclude from this is that there is now YouTube fatigue from all of these videos being posted.

But the positive reactions (albeit in limited numbers) to the most recent videos didn’t stop the petitioners from developing their petition.

Even after the members voted “no” to the proposed name change, the Leadership Team wants the Brand Transition Council to come up with suggestions on next steps to find a ‘compromise middle ground solution’. The survey results and the reaction of a large number of members on social media channels should be enough to illustrate to the leadership that this proposed change is ill-considered and ill-judged to say the least.

The petition goes on to request “an immediate and complete stop of the entire rebranding initiative for at least 1 year,” and also requests that the Brand Transition Council appoint an independent auditor. (It’s not exactly clear how the Brand Transition Council can do anything if all rebranding activities are being stopped, but that’s a semantic quibble. And why should proposal/winning business professionals care about semantics?)

As of now, the petition has 185 signatures.

As of 2019. the APMP had 9,487 members. Even if all the YouTube likes, LinkedIn votes. and petition signatures are all added up, the vast majority of the thousands of APMP members has not expressed ANY opinion on the issue.

It’s a safe bet that a large number of the members aren’t aware of either the proposed name change or the controversy surrounding it, since they’re busy…writing proposals and winning business (in one order, or in the opposite order).

But as more and more members hear about the controversy, I expect that there will be renewed interest in this October’s Bid & Proposal Con in Denver.

By Billy Hathorn – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11357434

This year’s conference will be…interesting.

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