Business Development and the Project Manager

What does business development mean to you?  Let’s look at the definition of business development.  Wikipedia says that business development comprises a number of tasks and processes generally aiming at developing and implementing growth opportunities between multiple organizations. It is a subset of the fields of business, commerce, and organizational theory. Business development is the creation of long-term value for an organization from customers, markets, and relationships.

Considering that as the definition of business development, then who performs business development in the organization?  Is it just Sales, or Field Sales workers, or Account Managers?  Are CEOs in the area of business development responsibility?  What about CIOs, COOs, and CFOs?  Then what about project management?  Are project managers involved in business development?  Clearly, being company representatives out in the trenches with the customer regularly and witnessing the discussion of wants and needs from customers, if project managers are not considered to be in the realm of business development, then your organization is likely missing some opportunities along the way.

So, let’s assume that business development IS part of the project manager’s job… part of their responsibility to seek out new potential opportunities both with the customers they are managing projects with and with the capabilities customers are expressing a need for – as they may be able to apply these needs in other areas to other project customers.  That is exactly how I have expanded my consulting business.

Let’s consider these areas:

Change orders on existing projects

This is a potential opportunity (or opportunities) for new business on nearly every project and it definitely is a responsibility of the project manager and an expectation of senior management.  I try to find at least one or two changes to propose on every project by listening carefully to the customer as they express new and changing needs during the engagement. Scope management – repeat those two words often!

New business on a current project

Beyond just scope management, sometimes there are opportunities for large portions of new business with the current project customer.  These opportunities may be future enhancements or revisions to the existing capability of your offering, or they may be additional phases and deliverables the client needs to be added to the end of this project – items available, but not previously purchased as part of this agreement. Listen carefully to your customer – you may be cueing up another year or two of work with the same satisfied client.

Management must manage

New services requested by a client to refine and offer to other customers

Never underestimate the ability of one current client to unknowingly hand you 10s of thousands of dollars (or more) of new business with other customers (even their own competitors – but watch those NDAs and non-competes).  How does this happen?  The current customer asks you for something you could do, but don’t currently offer. This often happens to me as an independent consultant, leading to new offerings for me to market to the next client tomorrow. What one needs and wants, many others probably will also. So pay attention!

Summary

Recognizing a need that a customer may have on a new project doesn’t necessarily guarantee new business.  But making sure you are aware, alert and ready to address those needs or possibly take them as opportunities and new capabilities to other projects and customers will ensure you are at least poised to capture new business if the opportunity presents itself.  As project managers, business development certainly isn’t our primary concern or responsibility, but we are always – and should always be – in the mix.  Few others in the organization work as closely with our company’s customers as we do.

About the author 

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at http://www.bradegeland.com.