Many of you will have read the news last month that David Winton, Executive Director of APMP, has taken the decision to step down from the post at the end of this year. As the official announcement from APMP stated:
David has been actively involved with APMP for the past 20 years, and has served as our Executive Director for the past 18 years. He has worked tirelessly to grow our membership and to increase recognition for our profession. Under his tenure, APMP has grown to more than 3,800 members in 68 countries, and more than half of the membership has achieved accreditation. He has successfully coordinated and co-chaired 18 annual international conferences, and many chapter events and symposia.
On a personal note, I’ll be extremely sorry to see David leave; he’s someone I admire and respect greatly. He’s offered marvellous support to me since I first met him nearly ten years ago – being wonderfully helpful to the UKAPMP chapter in its early days and since, and being incredibly helpful regarding the conferences at which we’ve presented and exhibited over the years.
The search is now on for a new Executive Director for APMP (and anyone interested should contact Kirste Webb). Whilst policy for the association is set largely by its elected officers, the Executive Director inevitably has a huge impact on APMP’s direction. Here are my personal thoughts on some of the priorities for the new post holder (and the Association more generally) in the coming years – building, of course, on much excellent work that’s already underway:
1. Grow membership. 3,800 is an impressive figure – but still represents merely a fraction of the bid / proposal community in any of the countries where we have chapters or members. Let’s set an aggressive, challenging, step-change target – say, to at least double it (or to 10,000) within four years – and build a clear plan to get there.
2. Grow internationally. March 2011 marks the tenth anniversary of the APMP’s first international branch. Nearly a decade on, the association’s roots have spread, with chapters in several other countries. Yet many of these international groups are still relatively young, and relatively small. I’d like to see real focus from APMP on growing these more rapidly – with strong financial investment if needs be. We also urgently need more realistic membership rates in countries where the cost of living is so much lower than in the US / western Europe, if we’re not to inhibit growth.
3. Run a non-US conference. Why don’t we decide that APMP’s main worldwide conference in, say, 2014 will be one of the autumn events held outside the US – e.g. an expanded version of the excellent event that takes place every year in the UK? The May/June summer event could still take place that year – but would be classed simply as the US national gathering for a year. I think that’d give a very powerful message about the association’s worldwide reach. (And let’s run the conference in, say, South Africa or India before the end of the decade, too).
4. Commercial focus. Clearly, APMP’s legacy is in the government / defense space – and I respect and value the pioneering work in those areas, which have largely shaped the way we view our profession today. But so many proposal teams work in such different environments – with response times measured in days and weeks, rather than months or years – that APMP needs to come to terms more fully with the commercial world, with approaches in this arena seen as equally valid as those in the traditional areas of APMP’s strengths. More research focused specifically onto this area may also help.
5. “Accreditation, mark 2”. The accreditation scheme has been one of APMP’s greatest success stories in recent years. Yet the current model draws on benchmarking data from a study nearly ten years old – at a point where the Association was largely US and government / defense oriented. That means that the competency definitions are skewed (and irrelevant for many who wish to become accredited) – whilst some of the syllabus feels increasingly dated. The competencies and questions urgently need updating; there needs to be a vendor-independent study guide (rather than a proprietary textbook, no matter how good that is); we need an exam in languages other than English. And the investment needed to make that needs to be generated and made available – surely not infeasible, given the revenues and memberships that accreditation has generated. Moreover, far too few members have reached the higher levels of accreditation (Practitioner & Professional) – progress in this area needs to be accelerated.
6. Financial openness. I’d like to see the Association’s financial accounts and plans published openly every year for all to review, along with a review of central spend versus monies invested back into local chapters. It’s tough for a not-for-profit organisation to balance financial robustness with the investments that we’d all like to see; letting members understand the finances can only help.
7. Exploit the website. How many members regularly access the www.apmp.org site, or really make use of the wealth of wonderful information in the APMP “Body of Knowledge”? I genuinely believe that there’s far more potential for the APMP website to become the focal point for proposal professionals – the daily “must visit” site for all members over their morning cup of coffee.
8. Focus on proposals. I know I’m fighting an unpopular cause here, but we’re called the Association of Proposal Management Professionals. The clue’s in the name. By focussing more and more on “business development”, I believe we’ve diluted our message and lost a degree of focus.