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Opportunity Pipeline Series – Part 3: Updating the Pipeline Process

By: Frances Sherlock, Proposal and Social Media Coordinator

In 2018, we brought you two blog posts about the VectorCSP pipeline, which you can find here and here. In that series, we discussed the importance of a pipeline, how to establish one, and the importance of getting buy-in from the various stakeholders in the company who may be affected by the opportunities on the pipeline.

Now in 2021, we are bringing you an update on that series, as oftentimes the processes and systems need to be restructured.

In the latter part of 2020, we realized that while our pipeline process was not broken, it was also not very effective. We had one employee in business development acting as the gatekeeper for the entire process. Once a month, she would send the current pipeline draft to relevant stakeholders in the company asking them to provide any changes and asking them to complete a Microsoft Form for all new opportunities that needed to be added. From there, she would enter the changes into the CRM system we were using to house all pipeline data. If anyone needed an updated version of the pipeline, she would have to log into the CRM and pull up an updated Excel spreadsheet and send it to them.

We realized there were three clear flaws in this process. The first was the gatekeeper. She was the monthly catalyst that prompted stakeholders to update information and add new opportunities, and as a result, she was inundated with information in the middle of the month after she sent out the pipeline email. The second was the accuracy of the data. There would be months when various stakeholders would not update their opportunity data. If the gatekeeper had many updates to make that month, she may inaccurately enter the data. The third was the timeliness of the data, which was not live and in real-time. Often, the data was a month old, which could obviously affect financial projections or FTE projections.

Now you may be asking, what was the solution Vector came up with. We coordinated with the Oregon State University-Cascades Innovation Co-Lab to create a relational database to house our pipeline information. Here are a few of the benefits we have realized:

  • Real-Time Data – The relational database is internet-based and updates in real-time. If various stakeholders are in the database simultaneously, they can see the live updates as they are happening.
  • Differing Views – The relational database allows us to view and sort the data in ways we could not before, like sorting by various areas such as operational directorate or opportunity owner. It also allows us to view opportunities by the due date in a calendar, in a Gantt chart, or even a Kanban view. Each user can also have their own view to sort the data in the form they want to see it without affecting the other views in the database.
  • Communication Features – The database has communication tools that allow users to tag other users with questions or comments they may have about an opportunity. This is great because the user works within the database and does not have to move to email or instant messenger to ask their questions.
  • Multiple Uses – We are also discovering that we can use this database for more than just a pipeline. We are working with Operations and Contracts to expand the use to transition and contracts, and potentially expand the use of the database to HR and Recruiting.

This is a lesson that goes against the familiar adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Our process was not necessarily broken, but it sure was not efficient. By asking questions and poking holes in our current process, we were able to find a new solution that we believe works a lot better for our company and is a lot more effective. Make sure to check systems and processes continually; just because they seem to work well does not mean there is not an easier/better/more efficient way to do it.

We would love to continue this conversation below. Please comment if your company has a pipeline and tell us about the processes that have made it successful.