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JWPM Consulting

Capture Planning

21 March 2020

Capture planning is the process of deciding to BID or not, and working out HOW you will win.



The use of the term "capture planning" emerged in the 1980's originating from very large contracting mainly focused on U.S. Department of Defense projects. Capture Planning as a discipline become more widely used in the nineties and has spread through contracting businesses since then.

The term "capture planning" is now widely used amongst management teams in the world's largest contracting firms globally and is filtering down to smaller firms rapidly.

The idea of assessing "what are our chances?" before committing resources to a bid, is common sense and thus a pre-bid evaluation process (formal or otherwise) obviously was being executed before the term "capture planning" was coined.

Solution selling

Solution selling (supplying project work where the specification (or design) of the project to be delivered forms part of the project scope) has inherent risk. Capture Planning is a necessary process to assess that risk informing the decision to proceed with the bid or pullout.

The size of the opportunity drives the amount of effort put into capture planning. The capture plans for large opportunities are formally documented and submitted to senior levels for approval. The capture plan typically includes...

  • A description of the opportunity
  • An estimated value of the opportunity
  • Project timing (when do they want it?)
  • Fit with organizational capabilities (does the work type and scope fit)
  • Fit with organizational capacities (will we have enough capacity to bid and deliver when awarded the contract)
  • List of likely competitors also pitching and their strengths/weaknesses on this deal
  • Probability of winning
  • Risk assessment
  • A detailed evaluation describing the reasoning for the decision
  • The bid strategy (how will we win?)
  • A cost estimate for bidding
  • Recommendation Proceeding to bid or Declining to bid

Capture planning levels

Every organisation develops its own capture planning system. The following is a guide to illustrate different project values justify different approaches. Capture planning is in itself resource-intensive, thus be sensible about applying the capture planning methodology...

  • Very large projects: Typically, Multi-Million/Billion-dollar projects. The buying organisation will assemble a buying committee comprising many people. The sales cycles are typically long (months or years). Opportunities at this level would require a detailed and sophisticated approach. These projects are typically infrastructure, engineering or Defence platform projects (Ships, Aircraft, Drones, Submarines, Land vehicles, Radar systems etc.)

  • Large projects: Ranging from $500k to low millions: The buying organisation has multiple people involved in decision making. The sales cycle generally is completed within a year. A briefer version of the capture planning process would be employed, however still formally documented and reviewed.

  • Small Projects: The assessment process is often not referred to as "capture planning" however, applying a formal process using a checklist should be applied.

Clearly, organisations should adapt capture planning principles based on opportunity size and complexity, available time, and strategic importance to your organization.


The capture plan is the first filter designed to eliminate projects that are not suitable before too many resources are wasted.



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Further reading

Solution Selling - building a better sausage machine
Introduction to capture planning
Capture planning - hooking the big fish

capture planningwhat is capture planningdefine capture planningbidding and contractingtender

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