The question about whether it’s better to have a centralized or decentralized BD organization keeps “raising its ugly head.” Most recently, a close colleague brought it up again in connection with a European company with which he’s currently working.
During our many studies and process assessments, we’ve had a good bit of experience in this area. In general, we’ve found that the split really is a function of strategic vs tactical business winning, especially if the primary organizational goal is growth. But a huge, underlying question is really, how we allocate resources (and funding) to centralized vs decentralized functions.
In one study that we did, we actually asked participants to assess whether they found centralized, decentralized, or hybrid organizations to be more effective. Respondents overwhelmingly characterized centralized organizations as providing better access to specialized expertise, being better able to develop and maintain resources, and having greater capacity to address multiple needs concurrently. The big concerns were greater overhead costs and propensities to become disconnected from the BD needs of individual operating units.
It’s not surprising, then, that a majority of leading organizations do indeed employ a “hybrid” solution that centralizes some functions and decentralizes others. In this scenario, organizations typically invest as much or more in the centralized staff as they do in staffing BD/sales functions in each of the operating units, while disproportionately funding the strategic pursuits for which the centralized organization is responsible and best suited.