Spring Cleaning Your Proposal Processes

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Finally the weather is getting warmer. It’s refreshing to hear a weather forecast that doesn’t include the words “cold,” “snow,” “ice,” or “blizzard.” This time of year brings thoughts of spring cleaning and renewal; you’re ready to shake off the winter chill and dive into the summer sun. Everything seems brighter, easier, and simpler.

Well, have you thought about spring cleaning your business development lifecycle processes? It really doesn’t matter which workflow tools, such as SharePoint for Proposal Management, Office 365, K2, Nintex, and Bamboo, or which industry-recognized processes like Shipley or SM&A you use to manage the business development lifecycle. The point is that you review your capture, proposal and task-order management processes. Here are some ideas to help you get started.

Get the Team Involved

You can’t fool me; I know what you’re saying right now. “But it will end up taking so much time to explain to everyone what to do. It’s easier if I just do it myself.” I say, “Hogwash”! (This is a family-friendly blog after all.) These are the people who primarily use these capture management and proposal management processes and data. It helps in the long run if they have ownership.

Manage this as you would any other project. Assign everyone a task, or even break them up into subgroups to tackle an assignment. Assign due dates and milestones. Keep everyone updated on the status of the project.

If your corporate culture allows, make it fun.  Have the various team members meet together in a conference room or war room as their schedules allow so they can collaborate. Not only will more tasks be completed in parallel, but you’ve gotten them involved in a team building exercise without them knowing it. Have a contest, and give a goofy prize to the person who comes up with the best idea to streamline a process or organize some data. See which team can evaluate the most past performance write ups. Bring in lunch for a party after achieving a major milestone or when everything is finished.

Clear Clutter and Organize

One of the biggest parts of spring cleaning is getting rid of clutter that you don’t need. Take a fresh look at your processes and eliminate the things that weigh you down. Start again with an eye toward achieving a more streamlined environment. Everyone naturally feels the need to hold on to the way things have always been done, but that’s not always a good thing. If the steps required to reach a bid/no bid decision are so involved you need a “You are Here” symbol to figure out how to make it work, it’s time to rethink how you are doing things. Perhaps a simple questionnaire that provides critical information, such as whether or not you have the relevant customer and opportunity knowledge, past performance, and ability to provide key personnel and other staff, may be sufficient. Remember, it’s not always about what you can eliminate; sometimes it can be what needs to be added. Was there once a time when every proposal team created storyboards, but that step has fallen by the wayside? Maybe it’s time to resurrect it.

Do you have a document archive that contains examples of your best pre-written proposal content and graphics along with other capture- and proposal-related data? If not, this is a great time to organize one and make it available to everyone within the organization who is routinely involved in BD, capture, or proposal activities. If you do, congratulations! Take the time to maintain the information in your archives to make sure it is useful. Are the resumes current? Can you delete that past performance write up for the contract that ended eight years ago and is no longer relevant? Is there a past performance write up that needs updating because a contract mod revised the scope of work? Can you verify that everyone is contributing all the documentation they are supposed to, or do you need to track some of it down?

Special Spring Cleaning Tasks

After an initial review of everything you have, some special tasks may become necessary. If you don’t have a repository to store your artifacts, then assign a team to implement one. Work with someone in Contracts to make sure every program has a complete and current past performance write up. Evaluate tools that offer workflows to automate redundant tasks like creating a compliance matrix. Formalize a specific process, such as who is invited to be a reviewer on the various color teams, by putting it in writing. Develop formal internal just-in-time training modules on your specific processes, such as your company’s capture and proposal sign-off process, task order proposal process, Black Hat competitive analyses, or price-to-win strategies. Create proposal templates, writing style guides, and acronym lists based on previous RFPs from your biggest customers

Maintain, maintain, maintain

So, the spring cleaning is over. Everything is running smoother, resources are better organized, and people are more productive. You are basking in the afterglow of this well-oiled machine. Now you need to keep it this way.

Once you have established this baseline, create a maintenance schedule, and stick to it. Decide which activities you’ll focus on each quarter: Q1 = review all past performance write ups and update as necessary, Q2 = have employees submit updated resumes, etc. As members of the BD, capture, and proposal staff have down time (stop laughing…it does happen) and need a less stressful assignment for a while, have them work on that quarter’s activity.

– The Octant Best Practices Team

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