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Configuration management during proposal development.

A proposal has a lot of moving parts. The solution you are proposing can change. Multiply the number of authors by the number of files contributed by each. The contents of those many are often constantly changing. The assignments of people to proposal sections and consequently files change from time to time. Even the requirement itself can change with a cascading effect on every part of the proposal that it touches. Configuration management refers to maintaining control of the proposal in spite of all the changes.

These changes happen throughout the proposal, but have the greatest affect in the later stages of development, as you approach final production. One overlooked file version conflict during final production can ruin a perfectly good proposal.

There are software solutions for file/document management, but lack of software is no excuse for not tracking versions and maintaining configuration control. Automated approaches to document and configuration management can always be emulated using completely manual methods.

Likewise, having software does not free you from the burden of diligence. No software approach alone will ensure configuration management. It requires the voluntary efforts of participants. People have to accept it and follow it constantly.

Whether manual or automated, a configuration management system can be strict and burdensome, or convenient but tolerant of risk. You must decide what balance to strike for your particular proposal. You may also choose to implement different levels of configuration management at different stages of the proposal.

Some elements that your configuration management system should include:

  • Document every change. This is typically handled by keeping hardcopy markups or using software change tracking features. Your must be able to answer who made a change and if necessary roll it back.
  • Similarly, you should also check to ensure every change was made as requested. Having the requested changes documented helps.
  • Tracking forms documenting what came in when from who and when it was completed.
  • Procedures that ensure that more than one person cannot make changes to the same document at the same time. This is often the source of version conflicts. Untangling them can be a nightmare. You are far better off preventing them. Check-in/Check-out procedures are often used for this.

These goals are typically achieve with tracking and sign-off sheets. They may be low tech and labor intensive, but they can save the day.

One issue that you will have to contend with is that widespread use of software enables authors to make their own changes without going through hardcopy markups. While this is can be a huge improvement in speed and efficiency, it comes at the cost of configuration management. You can end up without an audit trail. You will have to determine where to strike the balance between risk, effort, and convenience.

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By Carl Dickson,
Founder of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY



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