Storyboards are one of those things that everyone recommends as a best practice, but hardly anyone actually uses. They are typically implemented as a form, often on oversized paper, that people use to plan proposal sections prior to writing. Authors are typically asked to complete the storyboard forms and then a review is held. Authors are supposed to wait until after the storyboard review to start writing. Very few organizations start with storyboards, and those that try them encounter numerous difficulties. With or without storyboards, you still need to plan what will go into your proposal sections. Companies that don’t use storyboards should be using other methods to plan the content of their proposals. Here are some reasons why nobody (or at least hardly anybody) uses storyboards.
- Most RFPs make storyboards unnecessary. Things have changed over the last 20 years. RFPs have become better organized. In the past, the instructions, evaluation criteria, and statement of work did not match up, requiring complicated cross-referencing and numerous judgment calls. Today the parts of an RFP are usually in better alignment and you can respond to most RFPs by simply following the outline provided in the instructions. You still need to plan the content of your sections, but you don’t need storyboards to plan the outline.
- Storyboards are difficult to format and work with. You can’t fit everything you need on a storyboard on a single 8.5x11” sheet of paper. But even if you can print on 11x17” paper, it’s difficult to work with. For example, field offices, teaming partners, and people at home can’t print that size. If the end users assigned with completing the storyboards can’t manipulate and print them, they will have difficulty completing their assignments and the quality of the content will suffer.
- Storyboards are difficult to move information into and out of. If you are using tables, boxes, and lines to make your storyboards more like visual forms, then cutting and pasting text into or out of the storyboards usually means difficult and pointless reformatting.
- Storyboards put too much time and effort into documents that are intentionally orphaned. After all the production effort that goes into preparing storyboards, they get pushed aside when it’s time to create the proposal document. Even though storyboards give you some content to work with, you still start the document from a blank screen. Too often, they are abandoned completely.
- Storyboards don’t provide good instructions for authors to follow.Storyboards collect information, but don’t provide any guidance for what to do with that information. Storyboards do things like provide an out-of-context place to identify “themes,” without telling the authors where the theme should go in the draft or how to address the theme in their section.
- Storyboards don’t address everything that should go into a section.Storyboards have headings that address the most important things. The more headings, the more complicated it is to complete the storyboards. Anything left out makes it harder for authors to complete their drafts and creates potential quality issues.
- Storyboards are not flexible. The information you need to collect varies from one opportunity/RFP to the next. The goals that you are trying to achieve in a proposal can change from section to section. Having one format to use across all proposals, or even across a single proposal, means that in many cases it won’t quite fit. And that means that you are not quite collecting the right information.
- Storyboards don’t provide a good baseline to compare the draft against. It is so difficult to compare a draft document against a storyboard that most organizations using storyboards don’t use them in reviewing the draft document. The storyboards get left behind and the draft is reviewed on its own.
The real problem is that storyboards aren’t providing what people need to successfully plan their proposals. The goal is good; it’s the implementation that has problems. When planning your next proposal, you might want to consider what your planning and validation goals are, and look for better ways to achieve them.