This article is the second in a series offering solutions to the "unsolvable" problems of proposal development.
Does this sound familiar? You feel like you never have the information you need when an RFP is released, even if it’s your company’s own recomplete. Even if your company knows about a bid ahead of the RFP release, it seems like the time somehow disappears without much to show for it. When the RFP is finally released, you find that you don’t have the staff you need to bid on the project let alone work on the proposal. People say that you have win strategies, but you can’t find them written down anywhere. In fact, you typically find yourself starting the proposal without anything in writing…
Our Solution: Perform Readiness Reviews during the period of time before the RFP is released. Each Readiness Review needs to have specific goals that lead to being ready to win at RFP release. While somewhat similar in concept, most “gate reviews” that we have seen somehow don’t actually get the team ready to write a winning proposal.
We recommend having four Readiness Reviews. For each review, prepare a list of questions and action items. More than anything else, this list will determine the success or failure of your reviews. Ours has 10-20 items on it for each review. At each review, the questions become more detailed. By the final review, you should be moving from collecting raw intelligence to staging information in a format ready to use in the proposal. We do not expect people to be able to answer all of the questions we ask. Instead, we look for them to answer as many as are humanly possible, and to provide help, guidance, and alternative approaches for the questions that they have been unable to answer.
At each review, assess whether the answers provided and actions taken are sufficient to prepare you for RFP release. We use a Red/Yellow/Green scale to grade the answers to each question. You should see answers that score a “Yellow” or “Red” in an early review move to “Green” by later review. While movement in the other direction is bad, it’s good to have an objective way to identify it when you are slipping.
We schedule the Readiness Reviews proportionally. This way if you find out about the opportunity one month before RFP release, you have a week to prepare for each review. If you are tracking a year in advance you have three months to prepare for each review. And if you find out about it at (or even after) RFP, it tells you what you need to find out in order to get caught up.
Our approach works because it provides guidance during the critical period before the RFP is released. It tells your business developers what intelligence you need collected and how your company should be positioned in order to win the proposal. It also provides a means to transfer knowledge and streamline the transition from business development to the proposal.
Readiness Reviews also enable you to measure your progress towards being ready for RFP release. This feedback is important. It shows you how much more you need to do in order to be prepared. It can also be used to show trends or areas of weakness across multiple pursuits.