A Proposal Development Process helps organizations respond to a buyer’s Request for Proposals (RFP). An established proposal development process should help organizations develop the best proposal possible that satisfies all the buyer’s needs and requirements. Organizations that understand the customer’s procurement process, proposal evaluation methodology, governing regulations, standards, and laws have an inherent advantage over their competitors.
Definition: Proposal development is the process of creating a comprehensive and persuasive document that outlines a proposed solution, project, or initiative to address a specific need or problem. It is commonly used in business, government, and nonprofit sectors to secure funding, contracts, partnerships, or approval for a project.
The Goal of Proposal Development
The goal of proposal development is to present a well-structured, compelling, and evidence-based case to persuade the intended audience to support or invest in the proposed idea. This typically involves thoroughly analyzing the problem or opportunity and formulating a detailed plan, budget, and implementation strategy.
Notional Steps in a Proposal Development Process
Step 1: Form Your Team
The most important step is gathering the most knowledgeable and effective team members to write the proposal. The key players include the Program Manager (PM), who runs the actual project if awarded, and the Proposal Manager, who is responsible for executing the proposal development process.
Step 2: Plan
A plan should address how the Proposal Content should be developed and the main proposal requirements to achieve. The plan should list these proposal requirements in a Compliance Matrix. An effective plan that gives a timeline on when items are due and roles and responsibilities to all proposal team members.
Step 3: Develop the Outline
Each volume team leader is responsible for developing a Proposal Outline for the assigned proposal volume. This outline adds details to the High-Level Outline, such as customer requirements, specific descriptions, Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), and administrative approach to each volume and section.
Step 4: Hold a Formal Kickoff Meeting
The kickoff meeting is where the Program Manager and Proposal Manager officially start proposal development efforts with all team members. This is the best opportunity to make sure all team members are informed of their responsibilities and the overall goals of the proposal.
Step 5: Prepare Story Board
Proposal storyboards should be developed using brainstorming and storyboarding techniques. The volume team leader should be responsible for planning and holding a brainstorming session with the volume technical writers. Together, each section of the proposal volume should be divided into sub-sections. Supporting themes, key selling points, and visuals should be developed for each sub-section.
With the information obtained through the brainstorming session, technical writers should complete a storyboard for each section of the volume. The volume team leader should be responsible for deciding the storyboard walk-through schedules with the team. The volume team leader must approve the storyboards before passing them to the proposal project manager for final approval. Once the storyboards are complete and approved by the proposal project manager, the volume team leader must ensure that the information is added to the annotated proposal outline on the server.
Step 6: Pink Review
Each volume leader should brief their storyboard to the Proposal Manager. It’s the responsibility of the proposal manager to ensure that the storyboard satisfies the RFP requirements and complements the proposal’s overall story.
Step 7: Prepare the First Draft
The first rough draft is prepared by team members and reviewed by each volume manager.
Step 8: Prepare the Second Draft
The second rough draft is prepared by team members and reviewed by the Project Manager.
The proposal project manager should arrange a Red Team Review of the technical, management, and cost volumes. This review should be scheduled toward the end of the proposal writing. However, it should still provide sufficient time for the Red Team Review comments and recommendations to be evaluated and incorporated into the proposal. Details for the review should be forwarded when complete Every volume team leader should be responsible for having the volume material ready for review and should be prepared to make presentations on the assigned volume.
Step 10: Submit the Final Draft
Ensure the proposal is submitted to the exact submittal terms in the RFP. Always have a backup plan for submitting just in case something goes wrong or is missing.
Capturing Lessons Learned
As a project manager, capturing lessons learned from developing a proposal is crucial for continuous improvement and enhancing future proposals. Here’s a step-by-step approach to effectively capture these lessons:
- Conduct a Lessons Learned Session: Schedule a dedicated session with your team to discuss and reflect on the proposal development process. This can be done at the end of the project or milestone. Ensure all relevant team members and stakeholders are present.
- Identify Key Participants: Invite team members directly involved in the proposal development, including subject matter experts, writers, designers, and contributors. It’s essential to have a diverse representation to capture different perspectives.
- Set the Agenda: Create an agenda for the lessons learned session to provide structure and guidance. It should include the goals of the session, specific topics for discussion, and allocated time for each agenda item.
- Facilitate Open Discussion: Encourage open and honest communication among team members. Create a safe space where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts, challenges, successes, and suggestions for improvement. Ask open-ended questions to stimulate conversation and gather insights.
- Document Lessons Learned: Assign someone to take detailed notes during the session. Capture key points, challenges faced, solutions implemented, successes, failures, and any other relevant information. These notes will serve as a valuable reference later.
- Categorize and Analyze: Review the notes and identify common themes or categories after the session. This could include communication, collaboration, resource allocation, planning, research, or any other aspect specific to your proposal development process.
- Extract Key Insights: Extract the most significant lessons learned from the session. These could be specific actions that led to success, critical mistakes to avoid, or best practices that emerged during the proposal development. Focus on insights that have the potential to impact future proposals positively.
- Prioritize Lessons: Prioritize the captured lessons based on their potential impact and feasibility of implementation. Identify which lessons are most relevant and actionable for future proposals.
- Develop Actionable Recommendations: Convert the prioritized lessons learned into actionable recommendations. Clearly define what needs to be done differently in future proposals based on the insights gained. Assign responsibility for each recommendation to team members or stakeholders.
- Share and Communicate: Distribute the lessons learned document, including the actionable recommendations, to all team members, stakeholders, and relevant parties. Make it easily accessible and ensure it reaches the right audience. Emphasize the importance of applying these lessons to future proposals.
- Implement Changes: Encourage the integration of the lessons learned into your organization’s standard processes or proposal development methodologies. Encourage team members to refer to the document and incorporate the recommendations into their future work.
- Periodic Review: Schedule periodic reviews to assess the progress in implementing the lessons learned. Evaluate whether the changes have been effective and refine the recommendations as needed. Continuous improvement should be an ongoing process.
By following these steps, you can effectively capture lessons learned from the proposal development process and ensure that the knowledge gained contributes to the success of future proposals.
AcqLinks and References:
- MIL-HDBK-245D DoD “Handbook for Preparation of Statement of Work”- 3 April 1996
- Guide: Solicitation Preparation Guide for the Acquisition of Commercial Items by the DoD – 7 May 2015
- Template: Proposal Evaluation Plan
- Template: Source Selection Plan
- Website: FAR Subpart 12 “Acquisition of Commercial Items”
- Website: FAR Subpart 15.2 ‘Solicitation and Receipt of Proposals and Information”
- Website: Navy Contract Management Process Guide
- Website: Navy Acquisition Guide – Proposal Development
- Website: The Association of Proposal Management Professionals