We routinely help our clients implement BOEMax, our proposal management software and MaxTeam, our project control software. Over the years, we have accumulated a number of lessons learned about what helps to ensure a successful software implementation. Any new software tool must align with and support the company’s process and procedures so proposal or project control teams can do their jobs more effectively.
What follows are three ground rules we use as a basis to help our clients. You may find them helpful as well.
Rule #1: The process drives the software tool requirements
Why is this true? Established best practice process and procedures define the requirements and workflow. Software tools are meant to assist proposal or project control teams so they can accomplish their tasks more efficiently following those standard, repeatable processes and procedures. In another blog we discussed the benefits of establishing repeatable project control processes to reduce the time and cost to create quality control data. The process, procedures, and tools should work together to help someone do their job.
Some companies make the mistake of expecting software tools to magically fix problems with their process. It won’t. It often makes the situation worse. The deficiencies become more glaring because the root cause hasn’t been addressed. Either useful processes and procedures are missing, roles and responsibilities haven’t been defined, ownership is lacking, there are gaps in the process or people don’t follow it – sometimes they don’t know it’s there. Creating useful processes and procedures takes effort. There are no shortcuts.
Successful implementations use the new software as an opportunity review and improve the current process and procedures. What can increase data quality or reduce the time required? It may be possible to simplify or eliminate steps because people don’t need to enter data multiple times or transform the data. Traceability is immediately lost when there are multiple data sources or someone “adjusts” the data.
Start with a fact-based assessment of your current proposal or project control process and define your desired end state. Whiteboard the workflow steps and verify who is responsible for what, the handoffs between roles, and artifacts. Where are the gaps? What needs improvement? What inputs or outputs are missing? What data components are missing? Use the assessment results to inform the implementation and configuration of the new toolset. Are there functions in the toolset that can help improve the process?
For example, a common process gap for proposal teams is the lack of historical data and cost estimating relationship (CER) documentation. Having that information easily available helps them verify the CER variables and trace the steps involved in developing the relationships so they can substantiate their cost estimate. ProjStream’s BOEMax can help fill this process gap with a central database of prior estimates and actual costs. Proposal teams can easily pull from the historical data using the BOEMax search function. They can also take advantage of the BOEMax CER process library templates. These templates provide modular CER data with documentation proposal teams can use as a foundation for their cost estimates.
Rule #2: Establish a single authoritative source for the data
Data quality, integration, and traceability begins with a defined foundation of code structures to organize the data. This is where configurating a new software tool to align with your business requirements comes into play. Configure the new tool so it is easy for proposal or project control teams to include the appropriate coding and integrate the data with other systems.
What user defined code fields are needed to share data with other systems as well as plan, schedule, estimate, manage, and track the work effort? Consider how different functional users may want to sort, select, group, or view the data for analysis for a single project or across multiple projects. Taking the time to create an accurate model of your business requirements results in a data framework that can be the foundation to establish a single source for the data. The result? You can easily trace and verify the data.
That’s where proposal management software such as BOEMax can help companies streamline their process. The BOEMax central database functions as a command center for the proposal manager, estimators, technical personnel, and business development personnel because all the data they need is in one place. Proposal teams can take advantage of integrated estimating and pricing functions as well as bi-directional integration with scheduling tools. Basis of estimate (BOE) documentation is built-in along with hierarchical bills of material (BOM). They can pull in historical data or use CER templates. They can create different cost estimate versions to compare price to win strategies. Built-in reporting ensures proposal teams have the complete set of data to produce the proposal content. Anyone can trace the cost summary reports back to the source data and verify the basis of estimate details.
Rule #3: Make it easy to follow best practices
Think about who will be using your process and procedures. Write the content for the functional roles that need it to do their job – not upper level management or an auditor. Storyboarding the workflows with functional personnel can help to develop ownership in the process. It also helps to identify areas where the content needs to be clarified or streamlined. Is it too complex or hard to follow? Look for duplicate or similar content that exists in multiple documents. What frequently happens is the content gets updated in one place but not another, often with conflicting direction. That creates confusion for people – which document should they follow? Eliminate duplicate content where you can.
Tools such as BOEMax and MaxTeam with built-in workflow can help to support your established process and procedures. You can customize and align ProjStream’s built-in workflow with the roles and responsibilities defined in your process description.
Proposal teams can use the built-in workflow to manage the handoffs between different functional roles and track the status throughout the proposal development process. This simplifies things and reduces processing time. Each person knows what is in their work queue and changes are automatically captured. For example, business development may have a price to win number in mind. Once the estimators create their basis of estimate and handoff the cost estimate to business development for review, business development may adjust selected work element estimates to fit their price to win strategy. Their changes are automatically captured in the database. The entire proposal team has a complete audit trail of how the cost estimate was developed and can trace who did what to the data for full transparency.
Are you discovering gaps in your cost estimating or proposal management process that make it hard to maintain data traceability or establish preferred practices? The right proposal management software tool can help change that. Give us a call today to schedule a demo of BOEMax.