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Updating Proposal Processes – Start Preparing Now for the Business Rebound

We are all living with the extreme disruption to business as usual and figuring out what’s the best path forward for ourselves and our companies in a rapidly changing environment. Recent events have also provided an unprecedented opportunity to make positive changes in how we do things.

The unplanned slowdown in new business development activity we all went through provides an opportunity to take stock of your current proposal process. Likely you have discovered where deficiencies exist in internal communications and business systems with people working remotely. Information security has also quickly become a priority.

Since so many things have already been disrupted, this is a good time to identify and implement changes that may be long overdue. Use this time to invest in your personnel, refresh your processes and procedures, take a hard look at your software tool sets, and improve efficiency so you can respond quickly with better proposal content as business picks up. What process changes can you implement now that will help you win more business and improve your profit margins?

Opportunity for Implementing Positive Changes

Be willing to take a holistic look at your processes, procedures, and systems. For example, can you jettison out of date practices? Eliminate redundant systems or retire legacy applications? Is corporate accelerating the process of moving application systems to the cloud and upgrading security practices? Can you take advantage of that for business development? What will help your proposal teams to produce higher quality proposals in less time? Can you eliminate gaps in your project control process or address known business issues so your proposal teams can present a stronger benefit proposition to your customers?

Consider starting with a forensic analysis of recent proposal cost estimates. Are your profit margins for contracts you have won above or below what you expected? If unexpected cost growth is occurring with these contracts, why is that happening? Is your win rate higher or lower than expected? Why? What could you be doing differently to win more business? Are there new opportunities for your company because of the changing business landscape? What do you need in place to take advantage of new opportunities?

This analysis can help you identify where deficiencies exist – you need facts, figures, and objective information so you can identify what actions will produce tangible results that save time and money.

What are some proactive things you can do now?

To help you get started, here is a list of action items to consider.

  • Refresh stale proposal boilerplate content that discuss your value propositions, discriminators, advantages, and benefits of doing business with your company. Maybe you need to create new content for new business opportunities. Create or refresh images that illustrate why your company is a better choice. Update relevant and past experience content. If you don’t have boilerplate content available, consider creating a base set of materials proposal teams can use to increase consistency and reduce the time required to produce the management volume proposal content.
  • Revisit your proposal development workflow, roles and responsibilities. Can you eliminate any paper-based processes or streamline this? Can your proposal software assist with this? For example, ProjStream’s BOEMax has built-in workflow functions you can configure to model your proposal process. You can use the workflow process to automatically track the development process along with an audit log of who made what changes to the cost estimate.
  • Establish or update templates that reduce the time it takes for proposal teams to set up base data for a new proposal such as calendars, rate structures, and resource structures. Templates help to increase consistency and ensure proposal teams are using approved data such as the current set of forward pricing rates. Maybe this is a good time to tackle schedule and cost tool set integration issues and establish a standard data mapping configuration for the proposal teams. That helps to eliminate disconnects between the proposal schedule and cost estimate, ensures traceability, and saves time.
  • Set up basis of estimate templates with historical performance and actual cost data. Realistic cost estimates are data driven. That means your proposal teams need reliable source data they can use to substantiate their basis of estimates. What can you do to create a closed-loop cost estimating process so the proposal teams have what they need for their basis of estimates and rationale narratives? For example, in BOEMax, you could populate the Process Library with common tasks along with the resource and material requirements based on known standards for doing the work and actual costs. Or, build up the content in the master parts and assemblies list so proposal teams can quickly build their bills of material (BOM) using data that is directly traceable to the applicable business system.
  • Revisit your process and procedures. As documentation accumulates over time, there is often redundant (and contradictory) instructions in multiple documents. Can you eliminate documents, combine them, or streamline steps? Communicate what you are doing and engage your proposal teams so they have a vested interest in creating useful processes and procedures. If you are implementing new toolsets, consider producing a set of work instructions to help people through the learning curve.
  • Provide short, targeted online training sessions that combines process and the toolset – especially if you are updating your processes or implementing new toolsets. Focus on helping people become more efficient and engaged. Set up a regular schedule, communicate when sessions will occur, and the topic to be covered. Highlight why the sessions matter. Have a subject matter expert conduct these so people have the opportunity to learn best practices from them. You could record the sessions so people can reference them later.

Here is a list of more complex things to consider.

  • Eliminate the use of ad-hoc Excel templates to prepare your cost estimates. There are much better and more secure ways to do things. For example, ProjStream’s BOEMax proposal software provides a central database where the entire proposal team can collaborate, develop and price their cost estimates, and enter their basis of estimate rational in a single proposal project. The built-in workflow makes it easy to track who is responsible for what and where things are in the development process. This is a perfect solution when people are working remotely. BOEMax can be deployed in a cloud environment following your corporate security requirements and includes application level access controls to ensure only authorized personnel can view, enter, or modify the proposal data.
  • If you are bidding on government contracts that require an EVM System Description, work on that content so it is ready at contract award. You may need to include this documentation as part of a proposal submission, so get it done now. You may need to do a requirements analysis as the first step to identify the gaps in your project control system. Think ahead for what you need to have in place at contract award.
  • What can you do to eliminate silos of information or the need to recreate data? One area to consider is removing the barriers between the proposal and project control teams. A data driven cost estimate can help with this when the project control team can sort through how the proposal team arrived at their basis of estimate. Create a hand-off process between the teams so the proposal data can be leveraged to create the budget plan for the execution phase.
  • Update your security processes and practices in alignment with the DoD Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC). You will need to be certified at some point to bid on government contracts, so get your strategic and tactical plan in place now to accomplish this.
  • Revisit your list of approved suppliers and assess the likelihood of disruptions. What can you do to reduce the risk of disruption to your supply chain in the future? You may need to identify other suppliers for materials and services. Is there a critical supplier that needs help staying afloat? If that supplier is a sole source provider of a critical component, you may have a vested interest in making sure they survive. Update contractual documentation and requirements to reflect changes in government requirements such as the CMMC as well as identifying foreign products and suppliers.

We can help you adapt and improve your proposal process with BOEMax, an integrated cost estimating and pricing tool designed for secure proposal team collaboration whether deployed on an internal server or in a cloud environment. Everything has been disrupted – use this time to your advantage so you are prepared to win new contracts and increase your profit margins when business rebounds. Call us today. 

Updated September 25, 2020

Topics: estimating and pricing, BOEMax

Author: Tom Shanahan