One of the most important elements to put your proposal on track is the Compliance Matrix. This is the outline/cross-walk of Sections L and M of the Request For Proposal (RFP).
You will be well-served to take the time needed to make an accurate, complete Compliance Matrix that Cross-Walks the requirements of Section L & M. Find every reference to, “The contractor will”, “shall”, or “is responsible to do”, A, B, or C. Depending on the complexity of the Proposal, this can easily take 2-3 full days. Don’t rush this step…and have someone double-check what is presented to be sure it is correct.
There are tools, such as VisibleThread, that can assist you to minimize the time required. However, it will still take an experienced person to carefully construct the final template. Another word of caution is relying too heavily on a “Consulting Company” when you don’t have details of who, specifically, will be working on your Proposal.
To illustrate from my own experience, the company I was working with decided to have a “Consulting Company” do the Proposal Compliance Matrix. What they didn’t know is that the Consultant put on the task was very inexperienced – and the Compliance Matrix delivered was trusted to be correct. When numerous errors were found across all Volumes, we had to start over and were weeks behind schedule. If you are using a Consulting Company, make sure you vet the people actually doing the work. Don’t be dazzled by the “Sale” to use their services. This is YOUR Proposal and YOUR employees (and profit) affected by the outcome.
The best way to do a Compliance Matrix is to develop, outline, and call-out each specific factor as below:
– Program Management Plan (Section L 4.2, 4.3, 4.6, 4.9/Section M 6.3, 7.3, 8.2)
Again, don’t rush this step! I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to get to Red Team Review and realize your Outline is not correct and you basically start over. THAT’s what leads to insane hours, burned-out teams, and inferior products.
When you receive the RFP, review it carefully and write down any questions you have. Remember, people wrote the RFP and sometimes things are changed in one section but are not reflected in another section. The Government will specify what the time frame is to receive and answer questions. Be sure to get clarification while the window is open so you know what is required. All the questions will be pooled, answered, and distributed.
Sections L & M
Section L contains the specific and detailed instructions, conditions, and notices to respondents of what must be addressed to be considered “responsive”. Section L identifies the specific format, severable parts, factors, and organization of the Proposal. Make note of the how, when, and where the Proposal will be submitted. This will help you formulate your timeline. For example, if a hard copy submission is necessary, time will need to be allotted for printing, delivering, and/or mailing (overnight with delivery receipts). Remember, if your Proposal is late, it WILL NOT be considered. All your hard work is for naught.
If the submission is electronic, you will have a little more time before your Proposal must be finalized but don’t wait until the last minute. I personally know of an Incumbent Proposal with a Monday noon delivery. The person responsible to turn it in refused to work over the weekend and decided to attend a meeting (that was not critical) on that deadline Monday morning. Intelligence gathered assured that as long as the Proposal was submitted, the Government would award to that Team. Because of one person’s negligence, the deadline was missed. No amount of, “oops”, or “sorry” can explain that to the ~ 20 employees who lost their jobs because the Proposal was not turned in on time. Every detail in Section L is important.
If any of the required factors are not addressed in your Proposal, you will be found “non-responsive” which means you are disqualified from the contract selection process.
Section M provides details of exactly how the Government will evaluate all submissions and make the award(s):
- Basis for Contract Award – “Best Value” or “Lowest Price Technically Acceptable” (LPTA)
- Evaluation factors, order of importance, and weighting
- Strengths and Weaknesses (usage and definition, if they are used as evaluation criteria).
Keep in mind that evaluators often have check boxes to walk through each Proposal. Make it easy for them to do their jobs. Keep your offering clear, concise, compelling, and low risk…and win the work!
Please note that if the Government requires “Times New Roman 12 pt. font, with 1” margins” – that’s exactly what they mean. Don’t think they won’t throw you out if you try to sneak in an “Aerial Narrow” Section. They can (and have) thrown out Proposals for something as small as this. A good way to think about it is…it’s part of the TEST. Can you – and do you – follow directions…exactly? If you can’t follow the Government’s directions in a Proposal, how in the world can you deliver what’s required in the work?