The 25% solution

This week, Brenda Crist described the 25% Solution and provides advice for proposal managers who become defacto capture managers once an RFP drops.

I titled this post the 25% Solution because proposal managers often have little more than 25% of the solution completed before the request for proposal (RFP) drops. According to proposal best practices, by the time the RFP drops, a company should have:

  • An established relationship with the client or at least a dialogue with the client
  • A solution for performing the work or at least a concept of operations (CONOPS)
  • A price-to-win (PTW) strategy or at least an idea of the customer’s budget
  • Knowledge of the competition’s solution, PTW, or organizational capabilities
  • Partners in place to help close solution gaps with signed non-disclosure agreements (NDA)
  • Subject matter experts (SME) available and willing to help craft the solution

When given a 25% solution, the proposal manager becomes a defacto capture manager because once the RFP drops, the original capture manager is usually consumed with completing the pricing and contract documents and serving as the liaison between company executives and subcontractors. As a result of the time crunch, the proposal manager is often left to:

  • Oversee development of the solution and ensure it provides sufficient detail
  • Perform competitive analyses to resolve open questions
  • Design the transition plan and identify transition risks
  • Develop the quality control (QC) plan or operations-monitoring approach
  • Oversee recruiting of key personnel
  • Identify benefits and discriminators and develop win themes

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Shouldn’t the company no bid?” While this is often the case, there are many compelling reasons to bid including:

  • The company had a surge in operational work
  • The company’s budget was cut
  • Multiple bids came out at the same time

No matter the reason, it becomes the proposal manager’s job to complete the unfinished capture work and develop the proposal within the timeframe allocated by the customer. So how can the proposal manager possibly perform all these functions within the customer’s timeframe? Here are my recommendations:

  • Quickly construct a compliance matrix and assess the work that needs to be completed
  • Identify if there is reasonable cause to ask for an extension, and if so, request one
  • Build a schedule that maximizes parallel tasks and minimizes sequential tasks
  • Allocate 15% to 33% of the proposal response timeframe to completing capture activities including the competitive analysis, technical and management solution development, and key personnel recruitment tasks
  • As soon as the schedule is completed, communicate resource needs to top executives along with associated risks if the resource requirements are not met
  • Immediately after the Kick-Off Meeting, convene a working session to develop the technical, management, and staffing solution within the parameters of the PTW estimate
  • Before 33% of the proposal timeframe is spent, review the solution with upper management and mitigate risks
  • Before 66% of the proposal time is spent, conduct rolling reviews of annotated outlines for all proposal sections
  • Aim for a final review of the proposal before 80% of the proposal timeframe is completed, and limit the number of proposal reviewers to allow sufficient time to incorporate their feedback
  • Always allocate the final 10% of your timeframe to a quality review of the proposal and production

In summary, the 25% Solution is becoming more of the norm these days as companies reduce their overhead costs and proposal professionals are asked to do more with less. The situation is becoming more feasible as customers invite more questions and input during the solicitation timeframe and proposal due dates slide to the right. The situation becomes more palatable, if upper management supports a scalable, flexible, and adaptable proposal management process.