Capture and proposal innovations: the year that was and the year ahead

At the start of Fiscal Year 2014, many made bold predictions of a better year ahead. Post-sequestration, pundits also predicted that the pendulum would begin to swing away from Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA) and back to Best Value as agencies experienced the low-quality results of relying on price as the determining evaluation factor.

However, despite this optimism, most warned that contractors would need to sharpen their pencils and put on their innovation thinking caps to succeed in the ever-increasingly competitive market.

As we enter 2015, innovative companies willing to embrace change are more likely to succeed because they understand the realities of the market and strategize proactively. Looking ahead, what are the innovations—ones that are desirable to customers, possible given constraints such as budget and time, and viable given market developments—that will boost successful outcomes for capture and proposal professionals? Here are five areas to consider.

Price to win

At times, it seems that price reasonableness and realism, as well as quality performance, have fallen by the wayside as evaluation factors. Many companies have responded with a slash-and-burn mentality: cutting prices and worrying about execution later, often with poor results. While we must respond to market trends, capture and proposal professionals should also position our companies for future growth. Cutting overhead is not just about layoffs and/or reducing compensation and/or looking to hire the least experienced people. Companies that position for future growth tie their price-to-win strategy to how they run all aspects of their business, including capture and proposals. They develop and continuously evolve pricing strategy using tools such as data mining and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to truly gain insight into customer budgets and competitor prices.

Takeaway: Make the pricing strategy part of the capture strategy, and task the Capture Manager with working it early and continuously making adjustments as the team gains additional information.

Support the distributed workforce

The distributed workforce is the present and future of the workplace. A mobile, flexible workforce helps keep capture and proposal costs low and takes advantage of different time zones for increased productivity. With more capture and proposal professionals expecting to work from home, collaborative tools and mobile applications will be more important than ever in 2015. Innovative capture and proposal teams take advantage of free communications and collaboration tools such as Skype, JoinMe, Google Hangouts and the like, as well as the many available chat applications. Cloud-based apps like Dropbox and Google Drive allow capture and proposal teams to share and archive files easily without the costs associated with SharePoint or similar tools.

Takeaway: Continuously research and test new tools to take advantage of innovative applications that can benefit the distributed capture and proposal team’s productivity and results.

Gear up for rapid response

Agility wins if it means your capture and proposal team can rapidly respond to qualified opportunities better than the competition. Especially with the increase in multiple award vehicles, capture and proposal teams need to adopt a task order factory approach to funnel in solicitations, make rapid decisions, solution effectively, write and review efficiently, and funnel out bids with minimal fuss. Critical innovations in this area include implementing a collaborative application that allows you to manage opportunities by pushing data from your CRM; enforcing workflows and processes; providing a virtual workspace hosting the materials, templates, and repositories that drive success; and offering management reporting to pinpoint areas that need improvement. Without this type of cost-saving tool, there is no way your company can keep up in today’s market, not only because of lack of time, but also due to lack of human resources.

Takeaway: Don’t be penny-wise and pound foolish; invest in the rapid response arsenal that you need to win.

Be healthy

Without your health, nothing else matters. Innovative capture and proposal teams understand the importance of healthy bodies and healthy minds. Getting rid of proposal pizza or at least also providing proposal salad results in slimmer waistlines and less malaise. Recent research by the Mayo Clinic and others has shown that sitting is worse for your health than smoking. The daily trip to the gym (if you even have time for it), while beneficial, cannot undo the damage done from sitting all day. In response, innovative companies are providing standing desks, encouraging fitness, and making sure employees take breaks to move around. Health checks should also include the work environment itself. The highest functioning teams foster a no-blame atmosphere, encourage brainstorming, conduct reviews that allow only constructive criticism, and work collaboratively, with everyone rolling up their sleeves to get the job done and focus on the win.

Takeaway: Make health—in body and mind—a priority in 2015 because without it, your team cannot sustain itself in order to succeed.

Actually learn from lessons learned

The best way to prepare for 2015 is to review and act on the lessons learned from 2014 and previous years. Unfortunately, capture and proposal teams usually move quickly from opportunity to opportunity, and capturing lessons learned is seldom a priority. Poor-performing companies just keep running on a treadmill and going nowhere. Successful capture and proposal organizations mine lessons learned and customer debriefs for actionable innovations in managing people, streamlining processes, and taking advantage of technology. Yes, lessons learned have been around forever, but it is innovative to actually take them seriously. Don’t just give lip service to lessons learned; use them as an opportunity to succeed this year.

Takeaway: Consider changing the title of this final gate review to Lessons Learned and Transformation and see what happens!

As we get ready for 2015, capture and proposal innovations will help your company stand out in a crowded playing field. If you have ideas on innovations I should cover in this column, email me at Here’s to a winning New Year!

By Lisa Pafe, Lohfeld Consulting Group Principal Consultant

Connect with Lisa on LinkedIn

Reprinted with permission from the APMP-NCA Executive Summary, Fall 2014.