Best Practices for a Task Order Proposal Factory
- Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (ID/IQ) contracts (single award or multiple award)
- GSA Schedules (sometimes referred to as Multiple Award Schedules and Federal Supply Schedules)
- Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs)
- Government-wide Acquisition Contracts (GWAC)
MAC contracts are generally awarded based on qualifications, experience, and merit. Bidders are evaluated for past performance, quality certifications (CMMI, ISO, etc.), corporate experience, security clearances, and internal systems such as cost accounting, estimating, and purchasing. Once the MAC awards are made, specific project work is issued and funded through individual task orders (TOs). Different contract vehicles use different terms for these requests: task order request (TOR), request for task order proposal (RTOP), request for task execution plan (RTEP), task order request for proposal (TO RFP), etc. When a TO RFP is issued, the MAC awardees compete to win the work.
Since all MAC holders have already been screened and accepted onto the vehicle, TO RFP responses are much simpler, often avoiding the need for past performance checks, price realism, and overall management approach. Hence, the turnaround and response requirements can range from 2 days to 30 days. Typically, bidders have 10 days and a very limited page allocation for their response.
When you only have a short time to prepare and submit your proposal, there is no margin for error. A missed deadline, for example, can literally be the difference between submitting and no bidding. One way to be an effective player is to form a “Proposal Factory” corporate structure with scaled procedures, resources, and templates to quickly respond to short-turnaround TO requests. The Proposal Factory provides proposal management, writing, desktop publishing, editing, graphics, and production. A number of best practices will enable success in responding to rapid turnaround TO RFPs.
Best Practice 1. Scale your proposal process for rapid response.
Establish schedules for major milestones based on 10, 15, and 30-day turnaround times. For example, a 10-day schedule might look like this:
- RFP released, distributed, and read; bid/no-bid decision; conduct due diligence: confirm teammates, proposal team, and budget to move forward
- Prepare outline with RFP references embedded (serves also as a compliance matrix), and have a small team review; finalize selection of past performance, resumes; writing assignments and schedule
- Kickoff; conduct solutioning session(s) to finalize (identify) key aspects of the technical solution, strength statements, discriminators, and risks; submit any questions to government
- Perform writing with daily standups; decide on graphics, then draft and adjust; tailor any past performance and resumes, if required
- Pens down at COB; integrate content into master document and format for review
- Red team review, debrief
- Red team recovery; adjudicate suggestions; gold team and comments adjudication
- Format, edit, prepare final for submission; get executive approval to submit
For a 10-day turnaround bid, if a bid decision is not made by the second day, it should be a no-go. Remember to include at least one review in the schedule. Let approvers know at bid decision time that a quick approval will be required, and engage them throughout the process so you can scale the internal approval process to meet the schedule.
Best Practice 2. Avoid reinventing the wheel with each proposal.
The more material you can reuse from one proposal to another, the better. Maintain an indexed and searchable repository of all MAC-related information. Collect reuse materials based on vehicle requirements and your own best practices. For example, you likely developed an organization chart for the MAC proposal that flows down to the TO levels, and now specific TO leadership and other structure elements and names can be added.
Maintain a library of proposals of the same size and nature (including all proposals for TOs under the MAC) that contain relevant, potentially reusable content for solutions, proof points, etc.
Additional reuse language and materials may include:
- Cover letters
- Corporate profile
- Task Order management
- Subcontractor management
- Small business participation
- Managing risks
- Quality assurance
- Transition plans
- Staffing plan
- Employee recruitment, benefits, retention
- Continuous process improvement
- Compensation plan
- Current employee resumes
- CMMI, ISO, ITIL, Six Sigma and other statements, approaches, certificates, and other credentials
- American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) Section 508 compliance
- Handling classified data
- Standard cost proposal language, sections
- CPARS and customer endorsements, kudos, quotes
- Solutions, technical specifications
- Win Themes
- Past Performance writeups, case studies
- Organization charts
I suggest a reuse library with topical subfolders for each of these categories. As you bid more and more Task Orders under the MAC, your repository of artifacts will grow and make it easier to rapidly capture reuse material and to respond to each new proposal.
Best Practice 3. Maintain a repository of templates for each MAC.
Create a standard proposal template for the Task Order responses. The required structure of a Task Order proposal requested on each MAC vehicle is often similar from one bid to the next. Many sections will repeat from proposal to proposal, such as an introduction to your team, an understanding of the requirements, your management approach, or qualifications of key personnel.
Some templates to have ready include:
- Bid decision checklist
- Task order checklists
- Proposal schedules for various submittal periods
- Color review scoring sheets
- Approval forms
- Proposal template and style guides for technical, management, cost
- Past performance template
- Resume template
- Cover letter template
- Proposal covers
- Mailing labels/receipt templates
Of course, be sure your TO response procedure is well documented, scaled to respond to quick turn bids, and is continually improved through experience.
Best Practice 4. Develop and maintain a disciplined, responsive culture.
Establish and maintain a core proposal team and specific points of contact that are ready to go. Have each subcontractor identify one or two people who interact with the prime. It helps to avoid miscommunication when there is a limited number of people in the loop. Also identify who is the go-to person for activities such as pricing, technical solution development, or production support.
Educate everyone on the process. It is critical that everyone involved in proposal development understands their role, assignment, and responsibilities. One way to do this is with the Dr. GRAC model:
- Desired Results: Clarify outcomes & objectives. The primary objective is to submit a compliant, responsive, and compelling proposal on time – sand to win!
- Guidelines: Clearly define and communicate the milestone schedule, timeline for completion; the process for reviews. Have clear guidance for writers, such as:
- Focus on the customer’s issues
- Keep things concise and identify strengths for each evaluation factor
- Address risk, cost, and schedule
- Resources: Inform everyone of what resources are available and how are they accessed; how meetings, collaboration, and reviews are conducted. Who does one go to for help? Provide a contact list.
- Accountability: Define standards of performance, deadlines, and expectations—who will do what and what is expected of them? Provide the schedule and process for daily check-ins.
- Consequences: What are the implications of achieving or not achieving desired results? What happens if the schedule slips? What can we expect if we win? What does this win mean for the company?
Make sure the team has the knowledge and resources needed to be successful.
Best Practice 5. Create a virtual workspace for your proposal team.
Establish methods of communication and a searchable, collaboration area for solicitation and proposal artifacts, graphics, and color reviews. Having this workspace allows you to request and collect data from your subcontractors, makes it easy for writers to collaborate with each other, and enables the color team members to review the proposal documents at the same time. Identify tools for reporting proposal activity in real-time.
Address security issues early, including subcontractor accesses. Plan and arrange for accesses to tools and resources used in response preparation in advance of RFP release so they are active or can be quickly activated.
Congratulations, you have won a MAC contract! Now, bidding on TO RFPs is critical. If you are not an active participant and win at least some work under a MAC vehicle, you may be off-boarded to free a slot for other vendors. Set up a Proposal Factory for your MAC vehicle. The investment will pay off with a steady stream of opportunities and wins for your company.
by Maryann Lesnick, Managing Director at Lohfeld Consulting Group, CP APMP, PMP, CSM, MOS.
Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals.
As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Go-to-Market Strategy, Capture Planning and Strategy, Proposal Management and Writing, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, and Training. In the last 3 years, we’ve supported over 550 proposals winning more than $135B for our clients—including the Top 10 government contractors. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at www.lohfeldconsulting.com and join us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
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