Tailored Proposal Support

May 26, 2020

TMST tailors our support effort to the client’s needs.

Proposal Support, tailored to satisfy our clients’ requirements, is another core competency of Technology, Modeling & Simulation, and Training (TMST) LLC.  We strive to make the Proposal process more efficient and effective by offering a wide range of options and tasks while keeping it tailored to just what the client needs. We want to provide clear and useful guidance, suggestions, and critique of soon-to-be-evaluated proposals by utilizing our experience and the lessons and tools garnered over the years. Our offerings are very flexible because they are tailored to the client’s needs on an individual basis or to a particular opportunity. This means that we can offer support from primary oversight or direction to complete management of the proposal process.

TMST has several tools to assist the interested clients in selecting the role they expect TMST Consultants to play in their proposal effort. These provide a plethora of tasks but allow for either a focused or an expansive role by TMST. They go from High Levels of Effort to Low Levels of Effort, while juxtaposing Long Lead Time against Short Lead Time.

Effective Proposal Support

All proposal support is based on the client’s preparation work generated during their business development and capture phases. The capture and proposal phases of any effort include a lot of separate duties within. A large company with a vast employee base can assign various individuals to many pursuit tasks and duties. On the other hand, smaller organizations with a small employee base are at a disadvantage and may have to assign multiple tasks and responsibilities to one individual. Either way, the duty requirements are still the same. A company cannot hide behind its size to short-cut the system. Support follows a road map, a doctrine if you will. Each organization must study and learn the applicable doctrine, and then develop it in one of two methods; either deliberately or hastily. Good Capture and Proposal plans allow the organization to move competently from the Deliberate method to the Hasty method based on unforeseen exigencies rather than expected issues, thereby forcing the offeror to a rushed and reactive process due to always being behind the power curve. If the proposal manager knows his doctrine, he knows when and where to cut corners, thereby controlling the process rather than the process controlling him. In general, especially for US Government Orlando-based clients, Shipley Associates provides the accepted doctrine for capture and proposal writing. This is the basis for virtually all TMST efforts. Once the Proposal process has begun, the Government does not permit the offeror to speak directly to the final customer. At this point, after a program enters what is termed Procurement Administrative Lead Time (PALT) status, the offeror may only ask questions on a Government-dictated time schedule and then the Government shares the responses equally with all contenders. TMST experience, coupled with an intimate knowledge and constant interaction with the Government players, aids in an accurate proposal once the Government releases the Final RFP, without tipping the client’s hand or strategy. If the company perfectly executed its Capture process, this expertise is not as pertinent, but it is still available for the vast majority of clients.

Level of Effort

The level of effort that TMST can provide is dependent on many things. First off, the appropriate Level of Effort (LoE) can run the gamut from only a drop-in at Color Team reviews to provide opinions on a mostly-completed work all the way to complete responsibility for managing a proposal in a turn-key operation. The LoE chosen by the client is mostly dependent upon their scheme and desire, but TMST makes available a laundry list of tasks we perform for the client to select from, choosing from whole packages to individual sub-tasks.

In the Proposal phase of any opportunity, it is vital for the client to be intimately engaged and prepared to make informed decisions, no matter who they use to accomplish the task. The Go/No-Go decision must be deliberate and intentional before moving from the capture phase to the proposal phase. Are they ready to commit resources, the time, people, and money necessary to win this effort? If the honest answer is a No-Go, then the company must be strong enough to admit it and move on without wasting resources. Even when stopping the pursuit before tendering a bid, the company will not have lost incurred costs if they go into all efforts focused on the proper pursuits directed by accepted and clarified corporate strategy. And, once the proposal and the pricing become even more apparent later along the road map pathway, there will be other occasions to verify continued pursuit at Bid/No-Bid decision points. If an opportunity does not fit or is not guaranteed a high Probability of Win (PWin), and yet the company chases it to an inglorious loss, then the company not only wasted resources chasing a pipe dream but those resources were also not available to the pursuit of a proper fitting effort.

The Proposal phase of pursuit is married directly to the effort expended during the preceding phases. There should always be a formal plan for how the client company prefers to proceed. However, the plan does not play the most important role. The fact that there are people already into the effort and doing something; in other words, PLANNING, is the crucial part. The plan will never be complete, nor will it continue without constant change. Some Requests for Proposal (RFP) include numerous changes and additions requiring the Government to modify the proposal up to the last minute before the due date. Still, the fact that an offeror did his planning and that there is a tentative plan makes the schedule easier to discern, the goals easier to pursue, and the proposal more capable of answering the requirements and being compliant.

Specific Methods

To be able to calmly react to the RFP, either in the draft or the final version, or to any changes the Government imposes, the offeror should direct due diligence toward completing as much as possible and as early in the process as possible. The offeror should complete most of these tasks before the Government even initiates the Proposal submission timeline. TMST strives hard to direct and help the client complete as much as possible before RFP drop. We know how the Government generally constructs RFPs and Proposals and what they expect to see in a response. We may not know the final details of content or even format, but we know it well enough to get a considerable percentage of the work done ahead of time. We also focus on “training” our clients to write the “80% Solution” before the requesting agency even publishes the details. For example, the proposal team should complete the outline for the proposal before they start writing. The outline will provide corporate fit, win themes and key strategies, summarize benefits and features of the company solution set, as well as telling the Government why “We are the best choice”. The more you address these issues clearly, the more the Government will feel compelled to award the contract to you. 

We can assume the length of the proposal turn-around based on intelligence we have gleaned during the capture phase. With this information, we can develop one or more schedule courses of action. There exists the opportunity to write several expected portions of the proposal, based on experience. We know that management, technical, past performance, and staffing volumes, along with sections such as Small Business, Sub-Contractor, and Quality Assurance Plans, will be a part of any proposal. 

If a company truly has expectations of winning an effort, then they must know what it is that makes them unique and what they have that offers a benefit to the Government. This uniqueness and benefit do not change with each effort. There should be a Company-culture and methodology for accomplishing work, and the company should standardize it. If the company standardizes it, even if it is just “the way the boss does it”, then the company has already written the prose and has already drawn the figures after its first pursuit and proposal. The proposal manager must only tailor it in the telling to meet specific requirements for any given proposal effort. When capture and proposal teams generate this tailored “boiler-plate” ahead of time, the authors do not need to write or draw them during the crunch time, taking up valuable schedule time and focus that they can better use on the unique items of the proposal. If the corporation has no standardized corporate methodology and no “boiler-plate” template pre-written, then all that remains is individuals making stuff up or going with their own choice each time, thereby effectively inventing a new “company” with each proposal. There will never be a reason why the Government will learn to trust and confide in that company. That company will not have a tradition of winning. 

Color Team Reviews

Color Team reviews are an enormously important part of any proposal. These reviews act as checks and balances of the process and aid the authors to stay on track. The authors should have an intimate knowledge of the details required by the technical and other volumes.  However, very little works as it should. Sometimes the technical-minded authors misunderstand the Government contract language. Sometimes we chase rabbits down a hole and use up all our space before addressing all of the Government’s needs.

In some cases, there are very different writing styles, or sometimes something gets into there that doesn’t belong. Color Teams fix these issues. For the very reasons enumerated above, the best practice is that managers make up the Color Teams of individuals who were not involved in the actual writing. Bluntly, accurate and comprehensive self-critique is a rare characteristic, especially within any community. Outsiders with a similar background provide the best review effort.

Additionally, with each successive review, it is best to switch out the reviewers. In other words, we suggest clients make up their Pink Team with a different set of folks than what they use in the Red Team and certainly follow suit for the Gold Team. This takes planning, preparation time, and Executive level attention. A reviewer’s one job during the multiple color reviews is to propose better. The proposal manager and company leadership should identify and give color team reviewers plenty of lead time and instructions as to what is expected of them, and when the company proposal schedule governs them. Otherwise, the reviewers will not entirely focus on the task at hand but rather on their current daily duties and deadlines.  Unfortunately, this results in a cursory and non-thorough review. Yes, these are hard words, but they are a fact of life.

Our Commitment to your Win Requires Teamwork

No matter which tasks are of interest to the client, TMST will be prepared for its role. We do our homework and have our critical path to completing your mission well thought out. But again, the client must assist us while we do the heavy lifting. The Government has a new habit of providing procurement documentation only to those companies who have met solicitation criteria or have communicated their intent to bid to the acquisition or contracting representatives. If this is the case, then TMST, in its sub-contracted role, will need the client to provide us access to those documents. All work that we accomplish will still require a marked amount of preparation time and reading to be ready to compare the finished product to the requirements specified by the Government. Even though the client may limit the sub-tasks it has chosen for execution, TMST will need the same amount of preparation time (such as reading the RFP and the proposal) as if we were accomplishing a much more significant role. Even if TMST does not prepare an RFP Shred or the Proposal Compliance Matrix or a cross-walk, TMST will still need access to these company-provided documents to get the oversight job done. Otherwise, TMST Consultants will effectively be using their allotted time to duplicate the work, as these tools are necessary for assuring a winning proposal.

Inform yourself, and choose where we can help

Again, our warning to plan ahead rears its ugly head. Start your capture and proposal journey by reviewing our suite of available services and tasks. Choose what you need or want to make your effort more compelling. However, past proposal efforts show that the closer we get to the turn-in date, the more our clients want us to delve into other portions of the massive proposal effort. That’s ok! We are here to help in any capacity needed and can always add more to your purchase order. There is never an issue of deciding to add more to the plate at a later date in the process until there is an issue of Consultant availability, time, or conflict of interest. There is never a final draft to a proposal. There is only the draft you are on when you run out of time. Plan ahead. Contact TMST Consultants and let us sit down with you and determine your needs and how we can best meet them.

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