No more 11th hour crises! #3 Proposal Management Process Lesson Learned
(3) Develop your schedule with the end in mind.
The proposal development schedule is an essential proposal management tool for outlining tasks required to complete proposal development and integrate all proposal products and components for production and submission by the proposal due date. It should be used to monitor progress, maintain a continuous focus on meeting every schedule milestone, and keep the proposal development team accountable to their assigned tasks/due dates.
The proposal development schedule should be generated backwards from the proposal due date. It is important to know and plan the required proposal production time. This largely depends on the required or selected method (if given an option) of proposal delivery, and the required media / format / quantity of the proposal items that must be submitted.
Hard copy submission requires the most production time. Allow time for printing and binding, ensuring adequate supplies are on hand before production begins, such as papers, binders, dividers/tabs, and boxes. When required to submit electronic media, such as CD-ROM/DVDs, allow time for testing and virus scanning.
If hand carrying the hard copy / media proposal for delivery, then allow time for travel. If the proposal instructions require scheduling an appointment for delivery, then coordinate and confirm that appointment as early in the schedule as possible. If shipping the proposal for delivery, then allow time for scheduling delivery to the carrier, building in time to produce an extra set of proposal items for alternative shipment or hand carrying as a backup.
Obviously, email submission is the easiest form of proposal delivery that requires the least amount of production time, but still requires adequate planning. Be aware of file size limitations and plan accordingly. Additional time will be required to send multiple emails, and to label the subject lines in accordance with the instructions (e.g., Email 1 of 3, Email 2 of 3, Email 3 of 3). Other forms of electronic submission, such as uploading proposal files to a customer portal, are also fairly easy and less time-intensive, but still require planning. Be aware of portal downtimes, and plan for all required submissions (including subcontractors) via the portal as required, to ensure all proposal items are submitted on time. Even with email and electronic submission, you should always allow enough time in the schedule to submit the proposal at least one day ahead of when it is due, to allow for any technical issues and/or unplanned events.
One rule of thumb (based on Murphy’s Law) is to allow three (3) days for unplanned events across the entire proposal development schedule. You should have contingency plans for any impacts to the schedule - always expect and prepare to cope with schedule changes that may have to be made due to any number of circumstances or unanticipated events.
Other than production and submission for on-time delivery, other milestones that should be built into the schedule include:
- Questions Due to Government (allow time for internal question review and editing prior to submission)
- Data Calls to Team (including pricing data calls / RFQs)
- Color Team Reviews (Pink Team on the date at 1/3 of the time available and Red Team on the date at 3/4 of the time available)
- Color Team Recovery
- White Glove Inspection (prior to Production)
Finally, back to the early stages of the schedule, keep in mind that it is important to reserve approximately 10-15% of the proposal response time for planning and preparation, which is the #4 Proposal Management Process Improvement Lesson Learned.