I used to work in an organization that was frequently responding to large government RFPs (Request for Proposal). Granted, it was in the infancy of my project management career and it was before the organization had embraced any form of ongoing project management methodology. The process went like this – I used an early tool (Project Workbench) to put together a Gantt Chart that showed we understood the tasks and had the resources to get the project done or perform on the program properly within the given time constraints. That huge – and I do mean huge – Gantt Chart became part of the proposal to show we understood the tasks required of us and then we usually won the project or program. Only once – at the end of my tenure with that organization – did we actually manage the project using my Gantt chart…and it really helped us manage the project and stay on track.
Now, what about the RFP process? We should have managed that extremely large RFP process with the project management tool, performed risk analysis, issue tracking, etc. in order to do a better job of organizing, creating, and delivering the proposal to the government. Many of you may already be doing this…I just want to take a look back at what we went through and consider who better we could have handled that process using PM tracking and oversight.
Kickoff the RFP response effort
Kicking off the RFP response effort is very much like kicking off a project. All stakeholders need to be there, an initial schedule needs to be available to use as a starting point to set expectations, milestones need to be discussed, and the methodology of how this proposal will be ‘project managed’ needs to be presented.
Basically, set any and all expectations at this point so fewer questions come up later on…sounds familiar, right?
At this point, the RFP response team needs to be filled out. Tech resources need to be assigned, tech writers, proofreaders and writers, the assembly team assuming there is a significant size to the document, the financial team who will put together the estimate, and so on and so on. These resources need to now be loaded into the revised project schedule – replacing the usual TBD resource titles.
Create and organize the input
An overall project manager must oversee the process of how the teams are creating and assembling the proposal. This basically coincides with the design and development phases of a normal project complete with several relevant milestones to ensure the process is staying on track. Of course, the PM must be conducting weekly project meetings just as with any other project and keeping teams informed with a tool like Seavus’ Project Viewer.
Perform the detailed review
Performing the detailed review of the proposal is much like the user acceptance test (UAT) process. Does the proposal meet the requirements set forth in the RFP and the easiest way to keep track of that would be to include a Requirements Traceability Matrix.