Introduction to the compliance matrix

A Compliance Matrix is a tool for aligning all of the requirements that are relevant to a particular proposal section

A Compliance Matrix helps you untangle the mess of requirements that many RFPs are:

  • A Compliance Matrix shows you which RFP requirements go with which proposal section
  • A Compliance Matrix helps you create the proposal outline and is the first step towards building a Proposal Content Plan.
  • While a Compliance Matrix is not the only thing you need to know what to write in your proposal, it is usually the starting point.

The Compliance Matrix was developed to respond to proposals written against RFPs with hundreds or even thousands of requirements to be addressed. Different sections of the RFP may have requirements affecting various sections of the proposal.  A Compliance Matrix shows all of the requirements that are relevant to a particular proposal section.

For very simple, small proposals a Compliance Matrix may not be necessary.  If all sections of the RFP are already perfectly aligned, then the Compliance Matrix may not add any value.  However, if they are not in perfect alignment, then a Compliance Matrix is vital for managing them and ensuring compliance.

A Compliance Matrix is often required for proposals written in response to Federal Government RFPs. A Federal Government RFP will typically have separate sections for the outline/formatting instructions (“Section L”), evaluation criteria (“Section M”), and statement of work (“Section C”). Creating the proposal outline requires cross-referencing.  To create the outline, you start with Section L, which tells you the high-level outline.  Next you incorporate Section M so that your outline reflects the Evaluation Criteria.  Then you incorporate Section C to round out the outline with what you need to be compliant with the RFP.  You may also need to include other sections of the RFP if they contain requirements that must be addressed in the proposal.  If Sections L, M, and C are not in perfect alignment, then you may need to cross-reference the various sections of the RFP in order to complete your outline.

For other (Non Federal Government) RFPs, you should look for RFP sections that correspond to formatting instructions, evaluation criteria, and a statement of work and then follow the same general approach.  The more sections that an RFP has and the more they overlap, the more critical it becomes to have a compliance matrix.

Even if the customer hasn’t issued a written RFP, a cross-reference can be built by formally identifying the customer’s requirements and turning them into a list.

Whenever the RFP is complex and you create a compliance matrix, you should consider submitting a copy with the proposal to help the evaluators see that you are compliant.

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Return to: Starting a Proposal Based on an RFP, or return to the Starting Point: Figuring Out What to Say in Your Proposals.



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Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY.

The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is an expert at winning in writing. He is a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant.

In addition, the groups Carl moderates on LinkedIn provide a place for tens of thousands of business development and proposal professionals to discuss best practices and network.
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