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How to turn proposal management into a process of elimination

Issues, assignments, questions, and more... Oh my!

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A typical proposal has a lot of moving parts. More than most people realize. Hundreds or even thousands more. Keeping track of them all and making them come together before the deadline is enough to make your head spin.

Most of what you’ll need to track to resolution will be issues and not just proposal section writing assignments. To complete their assignments, people will need things. Multiple things. Every assignment will need one or more reviews. Possibly with production support, which will have its own needs. Multiple needs. Every meeting will need an agenda. And follow-up action items. Multiple items. It adds up. Rapidly. 

Every assignment and issue is related to multiple things. One or more proposal sections. One or more RFP sections. One or more people. Maybe a deadline. 

Not all issues have the same priority. Risk can be higher or lower. The potential impact can be very different.

Using MustWin Now to manage the proposal as a process of elimination

In MustWin Now, we make it easy to report risks. The submission form is always present. We want issues to surface early.  We don’t want people dwelling over whether to ask a question or declare a need. An issue reported is easily marked resolved.


When an issue is reported, it shows up at multiple levels:

  • The affected user(s) see it on their personal dashboards. If a proposal contributor needs to focus, they can work from their personal dashboard alone, fulfilling assignments and resolving issues.
  • The proposal manager and others see it on the proposal-wide dashboard. This way you can get a sense for how much there is to be done and how much progress is being made.
  • Within each proposal section, you can see what issues are related. This enables you to see what’s impacting section completion.
  • Within each tool you can see issues related to that tool. This helps identify issues related to a phase of activity.

image.pngWhen you look at an issue, you’ll be one click away from the people assigned to it, the sections impacted, the relevant RFP requirements, etc. 

You can also easily filter the issues on any dashboard, so you can see what’s new, what’s been resolved, what's past due, and more. At the proposal level, you can see who has the most issues, who needs help, what issues are the most severe, etc. The proposal manager can assign, reassign, edit, and manage the issue reports.

People can also resolve issues. Easy issues resolve as quickly as they come in. Some take work. MustWin Now supports collaboration. You can resolve an issue and restore it later if you find out that it’s still a problem.

Instead of a notepad or whiteboard, MustWin Now enables you to sort and filter issues in real time, with people reporting them directly through the tool. And through the dashboards, it makes communication about issues and collaboration to resolve them much quicker and easier.

Issue tracking without using MustWin Now

to-do-list-400.jpegThe next step up after notepads and whiteboards is a shared tool like Microsoft OneNote. For disorganized ad hoc notes, it’s a great tool. But it won’t filter and sort the way you need to manage a proposal with more moving parts than you can keep in your head.

You can bring structure to your issue tracking by using a spreadsheet. This gives you some much-needed sorting and filtering. Unfortunately, spreadsheets are not relational databases. If you try to relate everything relevant to your issues, you’ll end up with lots of columns and redundant typing that’s difficult to keep up to date. Data entry and management will become a full-time job, and people will stop using the spreadsheet because it will grow too complex. 

You can create your own relational database. But then you’ll end up designing screens and writing code, when you should be working on the proposal. You can use “to do” list and help desk apps. But you’ll find they aren’t built with proposals in mind and the compromises will impact your ability to manage your proposals.

Most people end up settling on spreadsheets for proposal issue tracking as a middle ground. They’re what I used before creating MustWin Now. With MustWin Now we’ve done the relational database work for you. 

Is it done yet?

Everyone wants to know, “Is it done yet?” Is the issue resolved? Is the proposal ready for review or finished? You can track that with lists, crossing them out one at a time.  

With MustWin Now, you can see the lists grow smaller by contributor, proposal section, and overall. Each person working on the proposal can see when they have nothing left to do. And section-by-section, you can see when it’s done. 

Part of the fun of doing a proposal is turning the corner to where that list starts getting smaller instead of larger. And crossing off that last item is so very sweet.

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A subscription to PropLIBRARY unlocks hundreds of premium content items including recipes, forms, checklists, and more to make it easy to turn our recommendations into winning proposals. Subscribers can also use MustWin Now, our online proposal content planning tool.

More information about "Carl Dickson"

Carl Dickson

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

Carl is an expert at winning in writing, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at carl.dickson@captureplanning.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

Click here to learn how to engage Carl as a consultant.

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