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12 considerations to help you determine whether the technical approach or the management approach is the most important in your proposal

You may think you’ve given them the best reasons from your point of view, but have you read your proposal like an evaluator?

We tend to obsess over the technical approach and treat the management plan as if it's routine. Yet companies have won major proposals by focusing on the management plan instead of the technical approach. How do you know when the management plan is more important? It depends on:

See also:
Offering design
  1. The evaluation criteria. The evaluation criteria sometimes favor either the technical or the management section. When they do, it is an indicator of which the customer thinks is more important. Since the evaluation criteria determine how you are scored and whether you win or lose, they should receive the most consideration. However, the closer to equal they are, the more you can show understanding and increase the credibility of your ability to perform by showing insight related to the other items in this list.
  2. What is the customer’s role? Will the customer be managing things and in control, or will you be? If it will be you, then how can they have confidence that under your management things will go well? Remember, it’s the customer’s perception of their role that counts. If they perceive themselves to be running things, then they may not want you go into detail about certain aspects of management and if you do you might conflict with the customer’s perceptions.
  3. What is the customer’s experience with what they are procuring? The more experience the customer has with what they are asking for, the more they will have their own ideas of how it should be managed. The opposite is also true. The less experience they have with it, the less confidence they’ll have in their own RFP and the more trust will be a concern for which proposal they select. Can they trust you to deliver as promised? How do they know things will go smoothly, on schedule, and within budget?
  4. Risk. How much risk is there in performance or delivery? The more risk, the greater the need is to manage things carefully. Risk itself may need to be managed.
  5. Quality. You can describe your technical approach in detail, but how will you ensure that every important part is done correctly? If there are major consequences, you might want to focus on managing quality. There are other reasons to manage quality, including efficiency. 
  6. Span of control. The more people and moving parts, the more management effort will be required.  
  7. Are logistics a concern? Supply chain and other logistics considerations require management and oversight. Simple logistics may not be a problem to manage. But even if the project is highly technical, if the logistics are complicated, then management can equal or exceed the importance of the technical approach.
  8. Predictability. When things are stable and predictable they are much easier to manage. But when workloads fluctuate, there are many changes, issues surface unpredictably, quality varies, risks are difficult to identify and mitigate, etc. The lack of predictability can make an otherwise routine project difficult to manage.
  9. Staff experience and training. If your staff have a lot of experience and are well trained, they may not need as much management and oversight. New, inexperienced, and untrained staff need more supervision. A corollary to this is that projects with high turnover need stronger management. But the bottom line is that your insights about the staffing profile for the project should inform the priority you put on the management and technical approaches.
  10. Process maturity and reliability. Are your procedures written or do you make them up as you go along? Are your procedures tested? Are staff trained in them? Do they account for all contingencies? Do they address all of the issues in this list? Do they operate routinely? Are they repeatable? If your processes are mature and reliable, you’ll need less oversight and supervision to run the project. If your processes are new and untested, you might want to focus on reinforcing them with other aspects of your management approach.
  11. Tools. The tools you use can mitigate management concerns. They can centralize or decentralize, improve coordination, track issues, provide automated oversight, eliminate the need for quality control by humans, accelerate performance, provide customer reporting, and so much more. If you understand which management issues will be the most critical for project success and select appropriate tools, you can make management more than just a set of promises.
  12. Level of innovation. Innovation is usually perceived as increasing risk. If a project requires innovation, the customer may also perceive the need for stronger management approaches. 
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