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Using a compliance matrix to create the proposal outline

For complex proposals, a Compliance Matrix is required to create the proposal outline

Steps for creating a proposal outline:

  1. Create a Compliance Matrix based on the RFP.
  2. Create the outline as you parse the RFP requirements in the Compliance Matrix.
  3. Use the outline to begin Proposal Content Planning, where you figure out everything else that needs to go into your proposal in order to win.

Creating the outline and the compliance matrix go hand in hand. You should start by following any instructions the RFP may contain regarding how to organize the proposal. Next, add items to the outline until you have a place for everything you need to address. Because a requirement or topic may impact the outline in multiple places, creating a compliance matrix can get complex. For example, if the customer asks you to address risk, but doesn’t provide a specific place to do it, you may need to address risk throughout the proposal in a variety of contexts (technical, management, staffing, etc.).

See also:
Compliance matrix

Parsing the RFP for individual requirements and then using the matrix to allocate every single requirement to one or more specific proposal sections can be a daunting task ─ analogous to untangling spaghetti. Because of the vagaries of language, judgment calls may be necessary regarding where to put some items. As you complete the compliance matrix, you will modify your outline, probably many times, until you have the right balance of:

  • Following the customer’s instructions regarding organization
  • A rational organization of information that will answer all of the customer’s questions
  • A clear, easy to navigate structure for the proposal document
  • Complete compliance with all requirements
  • An organization that is optimized against the evaluation criteria and procedures
  • A presentation that best reflects your offering

Your outline must accommodate all of the requirements and other topics you need to address in your proposal. Once the outline and compliance matrix are complete, you should validate them to ensure they can be relied upon.


Instead of being a separate document, the Proposal Outline often becomes the first column of the Compliance Matrix.  If you still have room on the page, you can even add a column for assignments and deadlines.


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