Judgment calls are almost always required when building a compliance matrix from an RFP. Either the RFP is not structurally consistent, or the language is subject to interpretation. Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out how the customer wants you to structure your proposal. I advise people to try to anticipate the customer's scoring forms, but sometimes the RFP makes that challenging.
Sometimes reality gets in the way
I just finished helping a customer respond to an RFP that contained one section with a list of 3 topic instructions, followed by a list of 5 more requirements, followed by a paragraph listing 3 more topics, followed by a list of 8 bullets. They were not meant to be addressed in sequence. They overlapped in subject matter. They did not map to each other. Some had multiple relations and some had none.
So what headings and subheadings should this section have? Which of the lists specified the headings? Unfortunately, the answer was "several." It was impossible to figure out what the customer intended.
Somehow a proposal manager has to allocate these to headings and requirements linked to the headings. It won’t do the writers any good if you map the whole thing to every subheading. How do you guide the writers regarding which they should address and where?
Whether you build your compliance matrix in a spreadsheet or with a tool like we're building, you still have to face judgment calls.
A little validation goes a long way
One thing we do to help is we provide better options for validating your matrix. At most companies, the proposal manager creates the compliance matrix in isolation, judgment calls and all. In a small percentage they swap with another proposal manager to do a peer review that is often just a skim. This is both unbelievable and understandable, since it can take as long to properly review a compliance matrix as it did to create it in the first place.
For one thing, simply having the RFP online makes it easy to look things up without page flipping.
But we've also found some clever ways to accelerate the review of the compliance matrix. We don't want the proposal manager to be isolated. We want the entire team involved, if needed, so that the entire team possesses a deeper understanding of the RFP and the outline that results from it.
We give the proposal manager the ability to document their judgment calls. Not only that, but we enable the reviewers to quickly double check them. We make building the compliance matrix collaborative, so that people can discuss the issues. And by bringing it online, this discussion occurs in real time. It doesn't have to wait for a scheduled meeting.
It is what it is
We can't make creating a compliance matrix easy. It's a hard problem. But we can enable you to more reliably achieve better results, that ultimately make you more competitive. And we can provide a lot of guidance to help you figure things out. I'm enjoying torture testing our platform on the worst RFPs I can find, because I keep finding unexpected benefits. We're creating a tool that enables you to do a better job of what you know you should be doing. We're creating a tool that will help you win.
And we haven't even described for you how we use the cross-referencing engine to link pre-RFP pursuit with post-RFP content planning. Yes, our tool will spit out a compliance matrix. But it will also enable you to plan what should go into a winning proposal in ways that go beyond mere RFP compliance. I'll post more in the upcoming weeks.
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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.
Carl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.
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