Who owns the proposal?
There can be a lot riding on a proposal – deadlines, stress, long hours, and even people’s jobs. As a result, everyone wants to be in control. In a well organized environment, this can be worked out amicably. In a chaotic environment where you have to do proposals The Wrong Way™, it can lead to turf battles that only make a bad proposal situation worse. Here are some of the things that people struggle for control of:
- Who owns the solution? Deciding what hardware, software, services, and methodologies to bid can be difficult. On a large project, you might have subject matter experts working different parts of the solution. Try to make sure that one person has over all responsibility for the solution to be bid. Then focus on keeping that person on schedule.
- Who owns the project if you win? You will usually know during the proposal who the project manager will be upon award. Make sure that person is involved in the proposal. Hopefully it will be the person responsible for determining the solution. The person who owns the project on award is one of the few in the process who has a real reason to want to win.
- Who owns the resources? Make sure you know who owns the resources you will be drawing on to produce the proposal. Unfortunately this person probably won’t be working on the proposal, and knowing who they are may not do you any good. But having someone to complain about may help you vent.
- Who owns the text? It is very important to make absolutely clear who owns the text in the proposal. Who has the authority to determine or veto changes? Is it the person who determines the solution or the person who provides the resources? Is it an executive sponsor? Is it the proposal manager? Usually all of them struggle for power over the text. It may not really matter who the person is, so long as it’s one person and everyone knows who it is. If you can establish a clear hierarchy over the text, you can save countless hours fighting over it.
- Who owns the outline? The outline drives the text. But section authors sometimes take liberties with the outline. By annotating the outline, you can provide specific instructions regarding the text. To a certain degree, you can control how long a proposal will take and control proposal assignments by controlling the outline.
- Who owns the process? Are you going to use storyboards? How will the Red Team review be managed? What tracking forms must be completed? How will configuration management be maintained? Does “pens down” really mean “pens down?” Whoever owns the process makes these decisions and wields a lot of power. Unfortunately business line leaders and executive sponsors often claim the proposal manager has this authority, but don’t let him or her exercise it.
- Who owns the schedule? Who decides when things are due and who is going to have to work the weekend? The clock is ticking and you don’t have time to argue about when things should be due. While the person who sets the schedule should seek the buy-in of the proposal participants, they must be able to make enforceable decisions or else the proposal is doomed to be a last-minute mess.
Traditionally, we call the owner of the process and schedule the Proposal Manager. The solution is traditionally owned by the Capture Manager, who often is the project manager upon award. The text may be owned by the Capture Manager or the Proposal Manager. Joint ownership is a recipe for indecision and struggle. Make sure it’s clear. Resources come from where ever you can scrounge them with the lead business line having the greatest responsibility to contribute.
By Carl Dickson, Founder of CapturePlanning.com
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