APMP Foundation: Proposal Outline Development


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Second session in the Planning the Proposal Phase module of Bid to Win's APMP Foundation Accreditation preparation webinars.
In this webinar we shall learn about the purpose and content of the proposal outline, and how it can help us get organised.

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  • Welcome to the second session in the module Planning the Proposal Phase in our APMP Foundation Training webinars.In this module we going to examine a fundamental proposal planning technique: Outline Development
  • Let’s take a look at what we will learn in this module.First of all, what is an outline for, what does it containNext we will look at some ways of creating an outline and then see just how useful it can be to help us plan, allocate and schedule the authoring work.Then, as we go into more detail, it may be necessary to add more information and structure to our outline.We will wrap up the whole module by summarising some of the benefits of using outlines.You’ll notice in the bottom-right hand corner a reference to the page number in the Proposal Guide. When this prompt appears, refer to your Proposal Guide for more detailed information.
  • The first definition is about describing what’s in and what’s not in scope.The second definition is about summarizing a proposals main headings and topics.Thirdly, an outline could help us plan the work needed to write and review the proposal.
  • The Bid Manager reviews the Bid Request and captures structure and with the help of the bid team filters out the requirements. This information contributes toward the outline.When identifying the requirements it will also be useful to create a compliance checklist which can be used in later reviews to check that the proposed solution complies with requirements and that a complete set of responses have been provided.The outline will assist in creating a schedule and assigning team members and authors to particular jobs. The Outline will also help in identifying the storyboards required to assist authors in their work.
  • There’s a lot going on in that picture.Let’s reduce it to its basics. Creating an outline is a simple 3 step processCreate the top level OutlineStay compliant to the Prospect’s instructions, if anyCreate the signpost headings and numbered outline that will be the bones of your proposalStart adding detailed structureThink about the customer’s evaluation prioritiesCommunicate benefits in Informative HeadingsProvide guidelines to the writers by annotating your outlineMap your win themes to the outline to provide your proposal with strategic and competitive focus
  • Where the bid request provides specific guidance on the organisation of the proposal we should comply with it.
  • Similarly, don’t break the Prospect’s numbering scheme.It probably reflects the structure of their marking scheme.Make it easy for the evaluator to map your responses into their evaluation
  • Think about the Prospect’s evaluation prioritiesThey may even be stated in the Bid RequestPut the important stuff first and allow more detail and structure on the items that have most weight
  • Customers have their own terms and conventions and we should use them.USE THEIR project names not yoursDON’t alienate the evaluators by ‘correcting’ their ‘mis-use’ of terms like project and programBE CAREFUL with spelling, don’t anglicise spelling if the prospect’s team is used to AmericanAnd vice versa!
  • Summarising this first part :Be compliantBe responsiveMake your proposal evaluator friendly
  • Let’s work through that advice following the simple three steps I described earlier
  • We may start with a hand-written outline like this.If no structure is defined in the instructions copy the bid request structure. If there are Tendering Instructions - this is a good time to CHECK compliance.So far, we’ve talked about following a prospect’s RFQ.Sometimes, a prospect may like the sound of a vendor’s idea and say “can you give me a proposal on that”.In this kind of situation an outline is useful because it helps us to consider how to present our ideas and plan what we need to write.First I’d start with a requirements checklist to make sure all the prospect’s requirements are covered.Then I would either develop it interactively with the prospect or just develop it logically making sure that everything was covered and in the right order. Doing this helps identify section headings and how we might split up the writing work.
  • Here’s another way of producing an outline. This was created in a mind mapping tool – which makes it easy to edit and move topics around.As for adding more information to an outline, think about including other response requirements within the top-level outline, for example:Statement of WorkTerms and Conditions
  • Ultimately our outline can be presented more formally. Essentially , it’s still a list but easier to read and edit.
  • Work out where you’re going to fit all the other stuff that’s necessary but not defined in the Prospect’s rules.Some basic rules of good design here:Be compliantIntroduce an organisation (provide the reader with a mental map)And then follow the organisation you introducedPut the important items firstGroup similar ideas together so you don’t confuse the readerTry to keep your structure ‘balanced’. Keep the depth of numbering consistent across sections and the length appropriate to the importance.
  • When there is no formal bid request, then get to understand the prospect’s need by with them directly or through your sales teams.In some instances your outline may become the basis for a competitive bid where through your own work you have influenced the content of the bid request. This should give you some competitive advantage.The Proposal Guide shows the logical sequence of steps to develop an outline through to submitting an unsolicited proposal.
  • To assist evaluators in finding their way around our proposal it is a good idea to use exact and telegraphic headings for the major, expected or standard headings.Informative headings enable an evaluator to immediately understand the contents of a section and the associated benefits.Look in the Proposal Guide for the topic called Headings.
  • Telegraph Headings get the reader to the right sectionInformative headings communicate the benefits described there
  • Writing a proposal is a bit like sitting a written examination, you have to focus your efforts on the questions with the most marks and plan your time accordingly.You should allocate an appropriate number of pages and detailed structure to a topic depending on its relative importance to the prospect. We can determine this from the evaluation criteria, discussions and personal and bid team’s judgement.
  • Evaluators give different weightings to different decision criteria. In this example, Performance is the #1 priority, whereas Heat output is a consideration but less important to the prospect. This means focus on higher priority items!
  • Using the prioritised outline, you can startputting more in more detail and structure.You won’t want to write more than is necessary, and your prospect won’t want to read it. So it’s a good plan to start setting a page budget. Some times the budget is imposed on you in the bid request.The table shows estimates for the Technical section. In this case it’s a very detailed section with almost 60 pages. The principle still applies on shorter documents.
  • Setting a page budget for each section will help you estimate the total effort required to create the proposal document (or keep the effort within available resource) For example, by estimating the number of pages to be produced, and understanding whether the responses need to be created or adapted from existing material.Based on the number of pages to be produced, you may be able to estimate the amount of effort it will take to produce them.The table shows estimates for the Technical section.
  • Let’s take a quick look ahead to what we’ll learn in the next module about effort metrics.The main driver for proposal writing effort is page count.So use these simple metrics to calculate the size of the writing taskThese are the standard answers based on general industry experience.Develop your own metrics based on the experience in your own organisation.
  • No Bid to Win presentation would be complete without some top tips.For ease of reference use the prospect’s numbering system.Make sure you know what the evaluators are looking for.Make information easy to find.If you have limited time (or imagination) and no guidance from the Prospect then just follow the bid request structure.If that’s all you do, then you’re giving yourself a better chance of at least being considered and you will be tracking the Prospect’s internal evaluation model.
  • We can take information from our outline and put it into a project planning tool.This helps us in getting an idea for how long it will take to complete the proposal given the resource availability. This is a great tool for understanding that we may need more support to enlist resources or even help in a decision to no-bid or bid differently because of a lack of resource.Roles and responsibility matrix.
  • Project planning tools are also good at indicating who does what an when.That is, they can produce a basic roles and responsibility matrix which we can then adapt as shown in the proposal guide.
  • See how constraints, assumptions and references can be added to the outline.One of the most important annotations is WHAT WIN THEMES you want the section author to use and the PROOFS
  • You can use your annotations to point the authors to useful re-usable content:A great case studyA useful graphic A sample project management planJust take care that boilerplate is adapted to be specific to your Prospect. You don’t want your proposal to read like a brochureBE CAREFUL! Copy Paste is not without it’s dangers.Ideally keep your boilerplate in a well maintained and up to date library.
  • In the previous session we talked about how to create Requirements Checklists and Compliance Checklists.These tools come to your aid in checking the coverage and completeness of your Outline.Are all the requirements covered? Is your compliance clear? Where in the Outline will it be described?You can now use your numbered Outline to turn your Compliance Checklist into a Response Matrix so that evaluators will find the answers easy to find.
  • Using an outline brings multiple benefits to your bid team, to your proposal and ultimately can help the evaluators make a decision!
  • Here’s the Quick Reference Guide entry for OutliningIt covers the essentials that you need to know to in your bid work and to answer exam questions related to Outlines.
  • 24. When outlining which of the following is NOT best practice?:a) Your response should mirror the RFP numbering systemb) You should maintain the same order in your response even if this does not seem logicalc) You should allocate page count according to your competitive advantages?d) Your response should keep the same naming conventions p125
  • APMP Foundation: Proposal Outline Development

    1. 1. APMP® Accreditation Programme Planning the Proposal Phase Session 2: Proposal Outline Development Planning the Proposal Phase© APMP 2005 and Bid to Win Ltd 2010 Version: 0v9
    2. 2. Winning Document Design In this module, we shall learn about the purpose and content of the proposal outline, and how it can help us get organised. Planning the Proposal Phase2 © Your Company 2003 Confidential
    3. 3. This module will help you to:• define the purpose and content of a proposal outline• create an outline• annotate an outline• add more structure to an outline• describe the benefits of using an outline Learning objectives Proposal Guide 124
    4. 4. Some definitions of an outlineAn outline could be:1. a line drawn as a boundary2. a list of topics3. a basic project plan
    5. 5. Creating and using an Outline
    6. 6. Simple three step process • Follow RFQ • Weight by • Allocate Win instructions customer Develop Add Annotate Themes to • Create top priorityTop Level detailed your sections level • Develop Outline headings and structure informative Outline • Guidance for writers numbers headings
    7. 7. Creating a proposal outlineReview the bid request and prepare a top-level, topical outline that follows the prospect’s:• Instructions
    8. 8. Creating a proposal outlineReview the bid request and prepare a top-level, topical outline that follows the prospect’s:• Instructions• Numbering scheme – assists in referencing specific topics
    9. 9. Creating a proposal outlineReview the bid request and prepare a top-level, topical outline that follows the prospect’s:• Instructions• Numbering scheme – assists in referencing specific topics• Priorities – which evaluation criteria score highest
    10. 10. Creating a proposal outlineReview the bid request and prepare a top-level, topical outline that follows the prospect’s:• Instructions• Numbering scheme – assists in referencing specific topics• Priorities – which evaluation criteria score highest• Naming conventions – use the prospect’s terminology and language
    11. 11. Develop your proposal outline as the prospectsuggests, either in the bid request or verbally.Precisely follow the prospects proposal organisationalinstructions. Mirror prospect’s numbering system and naming conventions RFQ SECTION TOPICAL OUTLINE 1. ORGANISTION OF RFQ 1. ORGANISATION OF PROPOSAL 2. REQUIREMENTS 2. RESPONSES TO REQUIREMENTS 3. TERMS AND CONDITIONS 3. TERMS AND CONSDITIONS 4. EVALUATION FACTORS 4. COMPLIANCE MATRIX For the benefit of evaluators, a common document organisation makes comparing proposals easier.
    12. 12. Prepare a top-level, topical outline that followsthe prospect’s organisational priority.Mimic the numbering system, naming convention andorder listed in the bid requestEXAMPLE Many bid requests are written by different people, with different knowledge and interests, over months or years. Follow the organisational priority set by those who manage the evaluation process.
    13. 13. The top-level, topical outlinemight start like this Proposal Guide 125
    14. 14. Section Typical Contents 1 Table of Contents 2 Executive Summary 3 Technical Responses 4 Pricing 5 Delivery Schedule 6 Terms and Conditions 7 Compliance Matrix 8 References and Testimonials
    15. 15. Deviating from the bid requestSometimes necessarybecause you have more tosay or prospect’s intent isn’tclear.Whatever the reason, explainwhy you deviated. For example,when describing the structure ofyour proposal you might say:Additional section 3.8 included todescribe environmental considerations Make life easy for the evaluator! Proposal Guide 130
    16. 16. Assign or allocate all other response requirementswithin the topical outline.That is, for all requirements that weren’t dealt with in the top-level topical outline, consider how they can be incorporated.When adding structure:• Confirm compliance with the customer’s instructions• Do not interfere with the “core” numbering system and/or naming conventions• Announce organisation; then follow it• Order points in decreasing order of importance• Group similar ideasTry to maintain a balance when extending the topical outline.
    17. 17. Develop outlines for unsolicited proposals: 1) Collaboratively with your prospect 2) Based on discussions with your prospect, or 3) Logically. Prepare a response checklist. Proposal Guide 129
    18. 18. To assist evaluators in finding informationquickly, use telegraphic headingsin line with section headings in the bidrequest.Below the level of section headings that theprospect has instructed you to follow, useinformative headings that link to your proposalstrategy and themes. These help sell your ideasand make your proposal more compelling to read. Use informative headings to convey your messages Proposal Guide 86 Proposal Guide 128
    19. 19. Use informative headings at section levels belowthose specified by the prospect.Informative headings can impart a positive message.EXAMPLESTelegraphic Headings Informative HeadingsProject Team Structure Proven Team Structure Reduces RiskFire Protection Plan Proactive Fire Risk Management Cuts LossesSeismic Protection Plan Earthquake Readiness is a Priority
    20. 20. Allocate pages according to the relativeimportance of the topic to the prospect.Determine relative importance, based on:Evaluation criteriaDiscussion with the prospectJudgement
    21. 21. Example of priorities Technical Evaluation Criteria Priority Power Consumption 4 Heat Output 6 Physical Footprint 5 Reliability 3 Repairability 2 Performance 1 Proposal Guide 125
    22. 22. Technical Evaluation Criteria Priority Pages Power Consumption 4 8 Heat Output 6 4 Physical Footprint 5 6 Reliability 3 12 Repairability 2 12 Performance 1 16Add more detail (and pages) forhigher priority topics Proposal Guide 128
    23. 23. Technical Evaluation Criteria Priority Pages Effort Power Consumption 4 8 2 Heat Output 6 4 1 Physical Footprint 5 6 2 Reliability 3 12 3 Repairability 2 12 3 Performance 1 16 4Estimating page budget and effort Proposal Guide 128
    24. 24. Time for some ‘Top Tips’
    25. 25. Indicate who does what and when Use the outline for planning Proposal Guide 130
    26. 26. Proposal responsibilities matrix Proposal Guide 130
    27. 27. Annotate outlines to guide writers to• include success stories• state assumptions• recommend writing styles• ensure the prospect’s words are understood and used Proposal Guide 129
    28. 28. Example of annotationsEvaluation Criteria Additional InformationPower Consumption Under loads not exceeding xxxHeat Output See environmental papersPhysical Footprint Data Centre cost savings white papersReliability Under normal operating conditions/air conditioned environment/controlled temperature and humidityRepairability Refer to prior case studiesPerformance Review boilerplate statements
    29. 29. Re-using Material from Previous Proposals BOILERPLATE Answer the question directly Use boilerplate to support your answer Update boilerplate frequently Maintain to ensure currency Incorporate client names and terms Use specific information and references Avoid overuse Use only relevant boilerplate Beware the dangers of indiscriminate Cut&Paste
    30. 30. Check for completeness• Cross-reference the Outline to the bid request, the Requirements Checklist and the Compliance Matrix• Update the Bid Structure based on the Outline• Add supplementary information such as: – Deviations – Explanatory comments Further requests for clarifications – Assumptions
    31. 31. Review• Make sure everyone in the team understands the outline and the part that they will be writing. Outlines should be team reviewed before writing• Check for consistency, completeness, starts to assure a overlaps and underlaps. consistent and No! We agreed that was in your logical structure. part. I thought you were doing that. Sigh!
    32. 32. Useful checklistsA compliance checklist is list of specificcustomer requirements. The list is oftengenerated by splitting complex questionsinto separate requirements.A requirements checklist is similar to acompliance checklist, but can be selfgenerated when there is no writtencustomer requirement. It is often used as atool to monitor progress. Proposal Guide 41
    33. 33. Some Benefits of outliningOutlines help ensure that your proposals:• follow the prospect’s instructions• mirror the prospect’s numbering system and/or naming conventions• make responses easy to find• through annotations, identify key points to highlight• are well planned
    34. 34. Quick Quiz Question:When developing an outline, which of thefollowing would you say is NOT best practice?a. Your response should mirror the RFP numbering systemb. You should maintain the same order in your response even if this does not seem logicalc. You should allocate page count according to your competitive advantagesd. Your response should keep the same naming convention
    35. 35. Let’s consider our options …From this session on outlining, we have seen that we should endeavour tomake it easy for the evaluators to make their decision in our favour.This means that a) our response should mirror the RFP numbering system andb) we should maintain the same order in your response even if this does notseem logical and d) we should use the prospect’s terminology by adoptingtheir naming conventions.Answer c) which states that we should allocate page count according to yourcompetitive advantages is incorrect, as best practice suggests that we shouldmake the page count allocation according to the relative importance of thetopic to the prospect. Proposal Guide 128
    36. 36. Summary: Outlining• Essential for understanding the structure of the proposal• Follow the Bid or Tendering Instructions to produce the outline• Use the outline to estimate page count and effort• Can be annotated to provide additional information to contributors• Use outline to identify cross-references from proposal to the requirements checklist and compliance matrix
    37. 37. e-torial preparation ManCo issues RFP! Responses required.• Read Case Study Exercise Five (includes RFP)http://bid-to-win.ning.com/group/apmp-foundation-distance-learning-2012/forum/topics/planning-the-proposal-phase• Prepare an outline for your ManCo proposal• Upload you work into the class space