Part 2 – Technical
This article is part of the shortened content of a training course I held last year at our company for a number of trainees on how to write winning proposals for MATOC or IDIQ contracts. There are 10 parts to this training. In the previous article, we went over some common issues and general ideas about MATOC/IDIQ contracts. From here on, we will explain each part of the proposal in detail. This article is about the Technical section of the proposal.
Many RFPs require a technical section. Do not confuse this with the Technical Proposal vs Price Proposal that is usually required. The technical section is where you explain your solution with technical details and show its merit. Be it an IT project or a service/maintenance or construction or training, all such projects usually require you to provide your solution in detail. I will take one step further and say: even if the RFP requirements don’t ask for it, go ahead and give the reviewer the information. He will understand that you know your business. This will make him more confident about your capabilities.
Understanding the Requirements:
I cannot emphasize more how important it is to fully understand the RFP requirements as a whole. When it comes to the technical part, it is so importance that can mean having a losing or a winning solution/proposal. You need to read and reread, do research, get to your inside contacts if you have, ask questions from the contracting officer and use all other means to make sure that you have covered all areas of concern and are fully in sync with the mentality of the client. You need to ask yourself why are they putting out this RFP, what are their concerns, what have been the issues in previous executions of this contract – if it is a repeat – what are the client’s metrics, …
To do that, put yourself in the shoes of the government selection committee. First you need to understand what you want and what you are concerned about. Then you need to know what metric to use to select from the different solutions offered to you and how to assess them. Go through this mental practice. It will help you shape your proposal, it will help you put key explanations where they are needed to clear questions from the mind of the reader, and it will help you be in sync with the reader.
Compliance with the Technical Requirements:
The proposal should address each work area in sufficient detail to demonstrate a clear understanding of the statement of work, including operations and maintenance problems presented therein, if any. Your proposal should provide evidence of sufficient planning to show that work will be accomplished as required and on schedule, utilizing all available resources. You need to demonstrate a firm understanding of the requirements and goals set forth in the scope of work, and address each separately. The best way to do this is to prepare a compliance matrix (chart), identifying client’s needs side by side with your solutions. Sometimes the RFP requires that matrix, but even if it doesn’t, you should include it. It will save a lot of work from the reviewer and he will be thankful of you because you have decreased his workload.
Obviously each proposal has its own unique solution but a set of general guidelines can be derived:
- Be Complete, Accurate and Persuasive
- Identify the outcomes they’re looking to achieve
- Recommend a solution that solves/satisfies client’s needs, issues, and/or concerns
- Include the facilities, equipment, software, special expertise, methods used, and technologies on which your solution is based on
- Identify the challenges and give solutions for the challenges
- Present evidence that your team can deliver your solution on time and on budget (case studies)
- Avoid marketing fluff, technical jargon, and outrageous claims. At the sametime, don’t just describe features of your solution; describe the benefits too.
Forget about those who tell you that proposals should use minimum graphics. Pictures, drawings, charts, infographic and art work capture attention, and reduce the dullness of the pages of writing. Put yourself in the shoes of the reviewers. They read proposals often under less-than-ideal conditions, when they are very busy, in late hours, under pressure… like all of us. So you need to give them some spirit and cheer them up through your proposal; don’t make them more tired and bored.
At the same time, don’t overdo yourself. Use maximum one graphic piece for each subject. Don’t be abstract, make it to the point.
Structuring Your Writing:
Although this is an important subject and can be used in all other parts of the proposal, but it is of utmost important in the technical section. Why? In proposals that have a technical side, usually the solution that you provide is the key factor. Granted that past performance, experience, staff capabilities and many other factors all count. But your technical solution is usually the cornerstone of your offering. Therefore, you don’t want to make it so long or so hard to read that it will lose its effect.
You need to structure your writing to 3 distinct parts. People use different naming for them. Let’s be simple. You will have a starting paragraph(s) or introduction. Then the body of your solution with all the explanation, and finally the summary/conclusion part.
Let’s be realistic: many times, the reviewer will not read the body properly either because he does not have the time or is tired or thinks he has already understood your solution. He has read your introductory paragraph(s) only. That is why it is crucial that you work on that 1 or few introductory paragraphs so much that you can be sure that anybody who reads it, will have a firm understanding of your solution. Read and reread and correct to the point that you can be sure of its impact.
We have covered this part and what it should contain above, so I will not go into more detail. Just one point: Don’t make reading it a boring task. Use words, graphics, colors, ideas, even questions to make reading it fun.
I am a reviewer and I have gone through the entire body of your solution. You have presented so many ideas and points that I am at a loss as to what is what and which is more important. Now I reach the summary and voila, I can read in very concise and concrete wording what the solution is about and what it is offering me. Underline those last few words. Emphasize in the summary part, what benefit your solution is providing to the client and make your solution a distinct one, standing out in his mind.
In the next article, we will go over Past Performance.
(See my other articles at our blog at http://www.gdicwins.com/blog/)