Every month I get a large number of questions from large and small companies alike, asking my advice about the structure of their bid team, be it at the capture phase or proposal development. I thought it best to spell out some of our experience in this regard.

I will first discuss the roles that are needed in preparing for an opportunity. Then we will discuss how, in real world, these roles are populated and how you have can multiple hats for different people to save costs and more importantly your resources, and related to this topic, we will show some possible org charts that might be useful to you. Finally, we will discuss the preferred qualifications of the key personnel.

 

I – The Bid Team

Let’s start by stating that the bid team structure is usually different for companies who are pursuing federal opportunities from those who are pursuing commercial opportunities. Here, we are focused on Federal (and State) opportunities only.

Here is a list of the roles that are used in a full BD cycle:

1. Capture Phase:

  • Capture Manager
  • Competitive Intelligence Analyst
  • Price-to-Win (PTW) Specialist
  • Black Hat Facilitator
  • Solution Architect

2. Proposal Development Phase:

  • Proposal Manager
  • Proposal Coordinator
  • Volume Lead/Book Boss
  • Technical Writer
  • Technical SME
  • Cost Volume SME/Strategist
  • Agency SME
  • Reviewer
  • Graphic Artist
  • Editor
  • Desktop Publisher
  • Contracts Manager
  • Subcontracts Manager
  • Production Manager

II – Roles, Responsibilities and Qualifications

The table below summarizes the roles, responsibilities and minimum qualifications of members of a proposal team:

Capture Phase
No.RoleImportanceResponsibilitiesLevel of Effort
1Capture ManagerHighOwns the Capture Plan and implements it.
Responsible for the entire capture phase and usually directs the proposal phase.
High
2Competitive Intelligence AnalystMediumResponsible for conducting the competitive intelligence work. Could be outsourced.Medium
3Price-to-Win (PTW) SpecialistMediumResponsible for conducting the Price-to-Win (PTW) work if needed for the particular opportunity. Note: a price strategist is NOT a PTW expert. If you need PTW done, then you need a PTW expert. As a rule, should give PTW to experts = usually must outsource.High
(If you want a real PTW done, you have lots of work to do)
4Black Hat FacilitatorMediumA seasoned capture manager with extensive experience in running the show and managing the SMEs in Black Hat exercises. She/He usually needs a scribe as well.Low
5Solution ArchitectHighFor solution centric opportunities, developing the winning solution and the differentiators around it is vital but this is usually overlooked. Solution development and conceptualization should always be done in the capture phase (if possible). The solution architect might work with a number of SMEs if the solution is complex.Medium
6Subcontracts ManagerMediumWill consult/help the Capture Manager on possible team building and the partners’ past performance and capabilities as well as needed negotiationsMedium
7Contracts ManagerMediumWill consult/help the Capture Manager in assessing and selecting proper past performance and needed informationLow

Proposal Development Phase
No.RoleImportanceResponsibilitiesLevel of Effort
1Proposal ManagerHighOwns the proposal and leads the proposal effort. His job is to manage and not to write. He is to ensure that processes are being followed and coordinate all the different part of the body; he is the brain. If he starts acting like a hand (gets into writing), then he/she will lose control. (Note that for small jobs, the proposal manager might be the writer too but we are defining the true role here).High
2Proposal CoordinatorMediumJack of all trades. He controls the timings, helps the graphic and DTP staff, coordinates the teams, edits, resolves logistics. Simply put, he comes in where people have left off, for any reason. Proposal coordinators are usually used in mid and large proposals.High
3Volume Lead/Book BossMediumIf the proposal has several volumes/sections each of which need special attention, then you need a Volume Lead. A volume lead is something in between the proposal manager and a proposal writer. He has some management talents and looks into the processes, but also is adept at writing and getting his/her hands dirty with good and concise writing. He/she will manage a number of technical writers and SMEs for the volume/section under his/her responsibility.High
4Technical WriterHighThe technical writer(s) is the one who does the actual writing. But note that he is not the SME. He does not create the technical content. That content comes from the SMEs. The technical writer prepares the data calls or interviews the SMEs and works on the material received, preparing it in the format that the government wants to see based on the annotated outline and the story boarding.High
5Technical SMEHighThe technical SME(s) is the guru who knows the solution. Stop there – He is not the technical writer. That is the mistake that most technical oriented companies make. SMEs write well-written white papers and technical narratives but that won’t sell to the government evaluators. You need a proposal writer (technical writer) to turn that writing into what the evaluators want to see. Many companies don’t realize this distinction between SMEs and Proposal/Technical writers and the result is that their proposals are more of an academic/scientific paper instead of a compelling proposal.Medium
6Cost Volume SME/StrategistMediumYou need somebody from your finance department to set the prices. However, for more complex jobs, you need to come up with a price model and then write the price narratives (justifications) that are compliant with DCAA/DCMA rules and regulations. That is where the Cost Volume SME/Strategist come in.Medium
7Agency SMEMediumTo boost the quality of your proposal and ensure that it is answering to the pain points of the agency you are targeting, you need some inside information and knowledge. Many companies useMedium
8ReviewerHighThe reviewer(s) is usually a seasoned proposal manager. For more complex projects, usually there are a number of people involved in reviewing: a seasoned proposal manager for compliance, the capture manager for focus and win themes, SME(s) for technical content, and at least one person from the management (BD Director or higher) for the overall content.Low
9Graphic ArtistLowRemember that technically, a graphic artist’s main job is to facilitate the idea behind the graphic piece (i.e. develop the graphics pieces based on the solution and requirements of the RFP) whereas a graphic designer’s main job is to facilitate the content and formatting of the proposal. The designer might change the coloring and looks of a graphic but will not create from scratch. You might need both but should always understand the difference. Their costs are different too.Low
10EditorMediumToo many times, a good proposal with problematic grammar will grade lower than it should. Although an editor’s job might seem not as important as a writer but having a polished proposal, with proper voice and grammar will go a long way in having a good effect on the evaluator. Just imagine yourself evaluating a proposal and seeing all sorts of grammatical and spelling errors. Can you really focus on the content, score it properly, and not get distracted?Low
11Desktop PublisherMediumHe is responsible for developing the formats and typographic styles that comply with the RFP and proposal plan. Responsible for integrating text and graphics into the finished copy, and for maintaining configuration management. May also perform limited word processing and illustration. Prepares both hard and soft copies as required.Low
12Contracts ManagerLowIn the more established companies which have a Contracts Manager, he/she gets involved in the preparation of the past performance volume as he/she has the responsibility to manage the previously performed projects’ information and database.Low
13Subcontracts ManagerLowAgain, in the more established companies which have a Subcontracts Manager, he/she gets involved in coordinating and communicating with the subs although once the subs are onboard, they are usually contacted directly by the Proposal Manager for ease and speed and not through the Subcontracts Manager (although some companies prefer the latter).Low
14Production ManagerLowIf the proposal must be printed, that is where the production manager (and perhaps his/her staff) kicks in and manages the printing, preparing the printed volumes in binders, and the logistics of the final submission to the Government.Low

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III – Suggested Team Organization

a. Very small proposals

  1. No Capture Manager or Capture Process in place
  2. The proposal manager can also act as the technical writer
  3. Might need a SME based on the type of the RFP and complexity
  4. An editor/desktop publisher (for simple jobs, the editor/DTP can also be the same proposal manager/technical writer)
  5. Must have a separate Reviewer – This should be your red line
  6. Price should be prepared by finance and input into the proposal by the Proposal Manager

b. Small proposals

  1. No Capture Manager or Capture Process in place
  2. The proposal manager is separate from the technical writer
  3. Might need a SME based on the type of the RFP and complexity
  4. Might need an Agency SME if the agency is new to us (an Agency SME is a retired Contracting Officer or Program Manager who used to work at the targeted agency and provides insight into their needs and pain points)
  5. An editor/desktop publisher is needed
  6. Must have a separate Reviewer – This should be your red line
  7. Price should be prepared by finance and input into the proposal by the Proposal Manager

c. Medium-Sized proposals

  1. Capture Manager and Business Development (or higher management) are involved and a Capture Process has been in place.
  2. The proposal manager must be of higher caliber.
  3. If the number of partners (subcontractors contributing) is high and/or are under a time crunch, might need a Proposal Coordinator.
  4. Multiple Writers are needed (if heavy volumes, then need Volume Leads as well).
  5. Might need multiple SMEs based on the type of the RFP and complexity.
  6. Need an Agency SME if the agency is new to us (an Agency SME is a retired Contracting Officer or Program Manager who used to work at the targeted agency and provides insight into their needs and pain points).
  7. A Graphic Artist, an Editor and a Desktop Publisher are needed.
  8. Must have at least 2 Reviewers – This is in addition to the BD, capture manager, the SMEs and the Agency SME who will sit on the review team.
  9. Also need a Cost SME to work with the finance manager on the price model and any needed narratives.

d. Large proposals

  1. Capture Manager and Business Development Director/VP (or higher management) are involved and a Capture Process has been in place
  2. The Proposal Manager must be of senior level
  3. A Proposal Coordinator is needed
  4. Each volume has a Volume Team comprise of a Volume Lead and writers assigned to it
  5. A Solution Architect and multiple Technical SMEs are needed (in continuation of their work from the Capture Phase
  6. Need an Agency SME (an Agency SME is a retired Contracting Officer or Program Manager who used to work at the targeted agency and provides insight into their needs and pain points)
  7. A Graphic Artist, an Editor and a Desktop Publisher are needed. They report to the Proposal Coordinator
  8. Each Volume Team also has an editor assigned to it (if the nature of the proposal requires a large number of graphics, each volume team might have a separate graphics artist as well)
  9. A Review Lead who manages and heads the reviews – The review team includes the reviewers, the BD VP, capture manager, the Solution Architect and SMEs, and the Agency SME who will sit on the review team.
  10. Company finance team is responsible for the Price Volume
  11. A Cost SME to work with the finance manager on the price model and any needed narratives

IV – Conclusion

If you want to have a successful proposal with a high win probability, you need the right people at the right time (both during capture as well as proposal development). Plan early, see where you have gaps in your resources and either free the required people from other tasks prior to the start of each process or outsource the needed staff on a temporary basis. The important key is that some of the roles mentioned in this article are critical to your success. Here are some key suggestions:

  1. Never perform a proposal writing exercise without having a person as a proposal manager (Some people think that a good technical writer will solve their needs but they continue to lose in their bids)
  2. Do not compromise your success by putting too many hats on people. You need to allow them to focus on their job. Too many hats means too many tasks à not any task done properly!
  3. The reviewer must always be separate from the proposal manager and the technical writer(s).
  4. In medium to large proposal jobs, pay the price of support and logistics by having a strong Proposal Coordinator as well as competent Editor(s), Graphic Artist(s), and DTP(s).
  5. For solution oriented proposals, you must have a solution architect involved and involved as early as the capture phase
  6. If you are targeting agencies you have not worked with before or just don’t have the inside information, use an Agency SME in the team as consultant and as reviewer

The reviewing team is comprised of the reviewer(s) – seasoned proposal manager(s) – the BD and the Capture Manager, and the SME(s). But and a big but, which is elaborated on in our articles on Reviews, is that you should reduce the number of reviewers in each iteration, so if the reviewers for Pink are 6, then Red should be 4 and Gold should be 2 or 3 people. Do not over crowd the review team; it will act against itself.

If you would like to discuss proposal team related issues with an expert, let’s talk: