Don’t Let Your Proposal Time Slip Away!

One of the most precious commodities in any proposal is the amount of time you have to conceptualize, develop, produce, and deliver your proposal.  For many proposal teams, time slips away too easily.

According to Chuck Keller of Keller Proposal Development and Training, there is a good four-phase rule-of-thumb for the major phases of a proposal:

  • Phase I:  RFP analysis, proposal strategizing, planning, and outlining (25 percent of time).
  • Phase II:  proposal writing and illustration (25 percent of time).
  • Phase III:  proposal review and revision (25 percent of time).
  • Phase IV:  proposal finalization, edit, packaging, and delivery (25 percent of time).

However, as Keller points out, commonly there is slippage from one phase to another.  To address the problem of slippage, Keller recommends that you do the following:

  • Do some tasks in Phase I before the release of the RFP.
  • Do some tasks more quickly.
  • Add more proposal staff to do the work, if possible.
  • Overlap tasks so that they can be done simultaneously rather than serially.

If you have to cut corners, there are three realistic steps that you should take.  First, you can group tasks into one of three categories:  (1) tasks that must be done; (2) tasks that would be good to do; and (3) tasks that are not likely to have an impact on the proposal.  Limit yourself to the most important tasks with the greatest payoff.  An example would be a Red Team review, which always should be in the first category.

Second, schedule proposal tasks in parallel rather than in sequence to save time.  You can write many sections of the proposal in Phase II out of sequence if they are not dependent on each other.  For example, you could write the management section and the capability section simultaneously because their content will not overlap.

And third, relentlessly focus on milestones and delivery.   Assign people to sections, subsections, and specific tasks.  Make people responsible for tasks and content, monitor their progress, and if needed provide them with help so that their work will be done well and completed on time.

Whatever your time constraints, scheduling a proposal and finding ways to reach milestones is one of the most important roles of a Proposal Manager.  Use the schedule to organize and complete your most essential activities, and if the schedule slips, find ways to finish the essential tasks well to submit a competitive application.


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