Reduce Task Order Proposal Response costs and cycle time

How to reduce costs and cycle time of Task Order proposal responses

Task Order proposal responses by Primes on multi-award IDIQ/GWACS are different than managing standard Federal Government RFPs. Companies are learning to drive greater efficiencies by changing their methods and tools. Our customers are cutting costs and the cycle times by 30% and more. This can have a major impact on your Task Order business.

In this article, I will drill down into the changes in the methods and tools used that are driving this higher level of efficiency. You’ll learn how it is done. We also include a video at the end of the article that shows some of the following best practices in action.

Note that this article is written for those Prime contractor organizations that plan to respond to 10 or more Task Orders a year. This is about the minimum level of scale you need to fully realize your productivity increases, cut your costs and realize a good return on your required investments to make it happen.

Task Orders are Different

The first thing to acknowledge is that Task Order proposal responses are different from full GovCon RFP responses.  GovCon professionals are well trained on capture and proposal processes for RFPs and have tools to support this work. Typically, organizations handle Task Orders by just “slimming down” their RFP process, using the same document management – oriented tools, and, following the same methods.

This approach doesn’t create any efficiencies. In fact, Task Order proposal responses have a higher relative cost than RFPs for most organizations on most measures. The reason is that effectively each Task Order has a higher relative percentage “administrative burden” per Task Order. The shorter timeframe also increases the challenge and complexity of getting everything done within time – which increases the “administrative burden” even more.

The result is that most organizations doing it the slimmed down, RFP way very quickly run into a scalability problem with Task Orders. This is not a good result since by its nature Task Orders should be a higher volume way of winning Federal Government business.

Driving Task Order Proposal Response Efficiency

Our customers typically reduce their cost and cycle time for Task Order proposal responses by 30% and more. It takes a change in methods and tools. Here is how they are doing it.

There are three main areas where you should look for productivity improvements:

  • Reuse of Proposal Assets
  • Driving Automation of Proposal Response work (biggest impact)
  • Streamlining Partner Engagement

Reuse of Proposal Assets

To be efficient, you want a very high level of reuse of proposal assets. The objective is to decrease the amount of new page content. The reusable proposal assets will includes templates, boilerplate, solution briefs, past performance, resumes, plans and graphics. With Task Orders these assets and other specific forms and documents may be unique to each IDIQ/GWAC/MATOC vehicle.

Assuming you have the assets or that they will be created and improved as you work, you require 3 things to drive efficient reuse:

  • Asset Repository. You need a proposal asset repository for the assets. This is as far as many organizations get. With just a repository their reuse drops dramatically.
  • Reuse Convenience. You need the assets to be available (searchable and usable) to users when and where they are working – at their fingertips. Without this convenience, the assets a) won’t be reused or b) the right/best ones will not be used.
  • Update Automation. Lastly, you need to automate and track the task of updating the repository with assets that were created on each Task Order. This is particularly important to drive costs down over time as your library and experience grows.

Driving Automation of Proposal Response Work

This is the biggest behavior and tool change that will be required. It is also the area of greatest impact in reducing costs and cycle time.

Simply, you want to switch from a classic RFP “waterfall” approach of Color Team Reviews to an iterative “agile” approach of engaging writers and reviewers in constant document/section turns with just a minimum use of Color Team Reviews.

Imagine you are the Proposal Manager. You have your 10 documents/sections in template mode that you need to be worked on. In the iterative model of working, you are going to be driving the work through assignments to writers and reviewers. In effect, you are the driver and you are managing the “ping-pong” ball going back and forth.

In order to be efficient at this iterative way of working, you need to change your style and have access to a different set of tools/capabilities. This type of work is about “work management” vs. “document management”. In fact, document management tools end up requiring a large amount of manual work that increases the “administrative burden” costs for every turn. Using an iterative approach, your costs will actually go up because of the number and frequency of turns.

Most modern proposal automation products nowadays include the capabilities you need to efficiently manage the turns in an iterative approach. There are three core capabilities to make this work:

  • Work Automation – the ability to drive the work through assignments of documents with automation of email notifications, status tracking, and management of work
  • Co-authoring – the ability for writers and reviewers to open up and work on the same document at the same time
  • Collaborative Commenting – the ability for the Proposal Response Manager, Writers and Reviewers to make comments and see and act on them for any given document outside of the individual document – like a collaboration thread

Armed with these 3 core capabilities you are now able to efficiently manage the proposal development work in an iterative “agile” manner. Effectively, each document is bounced back and forth between writers and reviewers with you also reviewing and facilitating. All of the documents/sections are turning at their own pace. With this approach and a good team, you’ll find that the writer and reviewers will do their turns without the need for a manager to be involved.

With this said, most organizations still try and have a couple of color reviews, usually Red Team and Gold Team. They are used to formally sign off on the proposal.

The cost savings occur because all of the manual work of document management, what we call the “noise” of proposal development, just disappears. There is no more handling separate documents or versions, no collating of comments, no need to merge documents or re-upload or move or rename documents. In effect, you’ve eliminated the manual work required when using document management tools and replaced it with automated work management.

Streamlining Partner Engagement

Your cost savings and cycle time can be compromised if your approach and tools do not have support for the engagement of teaming partners. This is a very common part of Task Order work, particularly as you strive to scale the business and reach for more bidding opportunities made possible by partners.

The key areas to support are:

  • For formal teaming partners on each vehicle, you want to insure that their standard supporting documents such as past performance, resumes, forms and certifications, etc. are already pre-sanitized and populated in your Proposal Asset repository and available for use.
  • The ability to efficiently survey your partners and capture information that can affect your solution, price, past performance and feed this directly into the proposal response process.
  • The ability for partners to engage in the Task Order proposal response, reviews, contributing sections, responding to data calls/tasks. This must be done in a secure manner.
  • An efficient work automation process to make and track requests for NDAs and Teaming Agreements working with Contracts/Subcontracts/Legal.

Getting the Result

Following the best practices above you should achieve at least a 30% cost reduction on Task Order proposal responses. If you are doing more than 10 Task Orders/year, it makes sense to make the changes needed to get the result.

Nowadays, there are proposal automation systems available from multiple vendors that provide the capabilities mentioned above – in particular the proposal development capabilities. These systems are now priced in a range that provides a very good return on investment on just 10 Task Orders. Their greater availability and lower cost means that it is no longer required (or cost effective) to have to custom build these capabilities.

R3’s IDIQ Task Order Management system is one option for you. It provides the proposal response capabilities mentioned above and also supports the recommended proposal asset and partner engagement capabilities. In addition, it also provides a complete framework for managing opportunities, partner surveys, and reporting for Task Orders on one or more vehicles. In effect, it is a complete system, purpose-built to optimize all parts of the process of winning Task Orders.

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