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When many of us began our proposal writing and reviewing journey the industry was labor-intensive; we searched email for assignments and deadlines, used paper and red pens for reviews, and version control was sketchy at best. But despite full-time jobs, shifting priorities and conflicting deadlines our experts got it done. Fundamental features that seem passé today, like centralized documents, version control, and online review collaboration, became the status quo, eschewing confusion and saving precious proposal time.
Today the industry has evolved. To remain competitive government contractors are also evolving their tactics. They are looking beyond the status quo to capitalize on an improved user experience to drive greater team productivity.
The majority of proposal contributors are our experts, our writers and reviewers with the knowledge and expertise we need to compete and win. Improving their interaction with the proposal reduces their frustration while increasing their overall efficiency. Here’s how we've improved the contributing expert's user experience to drive value for your business.
Faster, Clearer Assignment Access
Expert assignments and deadlines are at the core of every proposal process; you can’t write and review a proposal without your experts. And your experts can’t write and review your proposal without knowing what requirements and process steps to respond to by when.
Status Quo: When experts carve out time to write they check their email and/or the spreadsheet for their assignments and deadlines. But as assignments and deadlines change, so does the spreadsheet. That means experts must first locate the current spreadsheet. Centralized documents and version control helps, but finding an assignment and deadline, and the right document to work in, remains frustrating.
Status Grow: Experts still consult their assignments and deadlines online, but now, instead of a changing spreadsheet, assignments and deadlines are tracked real-time as an integral part of the proposal document. Experts are notified of assignments and deadlines via email, including a link directly to the correct document. Or experts can consult their online Dashboard and sort assignments based on deadline urgency first to best balance their time. By by-passing the spreadsheet, experts spend less time searching and more time thinking and writing.
No More Check in/Check out
When it comes to proposal management, the power of automatic version control cannot be understated. There is nothing quite like the heart-sinking moment when you realize you’ve been working in the wrong version of the proposal document - especially when the deadline is only hours away.
Status Quo: Experts access the current document version because that is the only version available for them to access. Unfortunately, with version control also came the check-in/check-out process; waiting, and waiting, for another expert to unlock the document. The more experts writing, the more locked files and the more time spent waiting to write.
Status Grow: Experts skip the wait because gone is the check-in/check-out process. Experts all access the proposal at the same time and write and review when it is convenient for them. Their work is saved automatically, and when they’re done other experts can immediately see what they’ve been writing. Experts are no longer writing in a silo; they can see what comes before and after their portion and tailor for accuracy, flow, voice, and tone - and avoid those types of comments during review.
Proposal writing and reviewing is a team sport. Formatting your proposal, however, is not; there are rules to respect and requirements to follow and those are the responsibility of the proposal manager and the production team. While proposal formatting is an eye-catching, visually appealing, and compliance necessity, it can also divide our writing and reviewing attention.
Status Quo: Proposal writing and reviewing often finds experts focused more on the formatting than the content. Why? As experts write, formatting gets overwritten and cluttered, making it increasingly difficult to organize their thoughts, write and revise. Meanwhile, the proposal moves further and further away from the final compliant and consistent format required for submission. When it comes time to review and produce, teams must re-format the proposal from beginning to end.
Status Grow: Experts are more focused on the content because that’s all they see when they’re writing and reviewing. They can always consult the content laid out in the format, perhaps to check on a graphic or a table, but things like font, size, headings and numbering are formatted for them. Even as writers copy and paste in content with different formatting to tailor from past proposals. Instead of worrying about fonts and bullet styles, experts are using their mental bandwidth to focus on the task at hand; writing and reviewing the content.
Greater Reviewing and Revising Visibility
Your reviewers are on a mission of discovery; how to improve the proposal for the win. Experts want insights and direction, yet review cycles are time-consuming and the results are not always productive – stealing time away from expert revisions that better position your proposal for evaluation and scoring.
Status Quo: Like expert writers, reviewers also access centralized documents. Together they comment and come to consensus on the direction of revisions. But when it comes time for experts to apply those revisions, they are forced to jockey their screens between the review comments and the document.
Status Grow: Reviewers also centralize their comments and collaborate with other reviewers on revision consensus. Comments are still stored in the system so they are never inadvertently submitted. But now experts are notified when they have review comments – and they can have a clarification conversation with the reviewer via the comment. When it comes time to apply the revisions, experts view comments and the document side-by-side, making it easier to copy and paste comment suggestions or revise.
Bonus: Status grow also finds teams relying less on linear, “big bang,” pens-down review cycles and more on an agile approach; writing and reviewing in parallel. Instead of waiting for the next review cycle to find and make content accuracy updates or strategy course corrections, they are doing that in parallel, saving more time for more productive review cycles focused on quality and scoring.
Accurate Content that’s Easy to Find
Past proposal content and content libraries help experts get to their first draft faster, whether it’s a large, complex proposal or a quick turnaround. But if the content is not accurate, experts must invest time in updating the accuracy, as well as tailoring for strategy, on each and every proposal.
Status Quo: Most experts consult past proposals for content they can tailor. Mainly because maintaining a content library is labor-intensive and time-consuming and very few teams have a content manager. Yet, accurate content libraries remain an efficiency driver, especially on short-turnarounds or when requirements are similar. There’s nothing more frustrating that knowing you’ve answered a requirement before but just can’t find it.
Status Grow: The content library is easier to monitor and refresh. Important content is assigned to an expert by subject matter. For example, if project managers are writing the proposal implementation methodology then they are assigned to monitor and update a master copy. This master is copied into proposals and tailored. Responsible experts automatically receive a reminder email, along with a link directly to the document, and update the master, on a regular basis you define.
Or, responsible experts can kill two birds with one stone; they can make updates to the copy as part of their proposal task and then update the master. Either way, accurate library content saves expert’s time – including the experts who are responsible for keeping the content fresh and viable.
Bonus: You can also add tags to your content to aid in the search for content. For example, tag your content with the year or the agency. When you search, you can filter by year and/or agency to narrow your search.
Today’s proposal contributors, our expert writers and reviewers, are always balancing their time between their clients and projects and their assigned proposals. A more efficient user experience helps them balance this time by fulfilling their needs, i.e., facilitating and guiding them through their proposal tasks.