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disclaimer of warranty

The book places the proposal response process within the larger context of small companies overall strategic and mission planning, as well as business development and corporate communication and image management activities. An extremely comprehensive and expanded listing of small business Web-based resources, as well as business and proposal-related acronyms, is also provided both in the book and on the accompanying CD-ROM. The CD-ROM also includes fully updated, useful, and timesaving proposal- and marketing-related templates, along with planning and review tools.

Among the highly beneficial aspects of this books fourth edition are significant additions and expanded treatment of topics that include (1) next generation governmentwide acquisition contract (GWAC) vehicles, (2) performance-based acquisition (PBA), (3) Mentor-Protege programs, (4) Presidents Management Agenda (PMA) and e-government initiatives, (5) the increasing importance of oral presentations in federal procurements, (6) exit strategies from the Small Business Administration (SBA) 8(a) program, (7) benefits of KM to proposal development, (8) leading-edge developments in federal civilian and defense electronic acquisition (including all of the latest major federal e-business and e-commerce Web sites), (9) growing importance of OMB Circular A-76 Studies for increased efficiency and lower costs, (10) the pivotal role of the capture manager or campaign manager in the proposal process, and (11) fact-based storytelling as a powerful framework for conveying proposal solutions.

Successful Proposal Strategies for Small Businesses, Fourth Edition, gives both the big picture and the down-in-the-trenches perspective about marketing and proposal development, management, production, and infrastructure support in a rapidly evolving global economy. The book discusses how marketing and proposal life cycles can and should mesh with operational, management, and infrastructure support activities within a small company and shows how human and organizational dynamics drive successful marketing and proposal processes.

Unlike most books, cassettes, CDs, videotapes, and training seminars on developing proposals, Successful Proposal Strategies for Small Businesses, Fourth Edition, focuses on the special constraints and strengths of small businesses as they relate to the proposal process. Many of the best-known proposal seminars, for example, are designed for large businesses competing on massive defense and aerospace hardware and systems procurements. Marketing and proposal development in a small business environment-particularly in the support services arena-presents special challenges in terms of support infrastructure, staffing levels, depth of expertise, bid and proposal resources, and business culture. Meeting these distinctive challenges is the purpose of this new edition.



The late Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, is reputed to have said that he longed to lie exhausted in victory. That is, to expend the very best effort, to harness the talent and spirit within, and to channel that immense power toward a very specific goal. In Lombardis thoughts, that goal was victory in the early Super Bowl competitions of the National Football League. In my own thoughts, that goal is to bring all the knowledge, experience, initiative, and positive emotion-the passion-I can into producing a winning proposal.

Unlike many other professions, proposal preparation in the contractor arena for federal, state, local, private-sector, and international opportunities occurs in very discrete and often overlapping bundles of intense activity. There is a clear beginning, middle, and end to the preparation process. Often in a mere span of 5 to 45 days and nights, a host of technical and programmatic information, cost strategies, and marketing intelligence must be condensed, distilled, and fitted together into a set of polished documents. Considering the length of time required to bringjournals and books to press, it is astounding that such a choreographed process of information retrieval and management, assembly, and packaging must unfold in the space of only a week or several weeks! And yet for those small and large businesses that compete in the contracting marketplace, it is a matter of survival.

Successful proposal preparation is built largely upon a winning attitude, commitment, attention to detail, teamwork at all levels, communication, emotional and physical endurance, and adequate and well-timed allocation of company human and material resources. To be sure, success also depends upon marketing intelligence about the customer and your competition, informed and timely bid-no bid decisions, planning, scheduling, and superior information management. But my experience has suggested that what makes the difference once a company decides to respond to an RFP or SF330 synopsis lies in the area of human and organizational dynamics rather than in technical and strategic excellence alone. Can a diverse group of technical, management, and support people work together effectively for protracted periods of time-including nights, weekends, and holidays-to produce a winning document? Will company management commit the best technical talent, lease or acquire adequate computer or publishing equipment, make dedicated work space available for the proposal team, or allocate bonus monies to reward the above-and-beyond efforts ofparticular people?

To lie exhausted in victory. Plans and milestone schedules, bullet drafts and storyboards, writing and editorial guidelines, action item lists, internal review cycles, and document configuration management schemas all come down to one thing-getting a winning proposal assembled, out the door,



and delivered before the established due date. While I was coordinating a $100 million Air Force proposal for a Virginia-based contractor, the entire marketing and proposal life cycle came down to one overcast Saturday in December, not long before the holidays. Thoughts were not on marketing target identification, intelligence gathering, teaming arrangements, RFP analysis, outline development, program pricing, or Red Team review comments. Rather, there were 150 copies of various volumes that had to be photoreproduced and put into three-ring notebooks, with multiple foldout pages inserted in each one, and an overnight carrier office nearby that was scheduled to close promptly at 5 p.m. Just the night before, several members ofthe proposal team had worked into the early morning hours. People were exhausted from several weeks ofgrueling schedules, missed meals, and no recreation, taping boxes shut at breakneck speed, loading them into several cars, and making multiple trips to the shipping office. When that effort was over, I, along with several members of my staff, felt too tired to move. And yet, there was a palpable feeling of accomplishment, a feeling of victory.

For those full-time professionals in the proposal development business, proposals must become a way of life if we are to survive and grow in our careers. Alternative strategies for time management, stress management, family life, and personal pursuits must be developed and nurtured. In ways analogous to military service, the proposal professional must adjust quickly despite tiredness, personal and family concerns, time of day or night, and level of pressure. But the possibility of personal satisfaction from performing proposal work well can be second to none.






Competitive proposals and small business

Successful Proposal Strategies for Small Businesses: Using Knowledge Management to Win Government, Private-Sector, and International Contracts, Fourth Edition, is designed to provide entrepreneurs, as well as beginner and experienced proposal managers, capture managers, proposal writers, proposal specialists and coordinators, and business development staff with a useful resource for planning, organizing, managing, and preparing effective responses to U.S. federal government requests for proposals (RFPs), requests for solutions (RFSs), and architect-engineer (A-E) standard form (SF) 330s. (Architectural and engineering firms submit SF330s routinely to establish their credentials with client organizations.) There is also significant attention devoted to responding to U.S. private-sector solicitations and international tenders.

This book illustrates the close relationship between the federal acquisition process and the response life cycle that unfolds within the



contractor community. The specialized statutory and regulatory structure that currently governs and dominates the federal acquisition process and the contractor proposal process is summarized. Important and exciting new directions in federal electronic commerce (EC) following the issuance of George W. Bushs Presidents Management Agenda (PMA) and the passage of the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (FASA) and the Federal Acquisition Reform Act (FARA) are highlighted. Ethical business acquisition practices are emphasized, and effective long-term marketing and customer-relationship building approaches are presented.

Small businesses are confronted with distinctive opportunities and constraints in the federal marketplace. Successful Proposal Strategies for Small Businesses focuses specifically on small business enterprises, exploring the important human and organizational dynamics related to the proposal life cycle that can facilitate success in acquiring new business. Thinking to win is a crucial aspect in the world offederal, private-sector, and international procurement.

Salient points in the contractor proposal response life cycle are discussed in detail, as are the major components of the proposal documents and the clients RFPs. The role ofa small companys proposal manager is explored at length, and valuable knowledge management (KM) activities in support of the proposal process are described. Effective proposal-writing techniques are provided along with successful proposal publication and production scenarios. Proposal and marketing cost-tracking, control, and recovery strategies are reviewed; and select client and competitor information and intelligence sources for the U.S. government, U.S. private-sector, and international opportunities are enumerated (Appendix C). Guidance for planning and producing compliant and responsive SF330s is presented. And structuring proposals for international and U.S. private-sector clients is discussed as well. Finally, to support the users of Successful Proposal Strategies for Small Businesses, a lengthy and expanded listing ofproposal, business, and acquisition-related acronyms is provided as are definitions ofselect terminology (Appendix D).

No one person or methodology can offer absolutely definitive step-by-step instructions to win federal, private-sector, or international proposals. There are no shortcuts to building and growing an entire business development infrastructure to market clients, develop long-term professional relationships, and win new business. In recognition of the hard work, right thinking, informed decisions, careful planning, and exacting execution of proper proposal techniques, this book is offered as a starting point in proposal literacy. We hope that it serves as a users manual, consulted frequently for suggestions and guidance throughout the proposal planning



and response process. Best wishes for successful proposals in your companys future!

overview

Winning. The federal competitive procurement process [1] is absolutely binary-contractors either win or lose with their proposals. With the exception of multiple-award situations, there are no rewards for coming in second. To allocate your companys bid and proposal (B&P), marketing, and internal research and development (IR&D) funds to pursue procurements for which there is only a marginal probability of winning is, at best, questionable business planning. Federal agencies often have a variety of domestic, as well as overseas,1 contractor or vendor firms from which to select a specific supplier of goods or services. At a minimum, you have to know your potential client and his or her requirements, as well as hopes, fears, and biases; and, in turn, your client must be made aware of your companys particular technical capabilities, relevant contractual experience, managerial experience, available human talent, and financial stability in the context of an ongoing marketing relationship. One or two briefings from your company to top-level government agency administrators will most likely be insufficient to secure new business in the competitive federal marketplace. This applies to the state, municipality, and U.S. private-sector marketplaces as well. Organizations, in general, procure goods and services from companies that they have come to know and trust and that have demonstrated an ongoing interest in an organizations technical, operational, programmatic, and profitability issues. Increasingly, client organizations expect your company to share both technological and cost risks for a given program.

Many small contracting firms that provide goods and services to the federal government are primarily or even solely dependent upon federal contracts for their survival and growth. Consequently, proposal development, management, design, and preparation are the most important business activities that your company performs. Proposal development and writing are more than just full-time jobs. It can be a 12- to 16-hour-a-day, 6- or 7-day-a-week effort just to keep from falling hopelessly behind [2]. Proper, intelligent planning and preparation will certainly make proposal development more manageable. Your company should not start developing a proposal unless it intends to win. An exception to this guideline is if

1 Competition is growing from Japanese, Taiwanese, Canadian, Western European, and emerging Eastern European nations for U.S. government contracts.



your company wants to submit a proposal on a particular procurement in order to gain experience in assembling proposals or to gain recognition from the government as a potential supplier [3]. The American Graduate University suggests that as many as three-quarters of the proposals received by government procuring agencies are deemed to be nonrespon-sive or inadequate [4]. If your company competes heavily in the federal marketplace, then proposals are your most important product.

It does not matter how large your company is. For example, let us assume that yours is a company with $12 million posted in revenue during the last fiscal year. To simply maintain revenues at that level during the next fiscal year, you will burn $1 million each month in contract backlog, as shown in Figure 1.1. That means that you must win $1 million each month in new or recompete business just to keep the revenue pipeline full. Yet winning $1 million per month in new or recompete business will not allow your company to grow revenuewise at all! To put that $1 million of business per month in appropriate context-your company would have to bid $3 million per month in proposals and have a win ratio of 33% to bring in that level of revenue. And $3 million worth of proposals translates into identifying two to three times that amount in potential marketing opportunities that then have to be qualified and pursued. Many times, release schedules for procurement opportunities slip, or funding is withheld. or the specific requirements get rolled into a larger procurement. As a result, what appears to be a solid lead in January has evaporated by June. See Figure 1.2 for an illustration of this pipeline process. Note that business development has bookings goals; operating groups have revenue goals. The same applies for a company with $1.2 billion of posted revenue.

С

О

С

To sustain $12 million in revenues,your company will burn $1 million in backlog every month

\ BvackloO J J И и


Figure 1.1

Contract backlog burn rate.


Sept. 2004

Dec. 2004

Mar. 2005 Time (months)

June 2005

Sept. 2005



Figure 1.2

Your business opportunity pipeline must remain full to maintain and grow your revenue base and meet bookings goals.

$72 million in opportunities must be identified

Lack of program funding Slippage of RFP/RFS release date Delay in contract award Delay in proposal evaluation Cancellation of program


$36 million in proposals must be

Win rate

of 33%

$12 million in contract

awards

Yield

To maintain $12 million revenue per year


Without a plan, the proposal process will be chaotic and the product, at best, will be inferior [5]. Gone is the time of last-minute, haphazard proposal preparation by a few individuals working in isolation from senior, in-house review, such resources as a proposal knowledge base, and other corporate or divisional guidance. Your company simply cannot compete



effectively with the many U.S.-based and overseas contracting firms if every proposal you submit is not your finest effort. Your company will, of course, not win every procurement-25% to 40% is a reasonable win ratio, although certain firms have been documented to win 60% or more of their proposals consistently-but you must strive to have each and every proposal be in the competitive range [6] from a technical, management, and cost standpoint.

It is important to note that a technically sound, programmatically effective, and competitively priced proposal is not enough. With content and cost must come readability, appearance, and format. And these elements require dedicated time to accomplish. Cover design, page formatting, editing, generating graphics, word processing and desktop publishing, proofreading, and photoreproducing, as well as collating, assembling, and electronic uploading to client Web sites are all vital steps in the overall proposal preparation cycle. Put yourself in the role of a government evaluator. That person, along with his or her colleagues, has to look at many proposals for each procurement. Why should I do business with you? is the question they are asking themselves. Would you enjoy struggling through a poorly written, amateurishly prepared document in the evening or on the weekend? Indeed, there are increasing numbers of small and large businesses chasing fewer and fewer federal dollars. Even relatively minor procurements are resulting in 50 or more proposals that are submitted. For major procurements, the competition is even more intense. In late 2003, the federal government received 430 proposals from industry in response to one high-profile Department of Commerce services bid opportunity. Debriefings across a wide variety of agencies suggest that evaluators are spending 15 to 30 minutes on each companys proposal during the preliminary round of evaluation. There simply is no more time available to them.

As a result, it is more imperative than ever that your companys proposal stand out in a positive way. Create difference! Section 52.215-7 of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), Unnecessarily Elaborate Proposals or Quotations (April 1984), cautions contractors not to submit proposals that contain elaborate artwork, expensive paper and bindings, and expensive visual and other presentation aids. To be sure, certain federal agencies, as well as state and local organizations that follow the FAR, will look unfavorably on any proposal documents that go beyond basic typewriter-level presentation values. Yet your competitors are spending tens of thousands of dollars both in-house and through professional proposal consulting firms to prepare full-color, graphics-intensive, high-impact proposal documents and multimedia oral presentations. The challenge is to know your client well enough to sense what level of proposal media and presentation style they will respond to favorably. Some clients



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