Thursday, October 7, 2010

Proposal review sessions


Here are some items on proposal review sessions:

You can focus on a few aspects during reviews:
  • Customer emulation. Reviewers score the proposal according to the evaluation criteria, as if they were the customer's evaluation team.
  • Bid Strategies. Reviewers assess whether the proposal reflects the bid strategies necessary to win, tells the right story, and delivers its message effectively.
  • Compliance. Does the proposal comply with all RFP requirements?
  • Proof reading. Review for typographical errors and grammatical problems.
  • Technical evaluation. Does the solution proposed meet the specifications? Can it be delivered on time? Is there a better way to do the work?
  • Pricing. Is it priced to win? Is it still profitable?
It really depends on the audience you have that day, where you are in the process, and especially on what you want to get out of the review.

How should the review comments be supplied? The choices include:

  • Paper forms. Create a form with a series of questions that focuses the reviewers attention and provides places for comments.Can make collating the results easier. Forces the reviewer to state the problem and the solution.
  • Hard copy mark-ups. Let them scribble on the document and then try to make sense of it later. If there are a large number of evaluators you will need to consolidate the comments. Consider dividing the reviewers into teams and making each team responsible for delivering a single set of comments.Great if you don't want people to walk out with copies of the material, can be a pain to amass and wade through.
  • Version tracking. Microsoft Word, and many other software packages, provide tools that can be used to identify the changes made by a review and even to merge them with changes from other reviewers. There is a slight learning curve to get past if you've never used this approach before.
It is very helpful to frame the meeting around "How can we fix any deficiencies? What are the weakest parts of the proposal? Did we miss anything?"



What can reviewers look for?

  • Proposed Solution. Will it work? Does it fall within risk tolerances? Is it price-competitive? Is it best-in-class/best-value? Have all the benefits of the solution or approach been pointed out. Have all the features been sufficiently tied to the evaluation criteria in order to ensure credit?
  • RFP Compliance. Note any ways that the section does not adequately address an RFP requirement. Make sure all RFP requirements are addressed, especially anything relevant in Sections C, M, and L as well as any other sections that might contract relevant requirements. Call attention to anything that might contradict an RFP requirement.
  • Score. Give the section a grade according to the evaluation criteria, as if you were the client.
  • Bid Strategies. Does it reflect the correct bid strategies?
  • Additions. Note anything missing that should be added to the section or any parts that require additional detail.
  • Deletions. Is there anything that really shouldn’t be there or that a client might find patronizing? Is there anything redundant or superfluous (We disagree with “tell them what you going to tell them” introductions and simply delete them). Is there anything that can be taken out that will make it easier for the evaluator to get through your proposal?
  • Changes/corrections. Note anything that is not accurate or requires changing.
  • Experience. Has all relevant corporate experience been mentioned? A lot of times proposal reviewers are senior managers and may be aware of project experience that didn’t occur to the proposal team.
  • Themes. Are the themes for this section adequately highlighted?
  • Graphics/Illustrations. Are there a sufficient number of graphics in the proposal? Is there anything in the text that could be enhanced through illustration?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Google Maps directions can suck at times

Here GMaps wants me to get on an Interstate for about a half a mile,
then take an exit that doesn't exist, to get back on a local road.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Is Mark McGwire a serial killer?

Obviously not, but this police sketch sure does look like bad news for him:

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fixing Google Reader's Recommendations feature

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I love Google Reader, much to the near constant annoyance of friends, family and co-workers who I frequently zip posts to via the awesome "Email" feature in Google Reader.

A feature that Google Reader added many months ago is "Recommendations". The concept is great, Google Reader pays attention to what you read, what you Star, etc and then will periodically give you some new blogs/sites it thinks you might like.

Awesome, sign me up. Those Googling fellows sure do seem to have this "search" thing nailed, and they seem pretty good at putting ads up in searches and that makes them "da dolla billz." Except the Recommendations feature as currently implemented kind of sucks

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What sucks?
  1. It keeps recommending the same sites to me, over and over. Maybe if I tell you I don't want to read it you should listen to me?
  2. It keeps recommending sites I already read. You know what I read, those blogs are the basis for your recommendations. So quite doubling down on me.
  3. There's no gradient in the "No thanks" choice for not wanting to subscribe to a feed. You need to give me something like "Not right now" and "Never again" so I can banish the really bad suggestions.
  4. If fact, let me give YOU some feedback on your suggestions. If your recommend something, let me click "This totally rocks, gimme more of this" or "I just threw up in my mouth, get this trash out of here Dikembe Mutombo style".
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So there you have it Google, 4 good ways to make Recommendations suck less. Let's do it!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A great look at Strasburg's mechanics for teaching kids to pitch

Two links, both from the same (great) website on the mechanics of Strasburg:

Excellent to read for the overall mechanical elements, but they can also be fairly approachable teaching tools for young boys because of the pictures and the basics of what they are discussing.

I won't steal any of the pictures from the links, but they are quite good. The second picture in the second link is possibly the best of them all.

You hear "keep your weight back" a lot when you are a hitter, and some as a pitcher. What I was never taught was that my body should be back and not rotated to home when my front foot hits. As the links point out, keeping your shoulders facing towards the respective baselines is critical for velocity.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

What do college athletes need to learn about social media?

It is 2010, and Twitter and Facebook have hit recruiting and agent issues full on.

The commissioner of the ACC was forced to make public comments about this mess. Butch Davis, head coach of the UNC Tarheels football team is on video and widely quoted because of his players' involvement.

A player (who I like a lot) on a team that I love, recently made a half dozen Tweets about a recent "social engagement" of his. Sounds like he had a crazy Friday night. Well he didn't like that I posted his public (100% public) Tweets on a blog that follows this particular college (a great blog at that).


As is the right of that blog, they took down my post. I assume because the player got upset. So be it.

But in light of the potential recruiting violations, and increasing involvement of agents and their "runners", I think this player and his college program are actually lucky. Hopefully he and his teammates have learned that their PUBLIC, OPEN, and AVAILABLE comments are actually being READ by people. People who have expectations about conduct and behavior.

I don't care if this young man made some "youthful indiscretions". We've all been there, to some extent or another. But I just don't want his mistakes to hurt the program, or maybe even himself later on in life when he gets drafted and aims for a shoe/apparel deal. I didn't post his comments to that end, but maybe that's a lesson he learns.

So here is to hoping that everyone has learned a lesson, the player moves forward with some more insight into life in 2010, and his team goes on to win their conference (it'd be pretty easy to tell what team I'm talking about given my publicly viewable history of blog posts and Tweets; I'm a die-hard fan).

Friday, June 25, 2010

General proposal tips, how to read an RFP, compliance matrices, editing, simplicity, past performances and the single most important question


This all comes from one source, so there are clearly other valid viewpoints. If you know of any other sources of good info (free helps too) please let me know. 


  • Use a compliance matrix to ensure you meet RFP requirements

    • Use the Section L and M of the RFP requirements to develop the matrix
    • Requirements can help show you a logical organizational structure to use
    • Include win themes in the compliance matrix to ensure you are incorporating them
    • Allocate win themes throughout the response evenly
    • Include criteria in the compliance matrix that ensure content answers and exceeds the requirements
  • Know how to read an RFP

    • Section L. Where you'll find the instructions for formatting, organizing, and submitting your proposal. When reading Section L: Look for instructions regarding page count, page layout (margins, fonts, page sizes), media (disk, CD-ROM, video), submission method, and outline/content.
    • Section M. Where you'll find the criteria that will be used to evaluate your proposal. When reading Section M: Look for scoring method, score weighting, evaluation process, past performance approach, and "best value" terminology.
    • Section C. This is where they say what it is they want you to propose (the Statement of Work). When reading Section C: Look for requirements (are they explained, understandable, and/or ambiguous?), contradictions (between requirements as well as Section L and M), feasibility, and opportunities for differentiation between you and your competitors.
    • Section B. This is where they tell you how to format your pricing. When reading Section B: Look for correspondence to the requirements and evaluation criteria.
    • And sometimes they hide important stuff (like the Statement of Work) in Section J, attachments. 

  • Editing

    • No passive voice, active verbs only
  • Be specific

    • Spend time on how you will do things, not what you did in the past
    • Results, not promises
    • Talk about the criteria that you will use to make decisions, and list the things you will take into consideration. Talk about having processes for getting things done without saying what the steps are. Talk about the benefits that will result without saying how you will deliver them. Talk about all the things that you can do for the customer, without saying what, when, or how you will do them.
  • Words to avoid
  • Keep it simple

    • <5 sentences per paragraph
    • Enough content for the expert, but clear enough for the layperson doing the evaluation by checklist
    • <20% passive voice
    • 40-50 range Flesch Reading Ease stat
    •  >9 but <12 Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level stat, use this for more stats

  • Write about benefits, not features (very good link)

    • Write out the benefits first
    • 2nd person, say "You"
    • Make a features to benefits table
    • Use discriminators, which are themes that set you apart from the competition (a unique selling point)
    • Meet the needs of the RFP, and the unwritten one's too. Have to know what else is going on (GAO Reports are great)
    • Similarities are key, similar solutions, similar environments, similar clients
  • So what?!?

    • Why does that feature benefit me?
    • Why would I use that product?
    • Why should I buy your service/product over any other?
    • What's in it for me
  • Make their job easy

    • Cover the requirements clearly (see above)
    • Call out important items, make them first in the proposal, first in a section and first in a sub-section
    • Explain important risk factors, how to mitigate them, what will cause problems
    • Avoid patronizing by making it a statement of your understanding. "We do … because we understand the importance of … This ensures that any risk of … is mitigated. We have made this a key feature of our proposal because we understand that any approach that does not include … represents a source of unmitigated risk."
    • The summation of your proposal should leave no doubt that we are the only possible option
  • Past Performances

    • Have them! (1) How complete is the past performance archive? (2) How is the process of preparing the past performance going to be managed? And (3) who is going to write the past performance?
    • How many past performance citations are required? What are all the technical / experience areas that must be addressed by the citations? How many of the requirements will need to be addressed by citations from subcontractor firms? Given the situation, how many person- hours of labor will be necessary to complete the past performance section? Which citations are long-lead items requiring advance planning because of the need to interface with subcontractors or develop information lost from corporate memory?
    • If the past performance section is complex at all, do audit of the solicitation requirements. Determine what are the important elements of experience required to do the job. Format the past performance so that each citation addresses as many parts of the spec as possible. At the end, audit the the citations to ensure that you have conclusively demonstrated the capability to do all parts of the spec.
    • 4-8 hours per PP
  • Questions to consider/answer in the technical section and your Management Plan. Make sure it is a quality plan.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Front-loading a proposal - a key to success


Tasks to do, and/or documents that can be created, at the outset of the proposal. These are items that will end up saving you come proposal crunch time by either having them checked off, preventing you from making a mistake, or just doing better/proper planning -
 
  • Review prior Proposal lessons learned 
    • My employer has a few options for this internally, we can use a message board, write blog-like posts, and have explored a "database" lessons/tips
  • Develop "win themes" that are tied to customer needs
    • And your company's capabilities. This should be obvious, but a lot of people mess this up
  • Create a compliance checklist based off of Sections L and M of the proposal,
  • Review the expressed (and unexpressed) needs, 
  • Develop a proposal schedule
    • Distribute it to your team
    • Manage and execute the proposal to the schedule
  • Review company Past Performances for applicability, 
  • Obtain or develop the Past Performance questionnaire for GPOCs to fill out
    • You'll want to give your POCs as much time as possible to respond, as this always ends up being last on their priorities list.
  • Create proposal template
  • Create or obtain team logos
  • Contact RFP POCs to discuss timelines, ask questions, etc

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

IT considerations of a small professional services firm


Here are some off the cuff things that any new or small "professional services firm" (aka consulting firm) will need to consider: 

  • Things common to small businesses -
    • How big is the company
    • What can you afford
    • What are the needs
    • Are the needs generic like msft office or specific like detailed timekeeping or graphics


  • How will you communicate with clients -
    • Email obviously, but will you ever need to do blog posts for them?
    • How about microcommunication services like Yammer?


  • What security level do you need
    • Federal, state, and local government all have their own specific security requirements as customers
    • Are you under HIPAA requirements? In many respects this is less stringent than having a Federal government client, but has its own peculiarities and challenges
    • Do your IT needs create any special office space / facility needs? Federal government and HIPAA certainly will

    • Billing needs
      • Will your clients require you to submit billing invoices to them in any specific way? 
      • Do you need to track billing on a per minute basis? Per hour?
      • Do you need to track specific billable actions like writing a memo or email, making a phone call?
      • Who will you be billing, and are there any industry-mandated

    • Location of staff
      • Colocated?
      • Across the world?
      • A mix of the above where some are together, some are in another country, and you have part-time people elsewhere?
      • How about special subcontractors?

    • Do you need IT to be controlled on your servers

    • How will you want to collaborate internally
      • See above on "Location of staff", but even if you are all within earshot you may prefer to have collaboration supercharged via 
      •  
      Pictures:- by ob1left
      -  From lucky_dog
      -  by Philo Nordlund
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