Every contract dependent company has developed a system of proposal preparation. Most do not have the advantage of understanding and applying the relationship between systems engineering and proposal development.
SPEC Innovations developed an end-to-end methodology centered on the job of the proposal writer while at the same time addressing proposal management, review teams, and all other facets of developing a proposal today through the application of systems engineering.
Inefficient proposal processes enable a need for the proposal engineering process, so I developed a new form of engineering, proposal engineering. Proposal Engineering is defined as “the application of scientific and mathematic principles to design, construct and operate a cost-effective proposal development system.”
Most systems engineers have been part of the process of developing a proposal at least at one point in their career. A systems engineer looks at a process and wants to find a way to improve it, including proposal processes. I managed many proposal development processes in my career and I always noticed that no one thought in terms of context. A systems engineer always thinks in terms of context or setting of a process. When we look at context, we should recognize that no process exists by itself.
The marketing process, the proposal process, the technical process, and the project execution process should constantly be providing each other information. Many contractors have failed to keep the process working simultaneously. They have too many review teams that come in at the end and force the writers to completely rewrite the proposal, so the proposal they deliver to the client is basically a draft of a new proposal they just wrote. To cost effectively implement the proposal process, it is important to understand the process’s relationship to the other enterprise processes. Using a typical systems engineering diagram, the figure below shows the relationships between all the different processes it takes to produce a winning proposal.
The figure above show that the entire context and proposal processing lies in the middle. SPEC Innovations’ proposal process is modeled after the systems engineering process presented in a draft military standard (MIL-STD-499B). The proposal engineering process contains four sub-processes executed concurrently. The first figure below is the original draft military standard and the second is the entire proposal process in the same format as the original. The second figure below shows that the process is parallel with systems engineering and proposal development. Most proposal developers do not see these parallels, but systems engineers see the parallels immediately.
SPEC Innovation’s proposal engineering process was developed by systems engineers, but is simple for everyone in the proposal process to understand.
- The first stage is requirements development. The Requirements Analysis stage of Mil-STD-499B has similar actions as the requirements development stage of the proposal process. This stage starts when you begin to obtain client’s needs and desires. It is important at this stage that we recognize context, because the marketing process must work in sync with the proposal process for the requirements development to work.
- The second stage, the logical architecture, provides the basis. The actions in this stage are technical processes, management processes, organizational structure, past performance data, personnel information, and costing data. Similar to the first stage, the technical process must work in sync with the proposal process.
- The third stage, the physical architecture, involves containing the text, graphics, binders, delivery mechanisms, production processes, and other items that form a proposal. This synthesis stage in the Mil-STD-499B transforms functional architecture into physical architecture. That is exactly the same transformation that happens with the proposal processes. The physical architecture packages the first stage, requirements analysis and second step, logical architecture into a quality product.
- The final stage, proposal project management, provides the overall guidance and control for the proposal process. In the Mil-STD-499B this stage is called System Analysis and Control. This stage completes the final product that you will deliver to your client.
Each of these stages interacts with each other. Information flows from each of these stages, allowing all the teams to communicate and develop a proposal on time. Organizing a strong structure to complete a cost effective proposal that meets all the requirements is difficult, but apply systems engineering practices to your proposal development is a good solution. If you are considering reorganizing the method of which your team develops proposal, think about this context and use this proposal process before you start your next proposal.