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Managing compliance

 August 8, 2017
by Paul Heron

In last week’s post we talked about “owning the RFP”—by which we mean mastering and managing all the details needed to win.

This week we’ll look at compliance, the first sub-component of mastery. Assigning clear responsibilities for identifying and tracking all compliance items ensures proposals are judged on their merits—not crippled by failure to meet one or more requirements.

What is compliance?

Compliance items are the issuer’s specific asks—things the RFP states the bidder “shall,” “will,” or “must” do. “Should” may also indicate a compliance item. For example, if the RFP asks that an individual section should contain no more than 15 pages, we recommend you treat that number as a hard limit.

Deciding what to track

Even with the above definition as a guide, different individuals can interpret compliance differently. We’ve seen over-zealous team members identify hundreds of compliance items in a 300-page RFP. The result is a list that no one has the time or appetite to manage.

Our rule is to select items that pertain to the proposal only (not to later stages in the procurement and contracting processes) and that apply to:

  • Delivery requirements: Where, when and how your proposal must be packaged, labelled and delivered.
  • Design: Requirements and restrictions around paper size (including for foldouts), margins, type font and size, colour and duplexing, binding, etc.
  • Contents and structure: Information the RFP requires as part of your response and the proposal’s high-level organization. This includes narratives, project sheets, resumes, forms, and schedules, including page limits for each

Capturing compliance items

In the old days, teams cut up a hard copy of the RFP and used the clippings to assemble a compliance checklist. Today, high-end software can strip compliance items out of an RFP and assemble the list automatically.

We use the following approach:

  1. Use the annotate feature in a PDF reader to highlight compliance items throughout the RFP. As insurance, ask a second team member to review the annotated PDF for any missed items, since this may be the only comprehensive compliance check made.
  2. Create a compliance matrix using an Excel worksheet as follows: 
  • Copy each requirement, its RFP page reference, section and subsection, into adjacent columns of the worksheet
  • Use one or more columns to categorize items under Delivery*, Design, and Content and Structure 
  • Sort the sheet by category and use a column to assign responsibilities for each item

We've found this process is uncomplicated, requires no single-purpose software, makes it easy to add comments where needed, and works for all RFP types.

* NOTE: Delivery requirements are invariably found on one page of the RFP. Make copies of this page, and any required labels, for the proposal manager and the person responsible for delivery.

Working with compliance items

Figure 1 shows how we organize and track compliance items through the proposal development process.

Figure 1: Working with compliance items: After identifying compliance items in the RFP, divide them into delivery (1), design (2), content (3) and structure (4) and use these requirements to populate proposal management documents. ATOC is an acronym for Annotated Table of Contents—the subject of next week's post.

Managing the design and delivery requirements is important but relatively straightforward, since one person is typically responsible for each. The content and structure items, however, need more work before they’re ready for use.

Include a compliance check list in your proposal

Some RFPs include a compliance checklist for completion and inclusion. If proposal rules allow, consider including a table listing content requirements with a column headed COMPLY with the word “Yes” or a checkmark alongside each item. This will affirm to evaluators that you have met all requirements.

Next week: We’ll describe the ATOC and how to use it.


Need better proposal management processes?

Contact Complex2Clear


Photo credit

Paul Heron, MBA, is the founder and managing partner of Complex2Clear, and leads our bid response practice. LinkedIn 





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