Clear thinking

Learn how to improve your proposals and win more business.


Using a compliance matrix

 December 6, 2016
by Paul Heron

Compliance is a table-stakes issue in RFP responses. You stand a good chance of being disqualified if you fail to comply with one or more major requirements.

Before reading on, please see this post on managing bid proposal compliance.

Building a compliance matrix

Once you've identified all the compliance items in the RFP and divided them into categories—delivery, design, structure and content requirements—load them into a compliance matrix.

Assign a row to each compliance item and sort the sheet by responsibility.  Include a column for each of the following:

  • Item: Number each item to make reviews easier
  • Type: Type of requirement—delivery, design, structure and content
  • RFP Section: Section where the item is located
  • RFP Page No.: RFP page where the item is located
  • Requirement: Brief description of the compliance requirement
  • Proposed Response: How you will address the requirement
  • Individual Responsible: Person assigned to manage compliance
  • Status: Indicate when the response complies
  • Proposal Section: Section where response is located
  • Proposal Page: Page on which response appears

The final two columns above are used to identify where the proposal satisfies content-related compliance requirements.

To save yourself the trouble of building a matrix, download our free bid compliance tool (MS Excel).

Include a content compliance matrix in your proposal

In addition to using matrices as bid preparation tools, the content rows can be part of the proposal itself. Here are some common options:

  1. Appendix: If the response is relatively short (30 pages or less) and/or if the compliance items in the RFP are implied, rather than explicit, consider including the matrix as an appendix. Use a table with a row for each compliance item. Identify the compliance item, describe how your plan achieves compliance and indicate where the point is referenced in your response. This is a defensive manoeuver, aimed at avoiding the risk that evaluators will overlook a compliance item.
  2. Executive Summary: If space is limited and the main compliance items are clear, consider including a matrix in the executive summary. Identify each item and make a proof claim that shows your plan and experience comply with the requirement. Placing the matrix in the executive summary demonstrates you understand the prospect’s needs and stakes your claim early as a fully compliant bidder.
  3. Section Headers: In large bid responses a different evaluator may be assigned to each section or volume. In this case it makes sense to lead each section with a matrix specifically addressing its requirements. Common requirements can be repeated in any section matrix where they apply. A high-level matrix can also be included in the executive summary.

The first rule of bid responses is: Make it clear and easy for evaluators to understand your offer and relate it to their RFP. A compliance matrix helps you prepare a clear and compliant bid—and helps evaluators assess it.

What if you can't comply?

What if you know you can be competitive on a contract, but can't comply with one or more requirements?

Here you need to make a judgement call. Is the compliance shortcoming major or minor? Evaluators will often overlook a minor violation (one of your reference projects is outside the required three-year window) if your proposal is complete and compelling in all other respects. But a major violation (failure to submit on time) will definitely disqualify your bid.

If you’re submitting a non-compliant proposal, consider acknowledging your non-compliance and explain why you should be considered. Generally this is preferable to not complying and hoping the evaluators won't notice.

Comply or not, a matrix will make it easy to identify and track your compliance shortfalls.


Need help managing a large proposal?

Contact Complex2Clear

Photo Credit


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





Get our blog summary delivered to your inbox every month

How Added?:

Get future updates?:*
Privacy Policy: Complex2Clear will not use your name and contact information for any purpose other than to respond to your request and to advise you of important updates. We will not sell or give your information to any third party.

Top of page