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Task Order Proposal Management Best Practices

The NCA chapter has nearly 1,000 members, and is the largest APMP chapter worldwide. At our last Dinner Series event, three speakers, Lauren Hammond, Director of Proposal Management and Support for Management Concepts; Dan Shyti, Vice President of the L-3 STRATIS; and Wendy Frieman, Consultant, shared their task order proposal management secrets:

Company size doesn’t matter in Task Order competitions. Everyone struggles – even large companies. What matters is how well-organized the company is and whether your team has a clear strategy in place.

Common challenges include identifying the right opportunities and sorting through the noise. You need to find numerous sources and get as many feet on the ground as possible doing business development.

Another challenge is task order triage and tracking. The triage/tracking process is actually harder in large companies than in small because of internal bureaucracies. The decision process on task orders has to be quick, with only three questions: Is it a fit? Can we compete? Can we win?

Response logistics have to run smoothly, requiring:

  1. A corporate repository of all IDIQ-related information, templates, and reusable materials.

2. Seamless triage using a customer relationship management (CRM) system and/or central log for task orders.

3. Decisions on the process such as who evaluates task orders when the main contact is on leave, distribution list (and timeframe, such as the number of hours in which to distribute), as well as assigning a team to each task order opportunity.

4. Approval chain and ways to expedite engaging other departments such as Human Resources.

5. Bid/no-bid timeframe and approval authority. If there is no bid decision in 24 hours, consider this task order dead.

6. Contact lists.

7. Passwords and subscription information for tools used in response preparation.

8. Canned schedules for different durations, including Friday and holiday starts

9. Processes and systems.

You have to keep metrics, including such information as the daily workload, and length between decisions and gates.

Here is a ratio that may be of interest to you, to compare with what you do: a company normally writes 3-5 concurrent task order proposals a week. This requires 2 proposal managers, one coordinator, and 6-8 subject matter experts for just-in-time participation. I have no further detail as to what size and level of complexity task orders these are, and if there is other help such as consultants, a graphics artist, and so on. Some companies boast 85% success rates on task orders.

Task orders over $100M don’t get treated as regular task orders – they are regarded as large proposals, with all the best practices (and capture/proposal resource allocation) associated with large proposals.

There may be different types of organizations that manage Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ vehicles): dedicated per vehicle or centralized. Dedicated organizations do well for some types of IDIQs with greater customer intimacy but generally are more expensive and require a break-even period of about 1 year. Centralized organizations are good for multiple-customer IDIQs and enjoy economies of scale. The drawback is that certain vehicles may not get the attention they need.

Despite what popular opinion says, being too selective with task order bids is probably not the smartest tactic – early preparation enhances your chances but many report winning bluebirds repeatedly. If you aim better, you improve the odds. But, if you don’t bid, you won’t get an award, guaranteed.

You cannot manufacture more hours in a day, so you have to use time-saving measures. But sometimes pre-set templates and boilerplate may lead to non-compliance because of subtle differences between Task Order RFPs you may miss in a hurry (it’s been known to happen). Great systems and processes will always beat content pre-population or boilerplate.

Finally, bidding on IDIQs is critical – if you don’t get a ticket, you are guaranteed to be out of work with that agency in that scope area for the next 3-10 years. But, you have to give each IDIQ its share of much-needed Tender Love and Care (TLC), because companies run into danger when an internal champion for an IDIQ gets another job and disappears.


Olessia Smotrova-Taylor is the President and CEO of OST Global Solutions, Inc. (www.ostglobalsolutions.com). She is a currently practicing capture and proposal manager who has won more than $17 Billion in new business. As one of the proposal industry leaders, she is on the Board of Directors of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals’ (APMP) National Capital Area (NCA) chapter and is the editor and chair of the APMP NCA Executive Summary e-zine that won 2010 APMP Communications Award. She regularly presents at the APMP’s international and other conferences, roundtables, and proposal boot camps, and runs popular training webinars on business development. She is currently designing and preparing to teach a Masters-level course in proposal development for Stevens Institute of Technology. She has 16 years of experience in proposal and capture management, marketing, and communications. She is a prolific author, speaker, trainer, and blogger, and is well known in the global proposal community. Her self-study course, Executive Summary Secrets (www.ostglobalsolutions.com/executive-summary-secrets), sells worldwide. Prior to starting her own consulting company, she won business for Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, and wrote for the Financial Times of London.

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