It seems that the trend in Requests for Proposals (RFPs) these days is to provide prospective offerors with a voluminous Statement of Work (SOW) or Performance Work Statement (PWS) and then give them minimal page count in which to address it in the proposal.
Here are a few approaches on how to streamline your proposal and ensure compliance when the shoe simply doesn’t fit!
Determine what is a necessary requirement
Look for instructions in the RFP to see whether any language that specifically addresses how much of the SOW or PWS must be addressed. Sometimes Section L contains language stating that addressing all SOW or PWS elements is not a requirement. In this case, you can explain your technical approach in the form of a higher level discussion of the major SOW or PWS elements without providing all the details of each sub-element and still be compliant. You can address individual sub-elements that are an integral part of the approach using embedded reference numbers to highlight where they are discussed, so that they can be easily identified by evaluators, or you can highlight some of the key words in bold text (use this latter approach only if the proposal is very short, however, because text with too many highlighted words is exhausting to read).
What if you aren’t able to eliminate some SOW/PWS elements?
If all SOW/PWS elements must be addressed, you have a major challenge. Review your page count for the proposal and determine how many pages you can allocate to the SOW/PWS. Look for ways to streamline/tighten other proposal sections to free up additional space. Eliminating transitional clauses between sentences that don’t add value, redundancies, and extraneous details or information not specifically asked for will make it read better anyway! Then review the number of SOW/PWS elements you have and decide which ones are the most important based on your knowledge of the customer’s needs and wants and their importance as reflected in the RFP. For example, section 5.2, Acquisition Support in an acquisition support RFP will require a more detailed response than section 5.9, Training. Then, write to the major headings and provide tables that contain all of the sub-elements, concisely stating that you will perform the task, and where the “how” is important to the customer, state briefly how you will do it. Combine “like” items together wherever it makes sense to save space.
Writing individual sections
One approach that is widely used in writing to individual SOW/PWS sections is to:
1) briefly state your understanding of the requirements
2) describe your approach to performing the work (the “what” and “how”)
3) provide a proof statement that this approach is feasible and/or has worked before on specific prior projects
4) close with the benefits to the customer of adopting the approach. With practice, responses to many SOW/PWS elements can be condensed into a few sentences.
Creating a requirements matrix
If RFP instructions allow, you can create a Proposal Requirements Traceability Matrix and insert into your technical volume behind your table of contents and acronym list as a guide for evaluators.
Proposal Requirements Matrix Template (Word version)
What do you do when the page count isn’t enough?
There are some RFPs, however, for which the page count is wholly inadequate. If you cannot find a way to address the RFP requirements in the available page count, you can always ask the Contracting Officer for additional page count during the Question and Answer period. If you can offer a compelling case for increasing the page count by a reasonable number of pages, the Contracting Office may grant your request.
– Ellen Perrine, AOC Key Solutions