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Faster, Better Review Results for Proposal Managers

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Cheryl Smith



6 min

After Privia were acquired by Xait we asked Cheryl Smith (formerly with Privia) to write a series of “travel letters” exploring both features of XaitPorter and to share her expertise; Cheryl have been writing and managing proposals since 1998. Shipley trained, she has helped establish proposal centers and advised on capture strategy, coached orals teams and lead marketing, communications and knowledge management programs. Read part two of the series below!


Proposal reviews are a crossroads for your team; where the writing revisits the win strategy, compliance is confirmed, competition is ghosted, scoring is tested and story and narrative are evaluated. Reviewers are on a mission of discovery, how do we improve the proposal, and the team wants insights and direction. The review results serve as a team roadmap to the final destination - a compliant and compelling proposal evaluators want to read, understand and defend to decision-makers.

On the other hand, proposal reviews are time-consuming, energy-intensive, take precious time away from writing, and don’t always yield the results the team needs to advance proposal maturity and quality.

These are the proposal manager “must-haves” for staging faster, more productive reviews and the new tactics and technology teams are investing in to save time and stay competitive.


Status Quo: Proposal Review Team Must-Haves

Proposal reviews are iterative and focused on things like strategy, compliance, competition, pricing and persuasion. Identifying and agreeing on exactly what needs to be updated and strengthened, however, is a completely different proposal team challenge.

Thanks to status quo proposal management technology, reviewers have the secure, centralized, anytime, anywhere access they need to collaborate with their fellow reviewers and, most importantly, come to consensus on insights and instructions.

  • Collaborative Reviews: Reviewers can share their comments and see each other’s comments, reply and avoid redundancies, inconsistencies, and worse, compliance discrepancies that delay revisions. At the same time, their comments live in the software, not the document, so there is never a chance of inadvertently including review comments in the final proposal submission.

  • Vetting Reviews: When the review is complete, proposal managers have the control they need to quickly vet, reject and clarify the results and determine exactly what comments will make their way into the proposal. That means the team spends less time trying to make sense of review results and more time writing to the approved instructions.

  • Revise with Impact: When it’s time to edit, writers and subject matter experts have a side-by-side view of the original content and the review comments. They can also export a list of comments to strategize a “divide and conquer” approach to revisions. Finally, they can set a comment “status” to communicate the results to the team and keep track of progress.

You and your team invest a considerable amount of time and energy in review cycles to ensure the proposal is maturing and on track with deadline. With this kind of collaborative review “feedback loop” teams get out what they put in more efficiently.
But it’s not the proposal review end-game. Today’s government contractors are looking beyond the status quo and investing in new, innovative review cycle tactics and technology to keep pace with their competition.

New Tactics: Drive Faster, More Productive Reviews

As a proposal manager you work hard to win new business. That means staging a review process that saves time as well as delivers the results you need to balance the writing with the reviewing and revising. At the same time, decision makers are demanding higher quality thanks to the time-savings proposal management technology delivers.

Here is how new proposal management tactics and technology are building on the status quo to stage faster, more productive reviews that deliver the roadmap the team needs to be successful. 

  • A Single Proposal Document. Instead of spending time slicing and dicing the proposal into multiple documents for review, the team reviews together in a single document while version control does its job automatically. The proposal manager uses granular permissions to ensure only the right team members and partners have access to certain content at certain times. They can even hide content sections that aren’t ready for review yet, for example pricing which is typically reviewed a little later in the process.

  • Review Commenting and Editing Options. Sometimes you want reviewers to just provide comments and consensus on instructions. Other times a reviewer is the subject matter expert and needs the ability to edit, for example on a highly technical section or a functionality spreadsheet that ties directly to pricing. The proposal manager chooses what access is appropriate for each reviewer cycle and reviewer and sets the appropriate permissions. Instead of just comments, the proposal manager has the flexibility to choose how review feedback is incorporated into the proposal. In this manner, comments flow more naturally from reviewing to vetting to revising, making it faster and easier for teams to dive back into writing.

  • Write and Review in Parallel. With a single proposal document, and no document check in/check out or waiting required, your team reviews and writes when it is convenient for them. For example, the team can review the solution overview while the past performances are still being written. This means the team can write and review their assigned sections in parallel, providing more time to think and write and more time to review and polish compliance and quality. Reviewers can even assign a comment to a specific writer or subject matter expert to begin a dialogue that tracks with the content and eliminates confusion and uncertainty.

  • Vet and Strategize. Whether the team writes and reviews in parallel during early review cycles, or halts writing for a review of the proposal as a whole in later review cycles, the proposal manager retains control over what review results make it into the proposal. For example, they can export a report of review comments or proposal content with comments. The proposal manager can vet, reject, and clarify comments and the team has a clear roadmap on how to use review results to improve proposal quality.

  • Inline Comments. When it comes time to edit and revise, writers and subject matter experts still have a side-by-side view of the original content and the review comments. But now the review comments are embedded in the original content, making it easier to track and incorporate comments into the proposal content. The team can set the comment “status” and even start an online dialogue or chat with the reviewer if they have questions on how to incorporate.

  • Real-Time Review Status Dashboard. Meanwhile, proposal managers have visibility into the review process; who is assigned to review what and what they are working on throughout the day. They can look at the progress of individual writing and reviewing tasks, and know if and when a section is ready for review. Plus, new, unread review comments now appear automatically in the Operational Dashboard.

Proposal managers know all too well just how challenging review cycles can be; they can either advance proposal maturity or get bogged down in differing opinions and vague comments. So, the mindset of a productive review is just as important as the tactics and technology we employ. The right mindset, focused on instructions not feedback, encourages review curiosity while harnessing the collective knowledge and experience of your entire team. The right tactics and technology fosters the collaboration and consensus necessary to drive the right review results faster, saving more time to invest in the quality today’s evaluators and decision makers demand from government contractors.

Author picture

Cheryl Smith

Cheryl Smith is our Senior Content Writer. She has additionally been writing and managing proposals since 1998. Shipley trained, she has helped establish proposal centers and advised on capture strategy, coached orals teams and lead marketing, communications and knowledge management programs. Cheryl is a graduate of The George Washington University with degrees in Theatre, Communications and Literature. When she’s not sharing her passion for work, she loves drawing, writing, cooking and exploring the Virginia woodlands with her husband, their dog Chase and the fuzzy guests they host for Rover.

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