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Proposal Management Best Practices, Part 2: Set-Up Your Compliance Matrix

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Cheryl Smith



3 min

When it comes to proposal management, there are a lot of moving pieces to manage, and organization shouldn’t be the thing that keeps your proposal from winning the bid. 

The compliance matrix is your first step to building a comprehensive proposal content plan. It helps you define proposal roles, tasks and responsibilities, and confirm compliance requirements are addressed and met. It also helps your team untangle related and define how they should be positioned throughout your proposal to maximize evaluator understanding and optimize evaluator scoring.

What is a Compliance Matrix?

In structure, the compliance matrix is a table or spreadsheet, or cross-reference table. It lists each section and its corresponding requirements. Think of it as a map; a tool that helps you help the team understand the complex task at hand, and assign responsibilities to each. For example:

  • What requirements must be addressed in each section
  • What requirements must be addressed across different sections?
  • Have all requirements been addressed in each section and across all relevant sections?

Do I need a Compliance Matrix?

On very simple proposals, where the requirements are perfectly aligned with your proposal, a matrix may not be necessary. On larger pursuits, where requirements are scattered across the proposal, a matrix is a lifesaver. While some teams enter only paragraph outline number locations, other teams enter full text, especially on larger, more complicated pursuits, to avoid any confusion. You don't want your compliance matrix to collapse in the final days because of a formatting change or error.

Compliance Matrix as Requirement

Often times a matrix is a requirement as well, especially in response to government opportunities. So some teams have adopted a best practice of always including a compliance matrix with their proposals – which helps evaluators navigate and score your proposal.

(Note: If this requirement applies to you, it is best to format your compliance matrix in a way that meets the customer request from the very beginning, so you don’t have to translate your working matrix into the one you are going to put in the proposal.)

Tip: You don't have to wait for the opportunity to drop to start your compliance matrix. Starting a compliance matrix early, when the opportunity is first identified on the horizon, is also a good idea. It will help the team document, track, and discuss customer requirements as they emerge and prepare for the written proposal.

Next in our series on proposal management best practices: Outlining and annotating your proposal before writing begins takes a lot of the doubt and hesitation out of proposal writing, and saves time to focus on improving content maturity and quality.   

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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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