Quality management enforces both opportunity and proposal processes and product quality. It also defines the means to measure and achieve quality.
Quality management comprises, and describes how, both quality assurance and quality control should be performed to achieve consistent quality outcomes throughout the opportunity and proposal lifecycle. Quality outcomes satisfy stated or implied customer requirements, resulting in products that are free of defects.
1. Follow the four components of the quality management framework.
Quality management comprises the following four components:
- Quality Planning. Identifies relevant opportunity and proposal quality requirements/standards and describes how to measure them (metrics)
- Quality Assurance. Documents opportunity and proposal quality processes and procedures to satisfy the quality standards
- Quality Control. Provides specific procedures and templates to gather metrics through inspection/audit of processes and products to determine if they comply with relevant quality standards. It is best practice to perform root-cause analysis to understand why errors/defects have occurred and take corrective or preventive action if processes and products do not conform to standards
- Continuous Quality Improvement. Uses metrics to help identify improvements and innovations needed to increase effectiveness and efficiency of opportunity and proposal processes and/or improve products
2. Establish a baseline.
Opportunity and proposal quality standards and measures are organization specific, but all have in common a desired ultimate outcome of winning bid within specified budgets and schedules. For proposal centers, quality is ultimately about giving the solicitation issuer what they want by meeting or exceeding stated requirements.
Before adopting a quality management system, companies must perform benchmarking to compare their quality baseline results with best practices. Frequently used performance measures for opportunity and proposal organizations include:
- Win rate: the percentage of bid submitted that are awarded
- Opportunity ratio: the value of proposals bid versus value actually awarded
- Return on investment (ROI): contract value awarded versus total investment in a bid
- Compliance rate: the number of bid submitted without errors
For additional insight on developing a comprehensive metrics program, see Building a Metrics Program. Each company must determine which metrics make the most sense for their organization to track, measure, report, and continuously improve within their budget and on schedule.
3. Define quality standards and measures.
In addition to measures related to bid outcomes, organizations should identify specific proposal quality standards and corresponding measures that are contributing factors to an improved win rate, greater opportunity ratio, better ROI, and/or increased compliance. Examples may include ensuring opportunity and proposal products are:
- Compelling (using features, benefits, and proof points)
- Easy to evaluate
- Visually appealing
- Well written
Other measures that relate to the opportunity and proposal center operations and processes may include:
- Volume of bid produced
- Productivity per FTE
- Error reduction
- Customer satisfaction
Quality measures may be quantitative or qualitative. However, it is important that all measures can be compared to a baseline once validated through observation, review, inspection, survey, and/or audit.
4. Use a continuous improvement cycle.
The PDCA, also known as the Deming cycle, is especially useful for processes such as opportunity and proposal operations that are often repeated. It has four stages: plan, do, check, and act.
To begin quality management planning, the organization should first define its opportunity and proposal quality policy and objectives. The quality policy should state the organization’s mission as it relates to quality and define measurable objectives to be communicated throughout the organization.
Once the policy and objectives are established, map opportunity and proposal processes to understand the sequence of events, roles, and responsibilities. The map should include stakeholders, organizational interfaces, and points in the process in which specific outcomes must be tracked and measured.
Next, the organization should define opportunity and proposal process- and product-based defects and establish how to track, measure, analyze, and report them. It should also identify methods to correct and/or prevent any defects.
During the Do phase, the opportunity and proposal organization employees and consultants perform the defined processes and procedures, continuously recording and reporting quality outcomes.
During the Check phase, an assigned independent auditor or reviewer performs audits, inspections, surveys, and/or reviews, as appropriate. These may be planned or ad hoc. Depending on the process or product, audits, inspections, surveys, and reviews may cover 100 percent or only samples of the process or product.
Auditors and reviewers should record nonconformance with a process as well as defects and errors. They should also recommend corrective and/or preventive action to avert future errors or defects.
Based on reported performance outcomes, the organization must act. Action should include corrective or preventive action, as well as communication of lessons learned to ensure continuous improvement. Analysis may uncover improvement opportunities by identifying trends, patterns, or correlations that form the basis for action. The organization may decide to establish new performance benchmarks and/or prioritize improvement opportunities based on cost–benefit analyses and risks. Actions should be communicated across the organization to reinforce the quality policy.
5. Understand team member roles related to quality management.
While quality is the entire team’s responsibility, the Proposal Manager should take the lead role in ensuring proposal quality within the quality management framework defined by the Proposal Center Manager or Director. Each of the following team members has distinct responsibilities with regard to quality management:
|Role||Quality Management Responsibility|
6. Communicate quality management standards and performance measures.
What gets measured gets done—but only if the opportunity and proposal team knows they’re accountable for meeting defined quality standards and achieving quality measures. Organizations should train their teams in quality processes, tools, and templates and continuously communicate lessons learned for process and product improvement.
Application in Diverse Environments
Use in organizations of different maturity levels
Mature organizations recognize the need for quality management, and they achieve better outcomes when they plan, establish, and continuously review and act on quality outcomes. Opportunity and proposal organizations must meet or exceed service expectations (win rates, opportunity rates) while working as efficiently as possible with limited resources and constrained schedules. Consistent, repeatable, quality processes drive efficiency, effectiveness, and improvements to services and products.
While maturity may vary, all sizes of opportunity and proposal organizations can and should make a commitment to quality management if they want to achieve quality outcomes. Studies have shown that an organization’s size impacts its ability to measure quality metrics. Although large and small companies are similarly focused on achieving customer satisfaction, small companies often don’t have the budget to capture, track, and analyze data to the extent that large companies do.
However, committing to opportunity and proposal quality and gradually progressing through the Business Development Capability Maturity Model (BD-CMM) makes it possible for companies of all sizes to improve quality management and, ultimately, bid outcomes.
Adherence to industrywide quality standards
With shrinking bid and proposal (B&P) budgets in today’s competitive environment, companies must establish and enforce quality management to survive. World-class companies make opportunity and proposal quality management part of their larger quality framework. For example, companies certified by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) often incorporate opportunity and proposal quality into the ISO-certified Quality Management System.
Opportunity and proposal organizations are seeking to adopt industry best practices for quality management. Some commonly adopted quality-management best practices include the following:
- BD-CMM. Standardization and maturation of processes, tools, and templates as promulgated by the BD-CMM. BD-CMM provides a framework for managing and improving the quality of BD processes. It incorporates five levels of BD organizational maturity with corresponding quality measures. It focuses on improving quality results: the capability to win more opportunities, at greater contract values, while minimizing the cost of winning, while creating a sustainable culture of business winning amid increased competition.
- PMBOK. Tracking of variance against baseline schedule and budget as recommended by Project Management Institute’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). The PMBOK’s quality focus is centered on satisfaction of customer requirements, which is certainly applicable to proposal quality management. PMBOK offers a variety of techniques for measuring adherence to schedule and budget. It incorporates the PDCA cycle and is compatible with ISO. Many companies use the PMBOK schedule and cost variance as one measure of quality processes.
- ISO. Quality and compliance audits and checks as required by ISO. Mature companies often seek ISO 9001:2008 certification to demonstrate their commitment to quality. The ISO 9000 family addresses various aspects of quality management to ensure that products and services consistently meet customer requirements and that quality is continually improved. ISO 9001:2008 provides the requirements of a quality management system, which can be tailored to incorporate opportunity and proposal quality.
- Continual Service Improvement (CSI). CSI is based on the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) approach to achieving customer satisfaction through consistent service delivery. CSI offers a mechanism to measure and improve service levels, technology, and efficiency and effectiveness of processes used in the overall management of services. CSI principles are applicable to improving opportunity and proposal organizational quality.
- DMAICT. Based on Six Sigma or Lean principles. This approach uses data and statistical analysis to measure and improve operational performance by identifying and eliminating defects in opportunity and proposal service-related processes:
- D – Define opportunity
- M – Measure performance
- A – Analyze opportunity
- I – Improve performance
- C – Control performance and (optionally)
- T – Transfer best practice to other areas of the organization
Another recent trend is to integrate quality management with enterprise quality management software (EQMS) systems that help standardize, simplify, and centralize traditional, manual quality processes. EQMSs improve communication and collaboration for effectively sharing metrics data within an enterprise and across locations. Cloud-based applications make such solutions economical for even smaller companies.
Common Pitfalls and Misconceptions
Quality management means inflexibility
A common misconception is that quality management is rigid and diminishes flexibility to respond to other constraints such as time, personnel resources, and budget. Actually, quality management helps ensure scalability of processes up and down, as well as agility to respond to a changing environment. Quality management provides a foundation to tailor quality processes to each opportunity and proposal circumstance.
Quality management means starting from scratch
Some B&P professionals mistakenly believe that establishing quality management means starting from ground zero. Proposal and opportunity organizations should not reinvent the wheel. Borrowing from industry best practices detailed previously provides a good starting point.
Quality management is too expensive
Some believe that it is too expensive and time consuming to establish quality management systems. In fact, quality management helps opportunity and proposal teams perform more efficiently and effectively toward the desired outcome of winning bid, thus saving money. Repeatable practices reduce error and rework, resulting in greater ROI.
- Quality management is focused on achieving the opportunity and proposal organization’s desired outcomes, such as winning bid, increasing opportunity ratios, improving ROI, and/or decreasing errors.
- Quality planning, quality assurance, quality control, and continuous improvement are all necessary parts of the quality management framework.
- Best practices in quality management abound and can be tailored to the opportunity and proposal environment.
- Quality management is a continuous cycle, incorporating lessons learned and innovations to efficiently and effectively improve services and products.