How to Overcome the Challenges of Virtual Proposal Teams
Successful proposals rely on close collaboration. In an ideal world, teams are assigned full-time to work on proposals, sitting in the same room, working on many projects consecutively. This removes barriers to communication and eliminates the distraction of other duties and assignments.
Before collaborative technology took off in the last ten years or so, it was much more common to see these dedicated teams working full-time on proposal efforts, collocated in war rooms, solving problems, developing solutions, and marching forward together until the proposal was submitted. However, in today’s world, we see this scenario far less frequently.
Today’s reality is that many times the proposal group is spread out over different rooms, locations, and even time zones. This makes it so easy for team members to avoid collaboration and work in silos. And when the team is not assigned full-time, individuals are forced to divide their attention between multiple projects and tasks, creating additional challenges. This week we’ll look at strategies to overcome these key challenges associated with managing virtual proposal teams.
1. Leverage Collaboration Software
When working with virtual teams, it’s critical to leverage collaboration software and tools, including collaboration portals, telephone and/or video conferencing, and chat applications.
Collaboration Portal: You’ll want to establish a repository for files and data that organizes and secures data to replicate the tools and controls provided by a centrally located team. Companies are increasingly turning to applications such as SharePoint, Privia, Virtual Proposal Center (VPC), and even JIRA to facilitate management of the large volume of files and data. The collaboration portal is used for writer collaboration, color reviews, and final production. These collaborative software applications also include features for version control. Since team members post files from remote locations, you should be sure to establish and clearly name file libraries, directories, and security profiles early in the proposal process.
Telephone and/or Video Conferencing: Teleconferences and/or video conferences are also important in virtual proposals since they help bring the team together. To make sure these tools are used effectively, you should establish teleconferencing and video conferencing protocols and ensure that all proposal team members understand related expectations.
Chat Applications: Chat applications are a great way to help dispersed team members collaborate quickly and effectively. Ensuring that all team members actively log into and use the company’s preferred chat application can help facilitate more frequent and effective collaboration among the team.
2. Train the Team on Collaboration Tools and Expectations
Having the right tools is the first step in helping your virtual teams to succeed; however, virtual proposal development will only work if the team members understand how to operate in the virtual environment. Team members must be trained on the use of collaborative software, coordination expectations, and proposal procedures before the team begins using the system. This is essential to maintaining configuration control while providing an environment conducive to collaboration. Even if team members claim to have used the collaboration tools before, it is helpful to provide refresher training to go over key processes and features.
3. Establish a Regular Cadence
Stand-up calls become even more critical when managing a virtual proposal team. Make sure to pick a time that is convenient for all participants, keeping in mind any impacts varied time zones will have. Keep the stand-ups short, focusing on any capture updates, upcoming milestones, outstanding action items, brief section statuses, and any author roadblocks.
Make sure authors are uploading their drafts to the collaborative site nightly so you can check on the progress and make sure the development is on track with your established schedule. If you notice any issues with content or rate of progress, you can reach out to authors to help them address the problems before they negatively impact a color team review, or worse, final production.
4. Encourage Cross Reading
Another common problem with virtual teams is that it is so easy for authors to avoid communicating. This leads to sections that are developed in silos, which can result in inconsistencies across the proposal sections. I always encourage cross-reading with my proposal teams, but when my teams are virtual, I usually include formal cross-reading assignments that occur in conjunction with the Pink Team and Red Team reviews. This pushes authors to identify areas where their sections are inconsistent with other sections and collaborate with each other to drive updates to the Style Guide and/or Wall of Truth.
With virtual proposal teams, we face challenges associated with communication, collaboration, and consistency. However, there are ways we can tackle these challenges head on. We can leverage collaboration software, train our team on tools and expectations, establish a regular communications cadence, and encourage cross reading. By remaining disciplined and agile, we can overcome the hurdles associated with virtual proposal teams and still find success in our opportunity pursuit processes.
Written by Ashley Kayes, CP APMP
Senior Proposal Consultant, AOC Key Solutions, Inc. (KSI)