Federal Proposal Writing — In-House or Outsourced?
Russell Smith | November 28, 2018
Every government contractor faces the question: Do we use in-house staff or outsource our Federal proposal writing to consultants?
During the past 30 years, I have seen companies keep the work entirely in-house or entirely outsource it to Federal Proposal consultants.
The following factors may help you decide what is best for your company:
1. Business development goals
2. Flow of incoming RFPs
3. Availability of in-house personnel
4. Relative cost
Business Development Goals
Typically, the more aggressive the business development goals the greater the need to outsource the Federal proposal writing. If a company has large growth goals — 40 percent or more — it is usually not possible to handle Federal proposal writing successfully in-house.
Evenness of Proposal Flow
The granularity of bids is probably the key factor. A company bidding a large number of smaller contracts may be able to handle the work in-house. A company bidding a few large programs probably needs to outsource.
Typically, life in the federal proposal shop is a constant cycle of peaks and valleys.
Availability of Skills Needed
Most firms maintain a group of full-time federal proposal professionals, and they augment first with talent drawn from other in-house groups . . . then with consultants.
The more manageable situation is to use in-house Federal proposal writer talent, because those personnel are usually under the direct control of the proposal group manager. A more difficult situation is finding available talent for the technical solution. In-house technical personnel often have conflicting priorities such as working on site.
Selecting the Best Federal Proposal Consulting Group
The problem of selecting the most effective proposal group is critical, considering the potential to gain a competitive advantage.
What to Look for When Hiring a Federal Proposal Consultant Group
• Quality – An excellent track record, whether providing a single consultant or a team of 20.
• Cost – Competitive price.
• Depth –Sufficient quantity of talent in the skill categories needed.
• Reputation – A reputation for providing responsive service.
• Process –The readiness to either use the customer’s proposal process or provide a sufficiently robust process.
• Personality –The capability to provide consultants who are compatible with the corporate culture.
Due to peak and valley situations, nearly all companies are driven to us a mix of personnel drawn from the proposal group, the ops groups, and consultant firms. Based on financial analysis, it is possible to estimate what mix is best.
In the post Sequestration era, outsourcing remains strong. Nearly all federal bidders maintain some type of permanent proposal staff – in one-contract divisions, maybe as little as a Coordinator.
A more common behavior is to maintain the staff needed to pursue one proposal at a time. Mid size firms sometimes maintain enough staff to work more than one proposal. And a few larger firms still maintain departments of 20 or 30.
The issue of what to outsource and what to keep in-house is a never-ending problem. I’ve seen companies develop their proposals entirely in-house for five years, and then outsource for the next five years. Making a decision is often as much of an art as a science, and it depends heavily on a company’s business development strategy.
Companies may be able to grow faster by using outside assistance to bid proposals that really matter.