RFP-Proposal – VisibleThread https://www.visiblethread.com Document & Web Content Analysis Solutions Tue, 19 Jun 2018 11:04:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 https://www.visiblethread.com/wp-content/uploads/cropped-VT-Ico-W-32x32.jpg RFP-Proposal – VisibleThread https://www.visiblethread.com 32 32 VisibleThread Docs 3.0 what’s new https://www.visiblethread.com/2018/03/visiblethread-docs-3-0-whats-new/ https://www.visiblethread.com/2018/03/visiblethread-docs-3-0-whats-new/#comments Wed, 28 Mar 2018 16:45:16 +0000 https://www.visiblethread.com/?p=15560 VisibleThread Docs 3.0 what’s new NOTE: May 15, 2018 - The VT Docs 3.0 update pack is now available for on-premise customers with up to date subscriptions. Contact support@visiblethread.com for instructions and download links. Our latest VT Docs 3.0 release has many extensions that we think you’ll love. In this post, I’ll give a full overview of ...

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VisibleThread Docs 3.0 what’s new

NOTE: May 15, 2018 - The VT Docs 3.0 update pack is now available for on-premise customers with up to date subscriptions. Contact support@visiblethread.com for instructions and download links.

Our latest VT Docs 3.0 release has many extensions that we think you’ll love. In this post, I’ll give a full overview of what’s new.

Here are some of the head-line new capabilities:

  • Revamped UI and Navigation System
  • Support for sub-folders
  • Excel Compare
  • Bulk import/export from Readability Whitelist

The release also includes many performance improvements, tweaks and bug fixes to existing features. Read on to get full detail.

Revamped UI and Navigation System

In VisibleThread Docs 3.0, we have introduced a new navigation sidebar. This sidebar provides easy access to your Folders, Dictionaries and Account Settings.

The Home screen provides quick insights to usage levels and recent activity on your account.

The Folders area contains all your folders and documents. In here we have added ‘Quick actions’ menus to provide easy access to common tasks at each level.

The Dictionaries area contains all your dictionaries and structure outlines.

In our new ‘Help’ area you will find links to all our videos and documentation in one place.

Finally the Settings area is the place to go the modify any of your account settings, including Thresholds, Whitelists etc.

Support for sub-folders

VisibleThread Docs 3.0 provides support for nested sub-folders. This allows for easier grouping and categorization of related documents. For example you might create a top level folder for an RFP or contract. And then create sub-folders to group all issuing side documents or response documents together. Or you might also use sub-folders to organize your pink, red or gold team review documents.

Creating sub-folders is straightforward. Click the ‘Create New Folder’ action from the Quick Actions menu in the folders area, or click on the ‘Create New Folder’ option on the toolbar or from the right click menu.

 

Moving items between sub-folders is really easy. Just drag and drop documents or folders into the destination folder. If you prefer to use the menu system, you can also move items by accessing the ‘Move Folder’ or ‘Move Document’ menu items from the Quick Actions or right click menus.

Excel Compare

The VisibleThread document compare engine now supports Excel Workbooks. This feature allows you to identify changes between revisions of Excel Workbooks.

To try it out, upload two revisions of a workbook to a folder, and click on the ‘Compare Excel’ button.

 

Compare Excel Mega Button

 

Compare Excel Summary Results

 

Compare Excel Detailed Sheet Comparison

Bulk import/export from Readability Whitelist

In VisibleThread Docs 2.14 we introduced a whitelist of terms for Readability. This allows you specify words or phrases to exclude from our Readability and Complex Word detection algorithms. You can now export this whitelist to a csv text file for archiving or sharing with other teams. You can also import terms from a a csv text file into your  Readability whitelist. This means you can make bulk changes in Microsoft Excel, save as a csv file and then import into VisibleThread Docs.

 

Miscellaneous changes

Auto-numbering of documents on upload

You can now upload the same document multiple times to a folder. If a document with the same name already exists in the folder, we’ll append a unique number to it. This makes it easy to upload the same document to a VisibleThread folder without having to explicitly rename it prior to upload. Very useful if you want to use different search dictionaries against an RFP or contract for example.

Tweaks to exports

You can now export the theme list from the folder level and document level discovery views.

We enhanced the folder level concept export to allow you export ‘all content’ and not just matching content.

Both these enhancements have been regular feature requests from customers.

Performance improvements

We have improved how we handle large document uploads and the generation of very large exports. In previous versions these might lead to misleading error messages or cancelled downloads due to browser timeouts. We rectified these issues in this release.

We hope you enjoy these improvements.

Note on Availability for On-Premise customers: This release is already available for cloud customers. Just sign in and you’ll be able to use it. For on-premise customers, we’re currently going through extensive testing and quality assurance cycles. We expect it to be available for on-premise customers in May.

Eoin Wren,

VP Engineering and Support.

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Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and VisibleThread present APMP Chesapeake Webinar on Automation https://www.visiblethread.com/2017/05/northrop-grumman-general-dynamics-it-and-visiblethread-at-apmp-chesapeake-chapter-webinar/ Tue, 16 May 2017 15:12:33 +0000 http://www.visiblethread.com/?p=13185 Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and VisibleThread present APMP Chesapeake Webinar on Automation   Thursday May 25th 2017 at 1:00pm EDT APMP Chesapeake Chapter will conduct a webinar demonstration of Automation Support for the Proposal Development Process. The panel will include Tracy Vitmer (Northrop Grumman), Eric Johnson (GDIT – General Dynamics Information Technology) and Fergal McGovern (VisibleThread). ...

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Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and VisibleThread present APMP Chesapeake Webinar on Automation

 

Thursday May 25th 2017 at 1:00pm EDT APMP Chesapeake Chapter will conduct a webinar demonstration of Automation Support for the Proposal Development Process. The panel will include Tracy Vitmer (Northrop Grumman), Eric Johnson (GDIT – General Dynamics Information Technology) and Fergal McGovern (VisibleThread).

With limited resources, severe time constraints and a largely manual process, proposal teams have many challenges. However, the future of proposal development is starting to take shape. Advanced software technology now automates much of the compliance, comparison and review activities within the proposal development process.

During the webinar the panel will discuss:

  • Shredding RFPs and contracts in minutes and compare documents in seconds
  • Generating a compliance and responsibility matrix
  • Speeding up proofing and editing tasks for readability improvement
  • Using language dictionaries to assist with aligning your win themes
  • Identifying Federal Acquisition Requirements and flow-down clauses

To attend this webinar, you must first register by clicking on the registration link below. Once you’ve registered, you will receive an email confirming your registration and the information that you need to join the event.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Even if you can’t join the Webinar on May 25, register and you’ll receive a link to the on-demand webinar!


What is Chesapeake Chapter?

Located in and serving the central Maryland area, Chesapeake Chapter members are proposal and business development professionals engaged in a wide range of activities including:

  • Business development and acquisition
  • Competitive intelligence
  • Capture management
  • Strategic planning
  • Proposal management
  • Proposal consulting
  • Proposal production
  • Program management

INFO: www.apmpcc.com.

 


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Why Poorly Executed RFPs Create a Severe Financial Burden for Agencies https://www.visiblethread.com/2016/12/why-poorly-executed-rfps-create-a-severe-financial-burden-for-agencies/ Mon, 19 Dec 2016 18:22:17 +0000 http://www.visiblethread.com/?p=12014 Why Poorly Executed RFPs Create a Severe Financial Burden for Agencies   Our CEO, Fergal McGovern wrote about ‘Why Poorly Executed RFPs Create a Severe Financial Burden for Agencies’. His article appeared in the December edition of the NCMA (National Contract Management Association) magazine. Government contract procurement documents generally reflect a poor quality of writing, ...

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Why Poorly Executed RFPs Create a Severe Financial Burden for Agencies

 

Why-Poorly-Executed-RFPs-Create-a-Severe-Financial-Burden-for-AgenciesOur CEO, Fergal McGovern wrote about ‘Why Poorly Executed RFPs Create a Severe Financial Burden for Agencies’. His article appeared in the December edition of the NCMA (National Contract Management Association) magazine. Government contract procurement documents generally reflect a poor quality of writing, although the quality varies from agency to agency. Detailed analysis from major Fed programs in 2016.

READ THE ARTICLE

 

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VisibleThread for Docs 2.13 now available https://www.visiblethread.com/2016/11/visiblethread-for-docs-2-13-now-available/ Sun, 06 Nov 2016 21:49:58 +0000 http://www.visiblethread.com/?p=11880 VisibleThread for Docs 2.13 now available Eoin here, VisibleThread head of engineering and support. Our new 2.13 release of VisibleThread for Documents is now available and ready for download for on-premise customers. This release is already live for cloud customers. In this blog post, I will provide a quick summary of what’s new in this ...

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VisibleThread for Docs 2.13 now available

Eoin here, VisibleThread head of engineering and support. Our new 2.13 release of VisibleThread for Documents is now available and ready for download for on-premise customers. This release is already live for cloud customers. In this blog post, I will provide a quick summary of what’s new in this release and will provide a quick peek at some of the new capabilities. For a complete list of what’s new, download the 2.13 Release Notes PDF.

The highlights include:

  • New Document Compare capability – find all text changes between two revisions of a document
  • New Responsibility Matrix capability
  • Enhancements to Clear Language
    • Export Clear Language issues to Excel
    • Excel Folder Level Clear Language view to PDF
    • Customize Clear Language exports to show/hide different metrics (e.g. don’t show Long Words)
  • Export an Annotated Word Document from Quality Analysis, Concept Tracking and Clear Language
  • Move Documents to a different folder
  • Improved dictionary performance

For on-premise customers: to get access to the release check out the support forum entry http://support.visiblethread.com/hc/en-us/articles/215067566-VisibleThread-2-13-on-premise-upgrade-instructions It tells you how to update your installation and the mechanics of getting 2.13

New Document Compare Capability

The Document Compare report allows you to view all changes between two revisions of a document (Word or PDF). Use cases for this include:

  • Checking for differences between a draft and final RFP
  • Analyzing a revised contract for changes
  • Looking for proposal text that was removed during the editing cycle to meet page limits

 

 

Export Annotated Word Document

The Annotated Word Doc exports an exact copy of your uploaded Word document using Word’s in built comment mechanism to highlight issues in the document. This can be used to highlight Quality or Concept dictionary matches, or Clear Language issues.

plannotations

Responsibility Matrix

2.13 sees the introduction of a new ‘Responsibility Matrix’ This feature allows you to assign responsibilities to specific teams, companies, or individuals. It is similar to the Compliance Matrix, but the Responsibility Matrix allows for more specific shredding of a contract post-award.

 

Version 2.13 has more more new capability. For a complete list of what’s new download the 2.13 Release Notes PDF.

Need more information, have some questions?

No problem, email us at support@visiblethread.com and we will be happy to help!

 

If you want to try VisibleThread Docs sign up here for a 7-day free trial


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Why MS Word Compare does not work for Contracts Teams https://www.visiblethread.com/2016/09/why-ms-word-compare-does-not-work-for-contracts-teams/ Tue, 20 Sep 2016 04:07:49 +0000 http://www.visiblethread.com/?p=11589 Why MS Word Compare does not work for Contracts Teams We work with a lot of contracts teams. When a new contract revision lands, job one is to identify any material changes between the last version and this one. Contract managers use MS Word and Adobe Pro Compare for this job. But they’re not working. Depending ...

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Why MS Word Compare does not work for Contracts Teams

We work with a lot of contracts teams. When a new contract revision lands, job one is to identify any material changes between the last version and this one. Contract managers use MS Word and Adobe Pro Compare for this job. But they’re not working.

Depending on contract size, it can take hours to compile a summary report showing ‘material changes’. There is a better way.


How it works today – use MS Word compare

When the final version of the 120-page PDF contract drops on your desk, what do you do?

  • You convert the PDF to MS Word, (or just use Adobe Pro compare directly if you have it.)
  • You fire up the ‘Compare’ function in either MS Word or Adobe Pro.
  • Then start from page 1, reviewing each change in the visual compare pane. In MS Word, it looks something like this:
  • Compare View in MS Word
  • If the change is non-trivial, you log it in a separate spreadsheet (or Word doc) for review.
  • You review all changes, ignoring things like spelling corrections or punctuation changes. You carefully note any material differences.

This all takes time. MS Word presents all changes identically, so you spend a fair amount of mental energy categorizing whether the change is a simple spell fix or a more substantial change affecting the contract. You could easily spend several hours on this process, especially for larger documents.


Is there a better way?

Let’s take a different approach. Let’s call this ‘Text Diff’. And for this, we’ll use VisibleThread Docs. Here’s what we do:

  1. Upload up your PDF or Word Docs & click ‘Compare Docs’
  2. Select the docs and launch the compare report (displayed in Excel). Here’s what you see:

VisibleThread Compare

In this example, we’re comparing two PDFs. Red means change, dark blue means no change.

Really easy to see changes on both sides of the fence with no confusing 3rd pane. Really easy to see where the more material changes occur. The more red there is, the more likely this change requires close attention. And it’s really easy to skim through this report by scrolling in Excel.


A difference in Philosophy

There are 2 core problems with ‘Visual Compare’ in MS Word:

1.) Designed for Merge
MS Word is designed for Merging. MS Word (and Adobe Pro  for that matter) show differences with a view to merging both versions. Contract Managers do want to easily see the differences, but not with an intent to resolve them into 1 file.
2.) Handles all differences equally
When reviewing changes, contract managers are really on the lookout for these kinds of changes;
  • Financial Terms, including; indemnification clauses, bond clauses, pricing changes etc,
  • Delivery Terms, including; time frame, performance criteria etc,
  • Conflict of Interest Terms, including supplier relationships etc,
  • Intellectual Property Terms, Privacy Terms, the list goes on.

They pay little attention to grammar or typographical changes. Yet the visual compare in MS Word shows all changes in an equal way. It means you have to do a second pass on the differences and somehow note those. This ‘visual parsing’ places a high cognitive burden on the user. And takes time.


Why is ‘Text Diff’ better?

Here’s why:

  1. Faster: You have a workable report in Excel in seconds. Compare that to the manual equivalent in Word which could take hours.
  2. Visually easier to see changes on both sides: You can easily see changes in both documents simultaneously without the visual overload you get in MS Word.
  3. The right format: Since the report is in Excel, it’s really simple to add new columns which allow you prioritize change or write notes for team review.

Summary Takeaways

In summary:

  1. Contract and Proposal Managers frequently need to see revision changes in documents.
  2. MS Word (or Adobe Pro) is freely available in most corporate environments, so we use the compare solution.
  3. MS Word and Adobe Pro are designed for merging differences into a single doc. Contract Managers want to easily see the differences only. They do not want to merge them into 1 file.
  4. Visual Compare in MS Word places a high cognitive burden on the user.
  5. Using a ‘Text Diff’ report (in VisibleThread Docs or another solution) provides a faster, more intuitive and flexible way to compare docs.

 

Bottom-line; we all have MS Word in our corporate environments, so we continue to use an imperfect tool for the job! And that’s costing everyone hours. There is a better and faster way.


If you want to try VisibleThread Docs compare for yourself, sign up here for a 7-day free trial


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Quality Proposals = More Wins https://www.visiblethread.com/2016/04/quality-proposal-more-wins/ Tue, 26 Apr 2016 12:15:01 +0000 http://www.visiblethread.com/?p=10009 Quality Proposals = More Wins   This is a blog post by our good friend Mike Parkinson, CPP APMP Fellow. Mike shares some thoughts on the importance of delivering quality proposals. ——— The quality of your proposal is indicative of the quality of your solution. Decision makers and evaluators instinctively choose solution providers, in part, ...

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Quality Proposals = More Wins

 

This is a blog post by our good friend Mike Parkinson, CPP APMP Fellow. Mike shares some thoughts on the importance of delivering quality proposals.
———

The quality of your proposal is indicative of the quality of your solution. Decision makers and evaluators instinctively choose solution providers, in part, based on clarity, compliance, and professionalism. A professional proposal tells decision makers that they are important and you spent time improving your submission (and the solution). It speaks to the quality of support your organization will provide.

This is true for commercial and government proposals around the world. As long as humans are involved, the quality of the proposal will be one of five key factors when picking a winner. It’s no secret. For example, in a large government RFP from the U.S., the first bolded paragraph under the “Instructions to Offerors” reads:

 

“Offerors are cautioned that the Government considers the overall form and substance of their proposal to represent the general quality of work expected to be performed under this contract. Accordingly, it will be considered throughout the review and scoring/evaluation process.”

 

— Bid referenced FAA AIMM (DTFAWA-13-R-00020), Section L.6.0.

Although common knowledge among proposal professionals, the above example is one of the few times this factor has been formally stated in an RFP.

Think about your buying habits. Do you buy only from trusted vendors and stores? Research proves that people buy from people (and organizations) they trust. When making a buying decision, you trust they will deliver a quality product, service, or experience. The quality of the solution provider’s materials, office, store, and/or staff helps you determine if they will meet your expectations. Perceived professionalism, based upon the quality of the proposal, intrinsically transfers to the solution and the solution provider. All content we deliver to decision makers must support our professionalism to build trust with them. No trust, no win.

Imagine receiving two proposals—both with the same solution. Proposal A is professional, clear, and compelling. Proposal B is unprofessional, noncompliant, confusing, and riddled with errors. Experimentation and experience proves the first proposal is more likely to win. What if Proposal A was priced higher? Again, research proves the higher quality proposal is more likely to win.

quality proposal

There are five critical success factors when choosing a winning proposal: quality, price, sales, reputation, and proof. By far, quality is the easiest to accomplish. Use experienced proposal professionals and proven tools on your next bid, and you will improve the likelihood of winning.

 

THE AUTHOR

Mike Parkinson, CPP APMP Fellow, is an internationally recognized visual communications guru, solutions and proposal expert, and professional trainer. He is a partner and head of marketing at 24 Hour Company (24hrco.com) specializing in bid-winning proposal graphics. His Billion Dollar Graphics website (BillionDollarGraphics.com) shares best practices and helpful tools with professionals.

Contact Mike at mike@24hrco.com or call 703-533-7209.


Do you want to increase your win rate? Try VisibleThread Docs! Sign up here for a 7-day free trial


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How to extract FAR clauses from RFPs in under 3 minutes https://www.visiblethread.com/2016/04/how-to-automatically-extract-far-clauses-from-rfps-in-under-3-minutes/ Mon, 11 Apr 2016 11:12:02 +0000 http://www.visiblethread.com/?p=9900 How to extract FAR clauses from RFPs in under 3 minutes   If you’re a proposal manager, contracts manager or program manager working US federal programs, you’ll know the importance of the FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulations) and DFAR (Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations). You need to carefully review certain FAR / DFAR clauses for compliance, especially ...

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How to extract FAR clauses from RFPs in under 3 minutes

 

If you’re a proposal manager, contracts manager or program manager working US federal programs, you’ll know the importance of the FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulations) and DFAR (Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations).

FAR 1You need to carefully review certain FAR / DFAR clauses for compliance, especially those concerning OCI (Organisational Conflict of Interest), Security and Intellectual Property.

Prime contractors also need to manage any flow down clauses that apply to sub-contractors. Equally, sub-contractors need to clearly understand what flow-down clauses apply to them.

So contract managers and program managers manually comb through and review the FAR clauses. A very time consuming, but critical process. This applies after contract award when the contract kicks off, but also during the proposal process.

To help the process, most contract managers create a type of FAR requirements matrix, often using a spreadsheet. This allows them to track compliance with the FAR mandates. It also helps manage the various stakeholders or functional groups delivering the program. The FAR requirements matrix is a critical tool. It often dovetails into a responsibility matrix, sometimes called a RACI matrix.

Recently we noticed something interesting. Some of our customers were using VisibleThread Docs to automatically create the FAR matrix using VisibleThread custom dictionaries. They used dictionaries to search for specific FAR and DFAR clause numbers.

Now this was a really interesting use case, so we were curious.

    1. How are FAR clauses checked?
    2. Can these checks be automated & what are our customers doing?
    3. What kind of time savings can you expect for automatic extraction?

In this blog post, I’ll share what we found. If you’re a contracts manager, program manager or proposal manager, you’ll find it interesting.

How are FAR/DFAR clauses checked?

First, a little context; many FAR clauses are standard and tend not to change. These are typically pretty easy to identify as they have a fairly uniform structure in the RFP paperwork.

However, contractors pay particular attention to certain clauses including;

  • Conflict of Interest FAR clauses,
  • IP (Intellectual Property) FAR clauses,
  • Security related FAR clauses.

These same considerations apply for DFARs too.

Extracting OCI (Organisational Conflict of Interest) FAR clauses

The FAR is large currently numbering 672 different clauses. So, for the sake of explaining how to automate the extraction, we’ll focus on a subset of the FAR, those clauses that are related to OCI. There are 15 of those.

The FAR breaks OCI concerns into 3 broad categories; biased ground rules, impaired objectivity and unequal access to information. An example of biased ground rules might be if the contractor had some part in writing or influencing the statement of work. For more detailed examples, see here.

And to give a sense here are some of the specific FAR clauses for OCI:

FAR 2

For the full list of the 15 OCI clauses go here: https://www.acquisition.gov/far/html/Subpart%209_5.html

How to scan multiple documents for OCI clauses?

So, back to our original question; can we automatically extract FAR clauses from RFPs in under 3 minutes?

Absolutely, here’s how. We just need to create a ‘dictionary’ of search terms that reflect specific FAR clause numbers. Then we can run it against a collection of docs. Here’s the result in the case of the 15 OCI clauses:

FAR 3

In the example above, we analyzed 7 different docs. We searched for OCI terms like ‘9.501’, ‘9.502’ and so on. This ‘birds eye’ view means we can instantly see the location of the FAR clauses across not just one doc, but a collection of docs. That’s pretty powerful.

Here’s what we can immediately infer in this case:

  • 5 of the 7 docs contain FAR references. The numbers show frequency of occurrence for each doc.
  • We can see which docs have which particular FAR clauses. For instance, I’ve flagged in red an RFP that has a total of 9 occurrences. This comprises 3 references to 9.505-1, 2 to 9.505-2 etc.
  • 2 of the 7 docs contain no FAR clauses at all.
  • On the other axis, certain FAR clauses did not show anywhere in the 7 docs. These missing clauses include; 9.501, 9.502, 9.504 etc.

So far so good. We can now easily see which of the 7 docs contain specific FAR terms. Next, how do we extract those clauses from the doc itself to arrive at our FAR Matrix?

Extracting the OCI Clauses to a Matrix

For this, we use the same dictionary but this time, point it at the doc only. This view shows the specific occurrences of the OCI related FAR clauses and shows the content in the doc too.

FAR 4

As you can see, this view lists every paragraph where the clause occurs by page. The FAR number is highlighted using color-coding for easy recognition.

We’re almost there, we just need to get this into excel form. So, just click ‘Export to Excel’ and you have a FAR matrix. Here’s what that output looks like. It’s very similar to the previous view except it’s an Excel spreadsheet. This provides a lot of flexibility since you can easily add new control columns or sort/slice the data.

FAR 5

What about the rest of the FAR & the DFAR?

Can we generalise this approach to the rest of the FAR and DFAR? Certainly, let’s see how.

Here’s the same view as before showing the collection of 7 docs.

The only difference is that this time we’re using a much bigger dictionary of search terms. This full FAR dictionary contains all 672 FAR clauses.

FAR 6

The really nice thing is that we were able to switch the dictionaries with just 1 click, clicking ‘Use different dictionary’. And exactly like our OCI example, we can analyze a collection of documents OR deep dive into a specific doc and extract the FAR matrix for that doc too.

Here, for example, is a snippet of the Excel output when we apply this full FAR dictionary to our prior RFP example.

FAR 7

What kind of Time Savings can you expect?

The single biggest advantage when automating this extraction process is time savings. Let’s quantify that.

Here are the steps you take when extracting manually:

  • Step 1: Open the doc in PDF or MS Word
  • Step 2: Search for the specific FAR clause using standard ‘find’.
  • Step 3: Check if there are any hits. If there are, then copy and paste the relevant paragraph of text into the spreadsheet.
  • Step 4: Repeat step 2 & 3 until you’ve checked all the FAR clauses.

Time Savings Scenario 1: Checking 15 OCI clauses

So let’s assume you have the OCI clause list that we referenced before. You need to search for 15 specific OCI terms; including ‘9.501’, ‘9.502’ etc. Then if you see hits, you need to copy/paste to the FAR matrix. The RFP that we analyzed previously had 106 pages and 5 of the 15 terms had hits.

Time taken =

  • Step 2: 15 x 30 seconds = 5 minutes (450 secs) . Assumes it takes 30 seconds to enter the term and determine if there are occurrences or not.
  • Step 3: 5 x 2 minutes = 10 minutes. Assumes it takes 2 minutes to identify and copy/paste the various clauses found for each FAR term.

This gives us a total of 17.5 minutes for a single 106-page doc with just 15 terms to check.

With the automated approach, steps 2 and 3 took 1 minute. Recall that we found 5 terms occurring in the doc immediately and at a single click we had the output in a spreadsheet.

So for this scenario, it’s:

17.5 minutes (for manual) vs. 1 minute (for automated).

Time Savings Scenario 2: Checking 672 FAR clauses

Using the same approach as scenario 1 but this time with the full FAR, it’s a lot more time consuming. For our 106 page RFP doc, we had 155 hits, and we need to check for 672 FAR clauses.

So, here’s how our calculations play out.

Time taken =

  • Step 2: 672 x 30 seconds = 336 minutes or 5.6 hours (20,160 secs) . Assumes it takes 30 seconds to enter the term and determine if there are occurrences or not.
  • Step 3: 155 x 2 minutes = 310 minutes or 5.1 hours. Assumes it takes 2 minutes to identify and copy/paste the various clauses found for each FAR term. NOTE: 155 of the 672 clauses had hits.

This gives us a total of 646 minutes or 10.76 hours for this 106-page doc.

If we use the automated approach then steps 2 and 3 become extremely fast. In our case, in fact, it was 2 minutes. We were able to extract in the output to a spreadsheet in a single click.

So for this 2nd scenario, it’s:
10.76 hours (for manual) vs. 2 minutes (for automated).

The value of reliably extracting the full content is that it dramatically shortcuts the time-consuming copy/paste process to populate the FAR spreadsheet.

—–

Takeaways:

  • FAR and DFAR clauses are critical to track.
  • Contract and Program Managers often create FAR matrices.
  • Creating this kind of matrix is critical but very time-consuming.
  • You can automate the extraction process and save days per contract, without any risk of missing requirements.

I hope this post was helpful. Good luck with your contracts.

 

Acknowledgments: I am very grateful to a number of 3rd parties who helped my understanding of the FAR and clarified many of the challenges for contract managers. In particular, big thanks to Maxine Tolbert of SBC Solutions, Carl Gouaux of CWG and associates, Melissa Howell of Government Acquisitions and Bridget Anderson of Deltek. Thanks guys for your insights.

 


Do you want to extract FAR clauses from RFPs in under 3 minutes? TRY VisibleThread Docs. Sign up here for a 7-day free trial


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How to lose a $100m bid – in 3 simple steps https://www.visiblethread.com/2016/01/lose-100m-bid-3-simple-steps/ Thu, 07 Jan 2016 10:32:33 +0000 http://www.visiblethread.com/?p=9053 How to lose a $100m bid – in 3 simple steps Lack of acronym definitions, unreadable language and poor consistency will kill your pursuit. In early November 2015, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied a protest lodged by Federal Acquisition Services Alliant Joint Venture (FASA). It was connected with task order ID05140054; information technology ...

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How to lose a $100m bid – in 3 simple steps

Lack of acronym definitions, unreadable language and poor consistency will kill your pursuit.

In early November 2015, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied a protest lodged by Federal Acquisition Services Alliant Joint Venture (FASA). It was connected with task order ID05140054; information technology support for the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Information Technology Center (NITC). This Task Order was estimated to be worth $100m.

In fact, not only did FASA get eliminated but the General Services Agency (GSA) eliminated 16 of the 18 submissions as technically unacceptable. The FASA protest and the GAO determination gives us great insights into the reviewer’s mindset. For instance, the determination cited these specific issues;

“riddled with grammatical errors . . . lack of contractor vs. government identification; spelling errors; lack of acronym identification, consistency and accuracy; inconsistent reference and terminology; and punctuation errors.”

When you bid a contract, your opportunity cost can be very large. So, losing on the grounds of a poor quality proposal is painful since it is so preventable. Let’s consider some of the elements that contributed to this loss and how you can avoid them.

We use some sample copy below by way of explanation. Note these samples are not from the failed FASA submission.

Lack of Acronym Identification

Government agencies expect you to fully define every acronym in a consistent way. While it may be obvious to you, it is extremely dangerous to assume that your reviewer will understand acronyms with no definitions.

Here’s the type of copy we frequently see in proposals:

 

“Because IPTs are necessarily made up of peers from different organizational functions, both within AEES/EI and other components of FEMA shared accountability, and willingness to reach consensus, open-ended discussion and active problem solving involving the entire team is essential.”

 

Quite apart from the Acronym Soup here, this is wrong on many levels. You really wonder where to start.

But, let’s try. Begin by untangling the acronyms. IPTs were not defined in this document prior to first use, similarly AEES/EI and FEMA. Put yourself in the reviewer’s shoes. How would you feel if you saw this from one of your suppliers?

Now the good news is that spotting this kind of acronym overload is easy. For example, we run reports in VisibleThread Docs that instantly flag undefined acronyms across hundreds of pages.

Here’s an example report:

In this case, you get an alphabetized listing of every acronym along with any issues in a couple of mouse clicks. If you’re reviewing tens or hundreds of pages, the time savings are obvious.

The big takeaway from the GSAs determination is that you must check for acronym integrity. Whether you do it by hand or using tooling, you really don’t have a choice. So, just wire it into your color team process.

Proposal Readability and Clarity

Now let’s look at proposals from a clarity point of view.

Here’s what the FASA determination stated in this regard:

the agency was unable to clearly interpret a significant amount of the proposal, which was considered to “present performance risk in terms of quality control execution, which, combined with the inability to interpret the proposal in its entirety, resulted in the proposal being rendered unacceptable.”

So as you consider your own proposals, will a reviewer easily understand the content? If they can’t they will likely question your ability to deliver on the program.

A quick self test is simply to read the sentence aloud. If you need to re-read the sentence to understand it, you have a problem. Here is the previous sample again. Try reading it aloud.

 

“Because IPTs are necessarily made up of peers from different organizational functions, both within AEES/EI and other components of FEMA shared accountability, and willingness to reach consensus, open-ended discussion and active problem solving involving the entire team is essential.”

 

I have to say when I tried it, it took a couple of reads to get to grips with it. While this is just my opinion, wouldn’t it be great if we could move from a subjective, opinion based assessment to a more objective (i.e. repeatable) scoring mechanism. That would allow us apply this check in our color review process in a systematic way.

Turns out we can. And it’s not quite as tricky as you might think. We can score content using standard readability measures.

For instance, here is the same copy scored in VisibleThread Docs using various readability scores. Just to explain the blue text shows long, run-on sentences. The maroon text indicates passive voice while the scores are standard readability measures.

This reveals these immediate issues:

  1. Poor readability score – This scores 21 out of 100 on the Flesch Reading ease index and a US Grade level measure of 16. Both scores suggest that the reader must have an advanced degree level education,
  2. Sentence Length – The sentence is simply too long, multiple ideas compete for your attention. There is no coherent message,
  3. Passive voice If you use active voice instead of passive, you make clear who will be responsible and clarify your message
  4. Bloated word count – It is bloating the document word count and forcing us to omit more valuable information,
  5. High cognitive burden – This content forces the reader to read and re-read to understand it and risks disengagement.

Consistency, lack of alignment & non-compliance

The final nail in the proverbial coffin for FASA was inconsistency and non-compliance. This is a broad area and there were a number of instances of poor alignment, and consequently non-compliance. Let’s focus on one in particular; resume qualifications and the staffing plan.

Here’s one example in the GSAs determination:

…the labor category skill level descriptions in FASA’s proposal specified [DELETED] certification for the project manager labor categories proposed under CLINs 009 and 010. However, inconsistent with these descriptions, the resume of the proposed key personnel [DELETED]–who was proposed to fill a project manager labor category under CLIN 010–did not reflect [DELETED] certification.

For the sake of example, let’s assume that the certification required under CLIN 010 was PMP (Project Management Professional), a fairly typical certification held by program managers. So basically the RFP required this certification and it was not in any of the resumes submitted by the vendor.

Checking for this manually is tedious. Unfortunately, when you’re in a time crunch omissions like this can easily be overlooked. We also see similar examples around security and clearance levels such as ‘Top Secret’ or ‘TSI’.

Using software tooling, it’s really easy to spot these types of misses early.

Here’s an example where we’re searching for key capabilities across a group of resumes. It becomes obvious who has the skills we need. More importantly, we can easily see who does not!

The list on the left show capabilities we are searching for. Each column on the right is a specific individuals’ resume. Numbers and shading show occurrence and density.

This was one of a series of inconsistencies that made the proposal non-compliant in FASA’s case.

Another example of poor alignment and inconsistency was associated with the implementation plan requirements. The mandate was to specify a ‘phase-in plan’ and a ‘transition plan’ separately in the implementation plan. Again this did not happen.

Suffice to say tooling like VisibleThread Docs can slice through lots of docs and identify gaps in this area too.

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Takeaways:

  • You will get nailed for poor or non-existent acronym definitions.
  • Wire an acronym check into your color team review process. Check acronym definitions during red team review, but at the very least as part of your gold team review.
  • Readable content is very important. Simplify text by using short sentences & use active voice where possible.
  • Where sentences have multiple clauses, read them aloud. Try to restructure to have 1 concept or message per sentence.
  • Use Readability measures as a way to objectively score your documents. Specialist solutions like VisibleThread Docs work well. If you don’t have access to a dedicated solution, MS Word scores readability at document level.
  • Make sure your proposal complies with the requirements and is consistent. In particular, review the staffing and implementation plans at red and gold team stages.
  • While it may be laborious, manual checks are a must. Make the process super efficient by using tooling like VisibleThread Docs or an equivalent solution.
  • If you don’t wire these checks into your process, you dramatically increase the risk of submitting a non-compliant bid and losing.

I hope this post was helpful. Do you have any examples of compliance issues that torpedoed a proposal?

Let us know in the comments.

To see how you can instantly check acronyms, measure readability or check for consistency, sign up for a 7-day free trial of VisibleThread Docs here:



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VisibleThread Users Conference 2015 – Recordings & Slide Decks https://www.visiblethread.com/2015/10/visiblethread-user-conference-2015-slide-decks/ https://www.visiblethread.com/2015/10/visiblethread-user-conference-2015-slide-decks/#comments Thu, 29 Oct 2015 13:29:55 +0000 http://www.visiblethread.com/?p=8947 VisibleThread Users Conference 2015 – Recordings & Slide Decks   We had a really great users’ conference this year in Tysons Corner, Virginia. Bigger and better than last year with more varied use cases. Here are the recordings and slide decks from the main sessions. Session 1: Conference Keynote – Trends in the Federal Contracting ...

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VisibleThread Users Conference 2015 – Recordings & Slide Decks

 

We had a really great users’ conference this year in Tysons Corner, Virginia. Bigger and better than last year with more varied use cases.

Here are the recordings and slide decks from the main sessions.

Session 1: Conference Keynote – Trends in the Federal Contracting Marketplace for 2016

Recording

Kevin Plexico, VP Information Systems at Deltek

Kevin discussed the 2016 trends in federal procurement. Who’s spending, who’s not.

Session 2: Managing compliance from bid through execution – Noridian Healthcare

Recording

Holly Meyer, Director at Noridian Healthcare Solutions with Karin Olson Held and Jill Helb, also of Noridian

When capturing business, companies must have a strategy to assure compliance with all customer expectations.

But what happens when a company wins the work?

Session 3: Using VisibleThread for Competitive Intelligence – Milestone Systems

Recording

Keven Marier, Director, Large Account Business Development at Milestone Systems

How VisibleThread Web (aka VisibleThread Web) drives deep competitive intelligence for Milestone by analyzing competitor web sites.

Session 4: Using VisibleThread in the Proposal Workflow – General Dynamics Information Systems

Recording

Elizabeth Fake, Subject Matter Expert and Technical Writer/Editor at GDIT

Speeding up the sales proposal workflow steps by up to 40% for General Dynamics.

Session 5: Corporate Overview & Vision

Recording

Fergal McGovern, CEO VisibleThread

Fergal provides a corporate overview of VisibleThread.

Session 6: Deep dive on what’s new in VT Docs version 2.12

Recording

Eoin Wren, Head of Engineering and Support at VisibleThread

Eoin covered out a full tour of the new capability in 2.12

Session 7: How Deltek gather business Intelligence for State and Local opportunities using VisibleThread

Recording

Timothy Brett, Director, State and Local Information Services at Deltek

How Tim’s team use VisibleThread Docs to help automate many of their intelligence gathering activities. Here’s how.

If you want to try VisibleThread Docs sign up here for a 7-day free trial


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VisibleThread for Docs 2.12 now available https://www.visiblethread.com/2015/10/visiblethread-docs-2-12-now-available/ Wed, 28 Oct 2015 12:14:13 +0000 http://www.visiblethread.com/?p=8936 VisibleThread for Docs 2.12 now available Eoin here, VisibleThread head of engineering and support. Our new 2.12 release of VisibleThread for Documents is now available and ready for download for on-premise customers. This release is already live for cloud customers. In this blog post, I will provide a quick summary of what’s new in this ...

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VisibleThread for Docs 2.12 now available

Eoin here, VisibleThread head of engineering and support. Our new 2.12 release of VisibleThread for Documents is now available and ready for download for on-premise customers. This release is already live for cloud customers. In this blog post, I will provide a quick summary of what’s new in this release. For a complete list of what’s new, download the 2.12 Release Notes PDF.

The highlights include:

  • New Acronym Report capability – Acronym checking and Acronym extraction
  • User Interface improvements
  • More flexible Compliance Matrix generation
  • Extensions to Discovery for better Compliance
  • New Clear Language Metrics
  • More flexible Exports to Excel
  • Support for duplicate Dictionary Terms

For on-premise customers: to get access to the release check out the support forum entry support.visiblethread.com/entries/106186773-VisibleThread-for-Docs-2-12-released-Oct-2015--It tells you how to update your installation and the mechanics of getting 2.12

New Acronym Report Capability

We have added a new acronym report that allows you to view all acronyms and their definitions in a particular document. There are two core usage scenarios for VisibleThread Doc’s acronym checking capability

  • Verifying the integrity of acronyms
  • Extracting a list of acronyms and their definitions from any document

This report flags:

  • Well-defined acronyms, meaning an acronym with a fully expanded definition alongside
  • Acronyms with no definition
  • Acronyms with multiple definitions
  • Acronyms where usage occurs before the definition

Acronym Report

More Flexible Compliance Matrix Generation

We have made a few tweaks to the Compliance Matrix generation process that will cut down on the amount of manual time spent processing the compliance matrix results.

  • The option to ignore any paragraphs from the original RFP that contain certain pieces of text
  • The option to ignore specific pages or page ranges from the RFP

Use Cases supported by these enhancements include:

  • Ignore any header/footer text
  • Generate the compliance matrix for section L & M only
  • Exclude the table of contents or appendix from the compliance matrix

New Clear Language Metrics

2.12 sees the introduction of a new ‘Grade Level’ score for each document added to VisibleThread. This metric is based on the Flesch Kincaid Grade level and will help you gauge how suitable your content is for your target audience.

We have also extended the ‘Readability’ and ‘Grade Level’ scores to each paragraph in the document. This allows you identify which parts of the document contain the most problematic language.

 

Version 2.12 has more new capability. For a complete list of what’s new download the 2.12 Release Notes PDF.

Need more information, have some questions?

No problem, email us at support@visiblethread.com and we will be happy to help!

 

If you want to try VisibleThread Docs sign up here for a 7-day free trial


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