Government contracts continue to represent a lucrative business opportunity. Recurring revenue from a reliable customer over a long period can be yours if you’re the winning bidder in a request for proposal (RFP). But you need a well-planned approach to the RFP process, and an essential planning tool is the responsibility matrix. Whether you’re new to the responsibility matrix or have been writing them for years, check out these tips. We’re going back to basics to look at the purpose of the matrix and how to create one quickly.
What is a responsibility matrix?
To create a responsibility matrix, you need to list every task that must be completed in the proposal. Picture a table where the first cell in each row is a task. Across the top, each column header is a job role, like Technical Architect, Pricing Team or Project Manager. When complete, your responsibility matrix gives a full picture of who needs to do what in your RFP response.
“your responsibility matrix gives a full picture of who needs to do what in your RFP response.”
Proposal management software like VT Docs automates the manual analysis of an RFP that’s traditionally needed to write the responsibility matrix. This means you can assign tasks to team members more quickly and are more likely to hit your deadline. But we’ll come back to that later. For now, let’s look at how the responsibility matrix fits into the larger shape of the proposal process.
Demystifying the RACI model
Knowing exactly who’s responsible for tasks is essential when you’re planning your RFP response schedule. But the responsibility matrix isn’t the only organizing document that proposal managers need.
To get a bird’s-eye view of workflow for the proposal team, many professionals rely on the RACI model. The RACI shows the stakeholders who are Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed for each task. Let’s look more closely at each type of stakeholder.
- Responsible: as you know, you must generate a list of who’s responsible for each task in your RFP response. That’s the ‘R’ in RACI – the Responsible person doing the work that answers each part of the RFP. Assigning responsibility for tasks is typically the most time-consuming element of the RACI model.
- Accountable: the Accountable stakeholder must sign off or approve the work done by the person (or people) responsible. The accountable person doesn’t complete the work directly. However, they are the ‘owner’ of the task and are accountable for ensuring it’s done completely and compliantly. Every requirement needs an accountable person to help ensure you don’t miss anything in your RFP response.
- Consulted: the Consulted stakeholder doesn’t complete tasks or shoulder overall accountability, but they have special knowledge to contribute. The Consulted person may be a subject matter expert (SME) with valuable technical insights or opinions. Their time is limited, but their input helps develop a convincing proposal that shows the contracting authority your expertise.
- Informed: the Informed stakeholder isn’t directly responsible for a task, but they must stay in the loop about progress. Their input isn’t needed, so they don’t stand in the way of completing the work. But informed stakeholders must receive regular project updates, and this discipline helps keep your schedule on track.
Benefits of the RACI model and RACI matrix
As with the responsibility matrix, you can make an at-a-glance RACI matrix when you know your stakeholders’ roles. The RACI matrix is a table with each task assigned to a row. The columns across the top are your stakeholders’ names or roles. You mark an R, A, C, or I in the cell depending on that stakeholder’s level of responsibility for a task.
The RACI matrix is so helpful because it lets you see how you plan to manage projects, before kickoff. That means you can spot potential weaknesses — including any omissions. Forgetting any requirement could lose you the bid, and tools like the RACI matrix can help prevent those gaps.
One way to spot potential problems is by glancing down each column, looking at one stakeholder at a time. Then repeat that step by concentrating on one row (or task) at a time. CIO magazine has more on RACI matrix best practices, but in summary, weaknesses you might spot include:
- Overdependence on one stakeholder: this can happen if there are no blank cells at all in a column.
- More than one R: having more than one person responsible is acceptable, but an overabundance could slow down decision-making.
- Reality check: did you forget a stakeholder or task? Do run your RACI matrix past trusted colleagues and get agreement on role assignment before you kick off.
Use VT Docs to create a responsibility matrix in three steps
Customers tell us it’s much faster to use VT Docs to create a responsibility matrix than doing so manually. VT Docs helps you create a responsibility matrix in just three steps, and we detail those below. But before you jump in, ask yourself: have you decided for sure that your team will pursue this opportunity?
Qualifying RFPs so you focus only on solicitations with a high probability of win (Pwin) is an important part of bid management. VT Docs can help with this qualifying step, as well as with the detail of your RFP response. Read more about how VT docs can help you with the bid/no-bid decision making process. Because, honestly, you probably won’t create a responsibility matrix unless a bid is a go.
1. Get your Dictionary ready
The first, most vital step to creating a responsibility matrix in VT Docs is to build a Dictionary. Alternatively, you can customize one of ours. You’ll use Dictionaries again and again, so do put in the time to get yours into shape.
In VT Docs, a Dictionary is a list of keywords that arise in the RFPs you tend to answer. Traditionally, proposal managers would manually scan through an RFP, looking for these promising keywords. They’d then assign those relevant sections of the RFP to a team or individual to answer.
VT Docs automates that process, searching the RFP for “your” keywords and highlighting them. But it uses a Dictionary to search, so you’ll need to build one.
Here are three things to understand about Dictionaries in VT Docs:
- A Dictionary captures knowledge in your company about who’s an expert on what
- The Dictionary refers to keywords as “Terms” and your named experts as “Categories”
- You’ll need to do some upfront thinking by creating a Dictionary that assigns Terms to Categories. In other words, you need to write down who’s good at answering what. (Our team here at Visible Thread can facilitate a workshop where you do this knowledge capture, if you prefer.)
2. Upload the RFP to VT Docs and click “Create Responsibility Matrix”
With your Dictionary prepared, the next step is to upload the solicitation into the system. You can also watch a video demo on how to do this here. Make sure you have the right Dictionary selected (such as “Contract Kickoff v1”).
3. View and share the responsibility matrix with your team
As you can see in the video demo, the entire text of the solicitation appears in the responsibility matrix. Highlighted terms in red are those you defined in your Dictionary. The columns on the right side of the matrix show who should handle this part of the RFP:
- Instances of the word “comply” or “compliance” are assigned to the compliance team
- Terms like “documentation” are assigned to the marketing team
- Terms such as “services” are assigned to the sales team
See a step-by-step guide on how to create a responsibility matrix with VT Docs here.
Automation for speed and accuracy
Again, the completeness and accuracy of your Dictionary are paramount. Don’t forget you can update your Dictionary at any time, and we always recommend this be a collaborative effort. Some VT Docs customers keep a shared document open where team members contribute. This lets them capture new terms and vocabulary that belongs to their department. You’ll note that the Dictionary management console lets you upload Terms and Categories from a comma-separated file (CSV).
“One of our large IT customers cut their two-week process of creating a
responsibility matrix down to 1.5 days.”
Our marketplace has a selection of Dictionaries that VisibleThread customers have found most useful when analyzing solicitations. Dictionaries can be specialist or general, and there’s a dedicated section for dictionaries related to government contracting. Many VisibleThread customers find it especially helpful to use the FAR/DFAR/Misc Checker. This highlights clauses in government solicitations that need careful examination when it comes to managing contracts.
Generating a responsibility matrix doesn’t need to eat up time in your already pressured RFP response process. One of our large IT customers cut their two-week process of creating a responsibility matrix down to 1.5 days. How much time, stress and money could you save your company if you updated your process for generating a responsibility matrix?