Scenario

You’ve probably heard the term BAFO – Best and Final Offer. In Defence, it’s known as RFCP (Request for Final Committed Proposal) and sometimes ODIA (Offer Definition and Improvement Activity). Whatever it’s called, it’s fair to say that it’s a high-stakes ‘do or die’ situation. You’ve been down-selected and the client wants to know more. Depending on what you were asked to submit at the RFP phase, the Final Committed Proposal (let’s just called it FCP) phase will usually include submission, or re-submission, of some tender deliverables, re-pricing, and some kind of interaction with the client.

Of course, there’s so much potential variation here that it’s hard to predict what the FCP phase for any given project will look like. To give you some insight, and perhaps to help you prepare for your FCP phase, let me tell you about an RFCP phase where I was Bid Manager, back in 2012.

The client was a global Defence contractor who had been asked to take part in an RFCP process, along with another contender, for a $500 million acquisition project for the Australian Defence Force. It went like this…

The Brief

We received the RFCP documentation about 12 months after submitting our RFP. Very quickly, we needed to re-form the team and ‘read-in’ new team members. The RFCP period would take 12 weeks, concluding with our submission of a suite of around 100 management plans. Added to this, during the 12 weeks we were to attend Interactive Workshops with the customer and submit interim (draft) management plans.

As Bid Manager, my project timeline was hectic. Somehow, we had to account for the interim submissions, which were staggered by ‘X days before’ the relevant workshop, all the while preparing for the final submission of more than 100 plans. In total, we had over 25 deadlines, and more than 400 documents to submit in varying stages of completeness.

Bid Mindset

The workload was mammoth and the pressure was high. Within the first week we had people at peak anxiety levels and it was clear that we’d need to get everything under control – quickly. The Project Director was fairly new to the business and we worked together to determine the schedule of activities, responsibilities, and expectations. We then had a bid team kick-off where the Project Director gave a pep talk. Importantly, the Project Director offered the team two points up front: 1) Get excited because we are SO close to winning this; and 2) if you’re not 100% committed, find me someone who is.

We were going to be asking everything of this team, so commitment to the bid was paramount. Thankfully, everyone was up for the challenge and we got started.

Celebrate successes

The team was putting in an enormous effort. Just to get all the documents ready for each submission, as well as planning for each workshop and then travelling to attend each workshop, keeping afloat was a struggle. Everybody was doing the job of 2 or 3 people because the company had recently ‘optimised’ its workforce after a few other tender losses, so there was a lot of pressure to win.

Not long into the bid, the CEO visited my office to check in. He told me about a large bid he managed earlier in his career – a similar situation and equal pressure on the team. He stressed to me the importance for the team in taking the time to celebrate the little wins. When he gave me his credit card and told me to book something in for the team, I found a suitable milestone within our crazy schedule. After a big 25-document interim submission, we all went out for drinks. Not only did it help to relax the team and provide a bit of a break, it also acted as a much-needed bonding session, and we emerged the next day as a much more cohesive team.

If you’re facing the prospect of an FCP period, whether it’s called ODIA, BAFO or RFCP, remember that no two FCP periods are the same. Some clues as to the makeup of your FCP can be found in the detail of the RFP. Did you submit management plans, or just strategies? Was there a Work Breakdown Structure and a Master Schedule, and what level of detail did they go to? Remember that an FCP is at a stage in procurement where the requirements are more settled than before, commercial arrangements and industry chatter have shaped opinions, and the competitive landscape is set. The FCP could take the form of a presentation, a submission, or, like in this case study, an enormous and multi-faceted workshop process.

There’s one thing I love about working in tenders more than anything else. It’s the team. The environment of a bid is frightening, stressful, unrealistic, and can take people well out of their comfort zones. But when a group of people is in the same environment, there’s a special kind of bond that forms in the face of so much expectation. In the case of this FCP period, we got there in the end. All documents were submitted, we formed a good relationship with the client, and the company was confident that we had what it took to win. 6 months later, we received notification that we had been down-selected as the preferred tenderer. All the blood, sweat and tears (yes – there were plenty of tears) were worth it.

For assistance in mobilising for an FCP period, or for help coordinating your team and submitting the response, contact us today at Aurora Marketing on 07 3211 4299 or info@auroramarketing.com.au.