This article discusses the use of IBM® Rational® RequisitePro® as a tool to manage the proposal process, yielding complete, accurate, and up-to-date proposals in response to Requests for Proposal (RFP). When responding to an RFP, it is important to be able to quickly produce reports such as:
- What are the RFP requirements?
- Which requirements still require responses?
- What are our requirement responses?
- Who is responsible for each requirement?
- With which requirements are we not compliant?
- What was the rationale behind a particular requirement response?
This is a perfect application for RequisitePro. The remainder of this document describes the steps involved in using RequisitePro to support a proposal.
A RequisitePro project manages RequisitePro artifacts. The artifacts associated with a RequisitePro project -- such as the RequisitePro project file imported documents, and logs -- are stored in a RequisitePro project folder.
To begin, you need to configure a RequisitePro project for the application you have in mind (in this case, responding to an RFP). When configuring a RequisitePro project, you define the types of documents, the types of requirements, and the attributes associated with each requirement:
- Document types for this project might be "RFP" and "Proposal." Alternatively, if the client requires responses presented in the source document, there might be a single document type, RFP.
- Requirement types could be "RFP Requirement" and "RFP Requirement Response." The RFP requirement type would be associated with the RFP document type, and the RFP requirement response with the proposal document type.
- Useful attributes for the RFP requirement type might include Priority, Type, Compliance, Customer Reference, Outstanding Query (Y/N), and Assignee. Useful attributes for the RFP requirement response type would be Status (proposed, approved, and so on), Verification Method, and Cost. Number and types of attributes are completely customizable.
If there are a significant number of people working on the proposal, it might be worthwhile to activate security. You could then set up user groups and users, with each group given appropriate read/write/delete privileges for requirements, documents, and project structure. This also allows RequisitePro to keep track of who changed what and when.
This is simply a process in which a copy of a document -- with an appropriate customized extension such as RFP -- is created inside RequisitePro. This prevents Microsoft Word users from opening the document outside of RequisitePro, and making untracked changes.
At this point, you should mark up the requirements in the source document. The captured requirements are highlighted in the source document, as shown in Figure 1 (the format is customizable), and stored in the RequisitePro database.
Figure 1. Marked-up requirements
You can automate the markup process by adopting a standard format in the source document. In Figure 1, for instance, the document authors have used the word "should" in most requirements, which enables RequisitePro to capture all sentences or paragraphs containing that word automatically. As with the format, keywords are also completely customizable. If the source document uses a consistent format, therefore, around 80-90% of the requirements can be captured automatically without further manipulation.
Having captured the requirements, the next step is to set attribute values. You can do this directly in the RequisitePro Word document by right-clicking a requirement and selecting Requirement Properties. Figure 2 shows an example of this.
Figure 2. Setting requirement attributes
Alternatively, a more efficient method is to use the RequisitePro Attribute Matrix View, as shown in Figure 3. Using views allows you to set the attributes of multiple requirements at the same time.
Figure 3. Attribute matrix view
There are a number of options that allow you to produce a response document. In the example discussed here, we had to provide the response electronically, in the client's RFP document. In order to accomplish this, we entered responses manually in the document, captured requirements, set attributes, and created links to RFP requirements.
If a separate tender response document were required, the steps would be virtually the same, but you would create the document in RequisitePro.
Another alternative would be to create the requirements as database requirements in a RequisitePro view, and then export them to a Word document. Exporting them at that point is advantageous because a response document will inevitably include contextual material, tables, graphs, diagrams, and images.
A valuable tool in your information management arsenal, queries can be associated with views. For example, if I wanted to know the requirements that still required a response and were allocated to me, I could create a view with an appropriate query attached. This is illustrated in Figure 4 following:
Figure 4. A query of all requirements
You can see the RequisitePro browser on the left of the screenshot in Figure 4. An Attribute Matrix view is on the right. There are views listing requirements for a number of assignees. In this case, you will also note that folders have been used to group requirements (technical requirements and instructions to the proposal preparers).
In the "All Requirements" attribute matrix view seen in Figure 3, you will notice that there is a red triangle to the right of some of the requirements. This indicates that there is a discussion -- which involves nominated participants -- associated with that requirement. When an entry is pending, a participant is advised to start the RequisitePro project. Alternatively, discussions can be e-mail enabled: creating a discussion or a response sends an e-mail to the nominated participants. E-mail responses can be intercepted by the Rational e-mail reader and appended to the discussion within the RequisitePro project.
Figure 5 shows the organization of requirements into folders, the proposal documents, and some views. The "Unaddressed Requirements" view lists requirements that are not currently addressed by the response.
Figure 5. Unaddressed Requirements view
Another view that is useful for managing information in the proposal process is the "Traceability Matrix View", as seen in Figure 6 following.
Figure 6. Traceability Matrix view
The blue arrows link RFP requirements to proposal responses. The entries at the bottom show the requirements associated with the selected square in the matrix. A red line indicates a suspect link, which indicates that a requirement at one end of the link has changed. This visual warning could be useful if, for example, the client changed some of the RFP requirements. A query attached to a traceability matrix would allow you to identify the impacted response requirements immediately.
In this context, a traceability matrix is essentially a compliance matrix, and it could be exported as such.
RequisitePro provides a third view, referred to as a "Traceability Tree" and shown in Figure 7.
Figure 7. Traceability Tree view
This view is most useful when there are many levels of requirements, as there might be in a system development project.
Another way that RequisitePro is invaluable in managing proposal information is that it keeps track of all changes to requirements, including changes to attributes. Figure 8 illustrates an example of this. RSP26 is at version 1.0007, was last changed at 8:22am on 19/1/2002, and was authored by "admin". The reason for the change was that the requirement was renumbered.
Figure 8. Tracking changes to requirements
The history for this requirement is shown in Figure 9:
Figure 9. Revision history
In this example we can see that version 1.0004 was authored by "dave" at 10:01pm (I must have worked late!) on 19/12/2001. We can see the reason for the change and the new requirement text.
As we have seen, RequisitePro is an excellent tool for managing the proposal process. You can set up a project to house all the information, import documents, and automate the capture of requirements. In addition, many aspects of RequisitePro can be customized, allowing you to adapt it to the specific needs of your team. Furthermore, it gives you the ability to control the process -- rather than being overwhelmed by it -- by providing: many views, the ability to query your data, and automatic change tracking. Finally, you can collaborate with other team members via e-mail enabled discussions.
When you're responding to an RFP, RequisitePro can help ensure that you submit a complete, accurate, and up-to-date proposal.