The EXA Way Supplement

Answering the Mail

Page 317

The Requirement


Following are abbreviated excerpts from a single requirement from the CC130 Avionics (AVS) Optimized Weapon System Management (OWSM) RFP.  



The Bidder shall provide a Program Management Plan (PMP) in accordance with the requirements of the stated PWS references.


Evaluation Criteria Considerations

SC1.   Does the Plan address the four component sub-plans (Oversight, Project Management, Airworthiness Management and Avionics Suite Management) in an effective manner?


SC2.    Does the Plan show integrated program planning across the key areas of Oversight, Project Management, Air worthiness Management and Avionics Suite Management, in an effective manner?


PWS References 


The Contractor shall:

a.    Work within the CC130 Oversight Structure

b.    Manage all activities to ensure technical airworthiness

c.    Perform AVS suite level management activities

The Contractor must describe:

a.    The approach to managing all of the work.

b.    The Contractor’s organization and capabilities and documents



The PMP shall have four component Sub-Plans:

a)         Oversight;

b)         Project Management;

c)         Airworthiness Management; and,

d)         Avionics Suite Management


The PMP shall have ten sections:

1.     Integration Management

2.     Scope Management

3.     Schedule Management

4.     Cost Management

5.     Quality Assurance

6.     Communications Management

7.     Risk Management

8.     Procurement Management

9.     Performance Management

10.  Airworthiness Management



Develop an outline of the PMP based on the above single requirement.



The challenge is to address every requirement, evaluation criterion, and reference in your PMP. The table below shows one way of meeting this challenge. Your solution may provide a different sequence of topics, which is fine, as long as you address every requirement, evaluation criteria, and reference.


Example PMP Outline


The RFP includes detailed instructions for each section. I did not include those more detailed requirements in this exercise. You would then address those requirements in your response to the respective requirements in each section and subsection in the plan.


At the beginning of the plan (in the Introduction), we would include the following table that maps the RFP requirements, evaluation criteria, and references to the sections in the plan to assist evaluators locate responses to RFP requirements.


Example Requirements Map


I bet you thought this exercise was going to be about writing. While writing is obviously involved, cracking the answering the mail problem is more about organizing your response than it is about writing. If you dive straight into writing without first performing the above exercise, as many people do, I guarantee you will fail to answer the mail. Sadly, there is no guarantee that you will completely answer the mail even if you follow this approach, because each section requires further analysis to determine how to address the requirements in that section and subsections. You must often apply an iterative analytical approach to sections and subsections, especially when those sections imply a complex answer, such as risk management, performance management, or airworthiness management.

Creating a high-level outline using this analytical approach, and then decomposing each section into its own mini-outline through further iterative analyses, is a critical first step in answering the mail. This iterative analytical process defines the sections you must write in response to each requirement and sub-requirement. Consider the complete outline, down to the last detail, as a skeleton. You cannot start writing until you know the detailed structure and nature of the skeleton. Once you understand the skeleton down to the last detail, only then can you establish what you will write in response to each requirement and sub-requirement.  

There are specific reasons for organizing the plan as I have shown in the above tables. Whenever you respond to requirements, the evaluation criteria trump everything else. Regardless of what the proposal preparation instructions or statement of work state, you must present your response to the RFP in a way that maximizes the evaluated points. In the above tables, we dedicated sections to the evaluation criteria SC1 (Sections 2, 3, 4, and 5) and to SC2 (Section 6). We could have embedded the Integrated Program Planning (SC2) descriptions into the Oversight, Project Management, Airworthiness Management, and Avionics Suite Management (SC1) sections, and you might decide that is the best approach. If you do that, then you must carve off dedicated subsections for your SC2 responses in each SC1 subsection, so that the Requirements Map table points to a unique and dedicated subsection for each SC2 response.  

You might decide to promote the Approach response (Section 3.1) to its own major section, instead of subordinating it to the Project Management description. There is nothing wrong with that method. The shape and nature of the outline you develop depends, in part, upon your personal preferences. Whatever approach you adopt, you must be certain of the following:

  • You address each and every relevant requirement, evaluation criterion, and proposal preparation instruction
  • Your document organization prioritizes evaluation criteria ahead of all other requirements
  • The flow of your narrative is logical and easy to follow
  • You embed navigation cues in your document, such as a requirements map (or other easy-to-follow cues), that let evaluators easily and readily locate your responses to any requirement

***Disclaimer: The information presented in this supplement is for information purposes only. It is not intended, and may not be used, as legal or business advice. The author makes no representations of warranty, accuracy, or fit for purpose of the information herein. Use at your own risk.