Decision patterns for better proposals

If you frequently generate business proposals in response to customer requests (e.g. RFPs, RFQs, RFIs), then you can benefit greatly from the use of decision patterns.  Every proposal offers a solution to a customer’s problem (e.g. use cases, mission scenarios, requirements, needs …).   The “essence” of this solution and the thinking behind it can be understood and communicated as a Decision Breakdown Structure.  This is true whether you are offering a complex “new-to-the-world” system, a hardware/software product, a set of one-time or ongoing services or any combination of these elements.

Here’s how I would exploit the proven solution concept decision pattern within the Decision Driven® Solutions Framework (DDSF) to produce better proposals:

  • Create an initial solution baseline.  Blitz through the solution concept decision pattern and capture your initial “favorite” alternative as the answer to each of the top-level decisions.
  • Identify 5-10 high priority decisions where your answer (favorite alternative) can be used to communicate the advantages of your approach.
  • Quickly score your alternative against 2-3 other solutions.  If you understand your competitors’ favorite technologies and designs, include them in the scoring so you can indirectly expose the weakness of their approach (without naming names).
  • Identify the 5-10 decisions where your answer needs some work; where it would be perceived as mediocre or deficient relative to potential competitors.
  • Innovate 2-3 new alternatives for your weakest decisions, then evaluate these new solutions against your initial favorite and potential competitor alternatives (indirectly as technologies or design concepts).  Pick the best of the best as the basis for your proposal.
  • Use the decision analysis results from these tasks to frame and populate the technical proposal.  If you can show your customer that your solution provides the best answer across the top 10-20 decisions with supporting rationale, you’ll have a very convincing and easy-to-follow story.

By focusing the proposal effort on your team’s thinking quality (not just writing and salesmanship), you will also jump-start your project execution and increase the likelihood of delivering on your value proposition.

You should also consider these more advanced uses of the Decision Driven® Solutions Framework (DDSF) and decision patterns:

  • Reverse engineer the customer’s decision model implied by their RFP/RFQ/RFI.  Use this model to better understand their mission and the source of their most challenging requirements/constraints.  Consider whether you can propose a solution to a higher-level decision (problem), i.e. give them an innovative answer to what they need, not just what they asked for.
  • Build a roadmap for each of your decisions to show how your solution design (your alternatives) could evolve through a series of releases.  Demonstrate that your solution is really a robust platform that anticipates and can grow and adapt to their changing needs and new technologies.

Proposals are a decision-making and decision-management fire drill.  Many decisions have to be made quickly and in parallel with limited time, resources and information.  Attack them with a proven decision pattern and scalable decision management toolset and you will improve your chance of creating a winning proposal.

Improve the probability of success on your next proposal by leveraging the Decision Driven® Solutions Framework (DDSF). Please contact the Decision Driven® Solutions team at or to start your free trial of DDSF.

About decisiondriven

Innovator in Decision Management, Systems Thinking and System Engineering methods and tools
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