When was the last time you wrote a past performance volume in two hours?
We have been involved in many proposals where the company’s qualifications to do the work are clear, but it takes days or weeks to put together the past performance information to articulate they’re doing a great job. This includes wracking the brain to remember where you wrote about qualifications before, searching through old proposal file folders on the hard drive trying to locate the right draft, or pulling together disparate volumes of other proposals to get exactly what you need to respond to the proposal of the hour.
To say the least, this problem of finding the right data and the most current information on a contract frustrates and confuses even the best proposal teams. It doesn’t need to, and there is a simple, cheap way to solve the problem. Write the past performance from scratch, keep it updated, and use it ALWAYS.
Here is the method Qocreate uses to write a past performance in 2 hours. We create a client profile once, and then write all past performances based on this one client profile. The initial effort, of course, takes more than two hours. But after you’ve completed the push up front, all you need to do is keep this one document updated on a quarterly basis and you can use it for the life of the contract and beyond.
When the government requires past performance, you only need to spend a few minutes tailoring the information. When a partner asks you for qualifications to use on a proposal, you can send this document directly to them and they can tailor as they see fit.
The process is simple. In order to create this single-source document for your client past performance, you must do four things for each contract: 1) articulate the contract details in a table; 2) provide a concise summary of the contract scope of work; 3) generate narrative around what people on the contract actually do on the contract; and 4) keep statistics, accolades, and monthly reporting highlights up to date.
Articulate Contract Details. It may seem strange, but contract details are sometimes the most difficult information to track. They include primarily administrative information: contract name, number, customer name, project name, place of performance, contract type, period of performance, and value, contract information, number of employees on contract, etc.
You can build out contract details to include any information you find necessary or helpful – for example, by including statistics on average days to recruit new hires, retention and turnover rates, number of cleared personnel, certifications of personnel, etc. When the government or a commercial client asks you for details on a contract, the information is right where it should be. No more haggling with contracts or a business development person or a program manager to get the correct information. Often, keeping this table current with correct information will save you a couple hours of work on its own.
A Concise Summary of the Contract Scope of Work. This is the executive summary of the contract work, and answers in three paragraphs or less the major questions of who, what, when, where, and how. And if it’s a good summary, it also differentiates performance by providing quantitative proofs of where performance leaves the client better off than when you started working on the project.
A great summary also includes any information necessary to determine if a contract is relevant and meets the requirements of a request. For example, a client may want qualifications related to IT, risk management, and executive administrative support. You should be able to tell from the summary whether the contract addresses some or all three of these requirements.
The summary is the chance to let your performance shine. It draws the reader in, and if your writing reflects exceptional performance, clients often don’t need to read any further. Make this summary the last thing you write, and give a couple hours to organizing, developing, and articulating the message.
Generate Narrative on the Contract Around What People Actually Do. Too often, a past performance reads like a generalized statement of work. And that is often because people will pull the statement of work and use it to write the past performance.
The problem here lies in the fact that many contract descriptions of work do not accurately reflect what people do on contract. Employees’ efforts are more involved and complex, their tasks include a different organizing structure than what is stated, and they interact with a number of stakeholders in the broader organization.
Storytelling is critical here. In your articulation of the past performance for this client profile, interview the people doing the work and tell their story. Put down as much detail as possible and condense it into a story, or day in the life of type narrative. A good past performance shows what your team is doing, and tells how well they are doing it.
Include details like what building they work in, who they sit next to, who they run into walking the halls, what kinds of meetings they attend, how they produce their deliverables, when they get to work and when they leave, how they get recognized for great work. Allow the reader to see them doing the work, and then provide evidence that your team or person does it well. Often, if you provide detail on all the work being accomplished on contract, you have all the information you need to respond to any client requests related to performance.
Keep Data, Accolades, and Monthly Reporting Highlights Up to Date. Contracts change. What you did for a client back in 2014 is likely different from what you are doing for them now. The type of work, type of people, number of people involved and achievements transform over time. If you don’t capture the change as the contract moves along, you have to play catch up when it comes time to write the next past performance for that contract.
An easy solve for this issue? Updating the information on a quarterly basis. The program or project manager can be responsible for this, using monthly or routine status reports to modify content. Each quarter they spend an hour or two updating the client profile. Then, when it comes time to write the past performance, proposal teams may not even need to involve them.
These few hours save the program manager the hassle of having to interrupt his team’s work to fill in the blanks on details they already provide in monthly reports. The program or project manager can also update this document when teams receive accolades, awards, acknowledgements, or other forms of recognition for a job well done. This type of information is pure gold in a proposal and often the most difficult to get, even with exceptional teams whose clients are over-the-moon happy with the services and products they are receiving.
Maintaining client profiles with up to date contract data means writing past performance becomes a learning experience, rather than a burdensome hunt for the last best information. Giving the client what they want involves matching their requirements against what your team does. Once you determine this, you pull across the relevant information and you’re done. Within two hours, you have differentiated yourself with real work and up to date data that you can defend and of which you can be proud.
If you’re interested in optimizing your time and writing the best past performance possible, catch up on our blog series or contact Qocreate.