Tuesday, November 17, 2009

About GREEN in Writing and Submitting Proposals

Having just completed the exercise of writing and submitting a somewhat lengthy proposal to an entity that is supposedly committed to fostering the development of sustainable green energy, I have many new insights about how such an organization would do well to alter its practices in furtherance of its goals.

1.Instead of structuring RFPs and procedures legalistically so that they CYA, structure them so that they cover the bases in an efficient way and do not tax respondents.  One example is keeping the format simple, eschewing Microsoft Word which is horribly buggey and unrealiable, and particularly eschewing such sophisticated "features" as text boxes, which are even buggier and more unrealiable.  The funding agency may have expert secretaries who are able to work for days to make Word function successfully for the RFP, but when people who are doers rather than bureaucrats then fill in and edit the documents, one never knows what will happen.  This has extreme risks when the RFP includes an embedded Excel spreadsheet.  Untold hours of burden are added simply trying to get Word to work.  Rather than rely on Word not detroying our overall document, I commanded that the document be broken in pieces, converted into Acrobat documents, then integrated using Adobe Acrobat.  Much more reliable!  But it may have created some unhappiness in the funding organization.  I hope it does not eliminate us from the competition.

2.  Have respondents enter each piece of information only once.  Yes, I understand that the bureaucratic necessity is to have N complete, independent documents with each document presenting the key information for each different type of reader.  But take a lesson from information technology professionals.  Have people enter only once.  To do otherwise is to force errors.

3.  These kinds of extra work requirements take up the time of professionals who are the ones who are supposed to be enabled to implement the green revolution.  They run contrary to the purpose of an organization that is charged with enabling these same people.

4.  Follow the lead of so many other organizations.  Have applicants file electronically.  The Army has had electronic filing of small business proposals for years now.  It is a standard format on a web page.  It has its idiosyncracies, but one files from whereever on is, perhaps in a hotel room at a conference, or overseas, or in one's office, and the deal is done.  Contrast this with the troglodyte way.  The PDF file and the Word file have been created.  Now take a half hour or more, some ink and some paper, to print them out.  Now drive to Staples to copy them and have six of them bound.  Now get them to their destination.  This takes hours of time, and costs $40 plus time versus substantially nothing.  That is a lot of carbon, as well.  No wonder Internet people refer to snail mail.