Thursday, November 5, 2009

(empo-tuulwey) War in the 21st century, or more on my return to proposals

I've previously mentioned that I've returned to proposals work after a several year absence. When some of my co-workers assume that I "know it all," I am fond of reminding them that I haven't done any direct proposal writing since the last millennium. You see, I left the proposals group at my company in early 2000, and did not return to the group until late this year.

A lot has changed in the intervening years. While some parts of the proposal process are familiar to me (in fact, some things that I was doing back in the 1990s have now become institutionalized in our document templates), our department has made a number of advances in the last several years.

One thing that the department has been able to do is to create a war room. The idea, obviously borrowed from another industry, is to have a central area that can be used for proposal generation purposes.

Since my return to proposals, one element of the war room that I have grown to appreciate are the corkboards that line all of the walls of the war room. For obvious reasons I can't take pictures of our war room, but I can tell you that those low-tech cork boards can come in really handy when you're working on a proposal.

And I'm not the only person who appreciates the low-tech touches. While wikis, on-line conferences, and other high-tech tools are certainly used in proposal writing and in other businesses, sometimes it's the small things that offer the most power. Sometime from the Tenrox software company visited a customer's war room and had this impression:

Recently, I was visiting a customer. As usual, I started by discussing with their VP of professional services how they use our software for cost tracking, billing and project management. But what he showed me next was truly an eye opener — he took me to his “War Room.” A traditional conference room had been transformed into the “battle bridge.” Whiteboards covered every wall. A couple of flip charts were placed at each corner with all kinds of “action item,” diagrams, and notes scribbled on them. In the center part of the room, a projector was connected to a computer running Tenrox software, displaying reports of live project financial data. This was the only “hi-tech” aspect of the war room!

What I discovered from the war room is that we’ve become too enamored with technology. Even with the best software systems in place, managers and team members can’t get a bird’s eye view of everything that’s going on.

Well, I guess you could...but you'd need to have really really big monitors to be able to see everything. And corkboard is less expensive than a battery of monitors.

(Picture source, license)
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