Use your data calls to collect value-driven proposal content

Kid shouting through vintage megaphone. Communication concept. Blue sky background as copy space for your textEach topic I’ve written about, and will continue to write about, is based on topics that I find important to the process of responding to DoD and Federal RFPs. This particular topic of ‘data calls’ is very important to the proposal process. It is incredibly nerve-racking as a Proposal Manager and ‘owner of the proposal process’ to depend on others’ input, accuracy and timeliness, so asking the right questions from the start will save you time and help you focus on other important proposal tasks.What’s a Data Call? It’s a request for specific, pursuit-related information required in an RFP. Typically, this information may be obtained from internal and external sources, such as operations personnel, design firms or key subcontractors. Data call requests could include content for a schedule, management or technical approach, as well as resumes, project write-ups or other information. As a Proposal Manager and owner of the proposal process, capturing a pursuit’s approach and transferring that information logically onto paper should be fairly simple, right? Not quite. But here are some tips!

The difficult part of a developing a data call is understanding how and what to request to obtain the information needed to appropriately respond to the submission and evaluation criteria.

For example, if you are working on a proposal for a design-build/new construction project which requires the submission of your architect’s resume, consider how you request the information. Simply sending out an email with a checklist for the proposed architect’s resume, won’t cut it. You will most likely get back a generic one-page resume with a very brief explanation of the individual’s experience and a few sample projects. While this is great for generic marketing, in a “Best Value” world, this minimal level of effort will not win a project. Don’t assume the Government will extrapolate the “value” your proposed architect brings to the project: explain the value and why your architect is the best fit for the project.

Prior to explaining the value, you must first identify what that value will be, and then request very specific value-driven information from your design firm. This process involves relating as much of the architect’s past experience, certifications, education, and relevant experience to the proposed project as possible. The data call request shall convey the level of detail and relevancy you are looking to collect. Request the architect’s resume inclusive of five years’ worth of relevant design-build projects for the same client in the same state and/or location. Hone in on these ‘extra value’ items from the onset with your data call request.

Another excellent example is in developing a technical approach for a design-build proposal. If you send out an email asking the Civil Engineer to explain the civil design approach, you will most likely get a five or six sentence response similar to this: “In accordance with the RFP, we shall…..”, with some other generic sentences directly pulled from the RFP. Although this response is direct and, more or less, answers the question, the evaluation from the Government will state that the response was regurgitated from the RFP and is not specific to your approach. So what would the ideal data call look like?

A good civil data call may ask questions similar to the following:

  • Why did we design it this way instead of that way?
  • How does our overall approach meet the circulation and accessibility requirements? What are the ingress/egress points, locations, quantities, proximity to existing circulation and accessibility patterns such as existing sidewalk systems, parking, and roads? How does the parking lot design ensure no one will be hit by a car? Are you providing cross walks or striping through the parking lot to ensure safe circulation for patrons entering and leaving the parking lot?
  • Is there any extra value in our approach? What differentiates our approach?
  • How do the site utilities tie in to the existing utilities? Where do they tie in?
  • How did we comply with the AT/FP requirements? What are the set-backs?
  • Is there any hazardous waste we will dispose of?
  • What earthwork, grading, clear and grub is to be completed? Is the site relatively flat?
  • What type of pavement and/or parking layout will we have?
  • Is there landscaping required? Is it native to the location?

This level of detail will demonstrate to the Government that you have considered every aspect of the facilities’ design and that you understand the Government’s objective in a well-thought out, organized and clear response – strictly aligned with the proposal submission requirements and evaluation criteria. A data call done-well is a tremendous tool that will reduce the amount of time spent on developing a proposal.  Proposal Managers don’t have all the answers, nor do they have unlimited time. A successful proposal writer knows how to gather the correct information from stakeholders in the process.

For more information and tips on data call requests, please contact us at


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