I’ve noticed a trend with some companies to use section M of the government solicitation document as the basis for their proposal structure. While I understand the desire to make it easy for the evaluators to score your proposal, this could result in a noncompliant bid.

Organize your bid or proposal according to the customer’s instructions.A compliant proposal meets the customer’s requirements and submittal instructions.

U.S. federal bid requests issued under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 15 must comply with detailed instructions on how the bid request and bid response are to be structured. Requirements for the structure of the proposal are provided in section L. Evaluation factors for the award are provided in section M.

Evaluators often review proposals in two passes. The first pass is a compliance review to section L. This review may be performed by the CO and if the proposal is not rigorously compliant, it doesn’t make it to the second pass which is evaluation and scoring.

Some COs take a hard line on this arguing that if they can toss out a proposal for non-compliance, they lighten the workload for everyone downstream. So, to have a high scoring proposal, getting through the first pass is mandatory.

Organize the proposal according to section L. Once that is done, design the proposal structure so everything needed to score the proposal from Section M can easily be found. Using the RFP language in headers, and including parenthetic references makes both compliance checking and evaluation easier.

Also watch out for “section L” requirements hidden in the Statement of Work (section C), or sections G. H, or I.

As an example, the requirement for a transition plan (to be submitted as a draft with the proposal) may be in the SOW, and NOT listed in the minimal section L and M criteria. I remember some DARPA proposals that identified cover sheet and other required information that were “buried” in sections H and I. Instructions may also be hidden in section J attachments.

In an ideal world, sections L and M are in sync. Sometimes you will also find section L has a few rudimentary instructions like font size and you are forwarded to section M for more detailed instructions about organization. But the bottom line is: organize the proposal by section L.

Like good artwork, when the organization is done well, the proposal structure is beautiful and easy to evaluate for both compliance and scoring.