Science our way into success

View each team- Proposal Office

Call To Science — Nov 2017

A Proposal stands as one of the most important documents to any company. The stakes are high and the money is on the line.

Did you know that Celfocus submits hundreds of proposals every year? Yes, that is right, not dozens, but hundreds. So, before introducing the Proposal Office to you, let us explain what a Celfocus Proposal is.

Simply put, it is the document, or set of documents, where we state what we are selling to our customers, and why that specific solution is exactly what they need. This is the sales perspective of our proposals and it is strongly coupled with the first theorem we want to share with you:

no Sales = no Salaries.

But there is also the feasibility perspective: it must clearly state the conditions under which we are selling that solution, and clearly means internally agreed and unambiguous for the customer. What cannot be executed or that jeopardizes Celfocus’ operation, results in potential and/or actual losses. So, the second theorem is:

Sales < Costs => no Salaries.

By now, it should be pretty clear why Celfocus Proposals are so important. But, before going into the details of what the Proposal Office is, let us close this brief introduction with a third theorem:

Bidding ≠ Winning, in fact, Bidding Winning.

Bidding requires a scientific approach: business insight, technical expertise, a selling pitch, price estimation, excellent writing skills, organization… to name just a few.

Winning goes far beyond… negotiating, networking, excellent presentation skills, proving the concept, the whole psychology of confidence - having it and showing it! Winning requires a blend of all sciences, and social ones play a leading role.


A good proposal is not a sufficient condition for having the project awarded to Celfocus; however a bad proposal is halfway to not even being shortlisted. Especially in major proposals, someone must ensure the overall quality and compliance. In a nutshell, that’s us.

The Proposal Office was established in 2016 with the goal of having a clear and effective bid process in place, which fosters and drives proposal quality, coherence and availability. By then, the overall perception was that Celfocus’ proposal outputs were lowering coherence and attractiveness, eventually resulting in poor scoring and loss of opportunities.

The team’s first steps focused on better structuring, with key process gates and sound document organization. The latter was critical to keep the reader’s attention and increase the interest in our message, while exposing the customer’s needs and leveraging on the added value of Celfocus’ solutions.

To improve communication, a streamlined writing (avoiding disproportionately long and exhaustive information or duplications), simplified contents and the alignment with Celfocus’ branding, templates and styles have been essential.

At the same time, we needed to change the defensive mind-set. Often, Bid writers have the impulse to be over defensive by disclosing early what is out-of-scope rather than bringing our solutions and values first. Good proposals state otherwise and have a clear separation of these messages.

In summary, our mission is to empower everyone involved in bids (sales, pre-sales teams, account managers, bid managers, content creators), with governance and autonomy in proposals, through a regulated bid process and a portfolio of resources, including guidelines, tools, templates, reusable contents and much more.


The Proposal Office’s actions can be summed up in three top priorities:

  • Standardisation, ensuring the key bid process steps, and thus increasing planning quality, proper use of resources and centralised archival.
  • Organisation, managing the proposal repositories and promoting awareness and practices adoption.
  • Focused execution, teaming with Bid Managers on key bids to deliver state-of-the-art proposals, playing the role of advisers, reviewers, challengers and finishers.

Meanwhile, we need to tackle some challenges regarding adoption, consistency and the typical resistance to change. Not an intentional struggle but rather the result of either prioritizing other tasks or feeling uncomfortable due to low experience on bids.

Nonetheless, we do believe it is well worth it, and we are here to help, by leveraging not only our own expertise but also swift communication channels with peer teams (such as Architecture Office, Contract Management, Communication, Product Marketing, Information Security, Project Practices & Tools, Finance Controllers) and a group of expert and helpful colleagues in every Business Unit.


Scientifically, of course! Well… we know many of MS Word’s accelerators, some of MS PowerPoint’s and a few in MS Excel. We also know a bunch of 3-letter acronyms, most of them related with Telecommunications, which is a plus. This is science, right?

Moreover, it does require a scientific approach to adjust a major proposal in the very last minutes before the deadline, leaving the Bid Manager with less than 60 seconds to upload it on the customer’s procurement platform. We are used to it, but Bid Managers tend to get stressed during these moments... Once we delivered it an entire day before, but as we don’t want to raise their expectations that much, it never happened again.

The Proposal Office has several responsibilities, so we’ll just share a few with you:

  • Create and provide templates and guidelines that promote autonomy, including technical and commercial replies.
  • Keep a modular and serviceable knowledge base that provides some off-the-shelf sections for proposals, either to be used as-is or for fine-tuning.
  • Act as the bid process gatekeepers, starting with the bid qualification and the kick-off meeting.
  • Support the proposal documentation development and ensure a common focal point and story line for all contributors.
  • Act as reviewers and challengers regarding the proposal strategy and content, focusing on presenting realistic solutions, supported by a winning sales pitch that highlights our competitive value.
  • Engage with peer teams for additional guidance and support on e.g., the solution architecture or contract conditions, or to produce compelling and professional illustrations.
  • Promote high level peer reviews and ensure alignment with Celfocus’ strategy.
  • Ensure that Celfocus has covered the entire request and formally complies with it.
  • Manage both Celfocus’ Proposal Index, where all proposals are logged, and Celfocus’ Proposal Space in Confluence, a central storage space that serves as archive and reference repository.

One of our roles relates to Technical Writing: to deliver a proper sales pitch, especially on proposals, requires a delicate balance. We struggle with authors to avoid explaining unnecessary technical details, but don’t want to sound like this (try it a couple of times and you’ll get what we mean).


People are often impressed by the number of proposals logged by Celfocus’ Bid Managers during the course of a year. For 2017, Proposal Office estimates Celfocus will close the year with about 380 proposals logged.

Did you know that in the last 12 months (Oct. 2016 to Sep. 2017)…


Our vision is to establish and provide all the tools that every Bid Manager and Bid Team need to be fully autonomous in producing high quality, winning proposals, supported by an effective and efficient process, with full visibility to top management.

Until then, we still need to do a couple of things, which include improving knowledge sharing and awareness, enhancing the Bid Process, and extending our bid engagement until the final decision (by promoting improvements, e.g., on the bid defence material).

In case we expand the team somewhere in the future and if you relate to this role or want to have a broader perspective about Celfocus’ business, bring coffee capsules and drop by for a chat.


Pedro Teixeira
Role Team manager and proposal guru

Pedro brings 20+ years of Novabase and Celfocus business expertise into play. His comprehensive knowledge of the market, technologies, processes and tools, allow him to overhaul any proposal towards excellence while keeping a sharp focus on winning.

Pedro is an avid computer scientist who loves a good challenge. He is also an avid sportsman, cinephile and gamer, just add “sofa” before each of those for a more accurate definition. About listening habits, and although they currently include a broad range of music, an all-time preference makes some odd (and/or old) names like Oliva, Iommi, Turunen, Malmsteen, Hansen, Schenker, Lynott, Hetfield, Satriani or Young ring a bell.

Nuno Alexandre Pires
Role Technical writer and document whisperer

Nuno is the documentation authority around here. With over a dozen years of technical writing and reviewing experience, he can write and revise with precision while fixing those document inconsistencies and Word oddness that drives us all crazy.

Co-founder of the first Technical Writing association in Portugal, APCOMTEC, Nuno is a former laser physicist who always liked a good writing. He is also passionate about the ocean and kitesurfing, and gets a nervous twitch whenever it’s windy outside… probably a dolphin in a previous life.


We cannot close this article without referring our sponsor in Celfocus’ Management Team, Daniel (globetrotter) Dias, to whom we are grateful for all the support and confidence.