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AI-Powered Proposal Writing: The Future of GovCon

Proposal writing gets a (robotic) upgrade: AI tools take the pain out of the process.

John Ferry, Co-Founder/ CEO at UseRogue.com

Proposal writing gets a (robotic) upgrade: AI tools take the pain out of the process.

You are all familiar with the proposal process. A proposal gets “goed.” Immediately, you dig into your file of past proposals and repurpose a previous proposal similar to your current RFP. You scan through the RFP document and create an outline. Then, you start moving content around to fill in the newly created outline. Lastly, you start highlighting “old” info and updating it to make the content relevant to the project at hand.

All in all, you spend about 4+ hours just trying to scrounge up old information and piecemeal old writeups to create a first draft that can begin getting parsed down. All the while, you’re cringing inside because you know that a technical manager will need to comb through this carefully, and you know that your technical manager is overwhelmed with other projects and is going to miss critical details.

If that scenario sounds familiar, then you’ll be interested to know that there’s a new tool out there that will cut that entire process down to about 5 minutes and that the first draft will be more complete and more accurately aligned with the RFP requirements. Sound too good to be true? It may sound like it, but a breakthrough product called Rogue is available right now.

Rogue is a generative AI proposal writing platform that enables multi-contractor coordination.

First, let’s walk through how Rogue actually works. When you log into your dashboard, you have a “data shelf” where you can manually upload old proposals that you’ve written, marketing boilerplate and slick sheets, emails and notes that you’ve taken, and any other related documents that you want Rogue to learn from.  

Also, you have an important section where you input your company details, including your socioeconomic set-asides, NAICS codes, services you provide, and other relevant details. This allows the AI tool to build and understand your persona so that when it generates content, it knows who you are. You can also have many of these personas to tailor the AI’s generation to your specific customers, products, and services.

When you begin the process to create a new proposal, you have the option to use a template or not. For example, many government proposals require the same general format. But most people use the “Upload RFP” function, which automatically parses the solicitation and creates the first draft of your proposal volumes using your data. That equates to 4 hours of work reduced to 5 minutes. There is then a suite of AI-powered tools to help you write pages of proposal content in the time it would take to compose a paragraph manually. You can also choose language options depending on the reader. For example, you can choose concise or verbose language, education levels, active or passive voice, and other stylistic options. These options are one of the ways that Rogue will custom-create content for you—content that sounds like you and doesn’t sound like everyone else.

When the AI tool begins to piece together your proposal, it starts by generating an outline based on the RFP that you’ve uploaded. You can tailor the outline in any way you wish—moving, adding, or deleting sections. Then, by clicking the buttons, you begin generating content for each section. You can continue clicking, asking the AI to expand upon or make the writeups more concise if page count is a concern.

The document created is an interactive document, like a Google Doc, that allows authorized users to go in to begin editing and adding information. This is a big time-saver when working with large teams; these team members can upload their own slick sheets to generate team organization text.

Screenshot of the Rogue platform.

Above: Rogue creates an outline. Users can continue to develop and expand the text in each section.

Screenshot of the Rogue Platform's chat function

Above: Users can open a “Chat” to allow the AI tool to expound on an idea. In this case, the user asked the Chat to provide a deep dive on the topic “methodological approach for the Performance Work Statement (PWS).”

Screenshot of the Rogue Platform's data upload section for indexing purposes

Above: See all of your past proposals uploaded to the AI. These documents are what the AI tool learns from. Rogue only indexes data that a user has uploaded.

“It’s just not typical:” Rogue is an AI tool created specifically for government contractors by a former gov’t contractor.

Rogue is the brainchild of John Ferry, a former member of Army Special Forces and DARPA contractor. After leaving active duty, he launched his GovCon career by working in rapid acquisitions, supporting the procurement of a counter-IED training system. “It wasn’t a typical career field for a special forces operator, to be honest with you,” said Ferry. “Usually, acquisition jobs tend to be dominated by folks who come from logistics or supply, but my background was in weapons.” 

From there, Ferry transitioned to planning, programming, budgets, and execution within the Operations Directorate for the Army.

“Again, working in the money side of things wasn’t a typical career field for special forces guys like me,” Ferry laughed. Again, he moved, working in the Pentagon and later with DARPA, assisting with technology transition from the lab to operational forces. “I got a front-row seat to the cutting edge of a lot of technology, including artificial intelligence, very early on. I got a very thorough and deep understanding of what the realm of the possible was with no sales pitch embellishments to detract from the science.”

Four years ago, he bought out the company he was working for, and very quickly, he was initiated into the world of developing proposals for government work. After hitting Control+F, looking for old proposal information, he thought, “I know AI can do this. There are way better tools out there to index this information. There’s no reason why a human needs to be searching for all this information.” At the same time, he was talking to a then-DARPA program manager, an expert in AI who is currently a chaired computer science professor at an Ivy League school. This friend was knee-deep in evaluating a mountain of proposals he had received for his most recent AI program.

“I was just struck by the inherent irony that here is an AI expert sorting through proposals for AI research, and there are no AI tools available to help him make better use of his valuable time.”

With these challenges in mind, Ferry created a Phase One SBIR proposal for an open Air Force Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) topic. “I submitted that proposal, and it went nowhere,” Ferry reminisced wryly. “I got a non-awardable/not interested letter. Whatever. You win some, you lose some. I just put the proposal on my shelf and moved on.” Then, a year later, the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (now part of the Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office [CDAO]) put out a generative AI challenge. Ferry dusted off his old SBIR proposal and submitted it again, this time with success.

The outcome of that project was Acquisition Robot (AcqBot.com), a G2B AI tool tailor-made for government contract managers to help manage the entire lifecycle of a contract. (Read more here.) From there, it was a natural evolution to develop the other side of the coin—a B2G contractor’s platform: UseRogue.com.

Rogue is safe and secure.

One common perception of AI tools is that they have inherent security flaws: The fear is that AI tools will record all sorts of information about your company, including its trade secrets and government work details, and it can share and use them to train their models. For commercial tools like ChatGPT or Bard, that is true—the data it learns from is shared with the world. However, Rogue doesn’t have those security concerns because: 

1. It is built on a secure cloud platform, and each company’s data is separately stored and encrypted;

2. It only indexes information you upload to it;

3. Only authorized users can access it, and even then, those users only have access to permissions that you give them. You can create user groups that have access to only certain groups of information. For example, your managed services team might have one set of permissions, while your financial management team might have access to different data sets. Furthermore, Rogue can learn to talk about those different groups—and the jargon that goes with those industries—seamlessly.

Is Rogue like Chat GPT, but better?

Yes and no. It has ChatGPT-like functions, but the program offers more than just that. Within Rogue, there’s literally a “chat” button where you can ask Rogue for specific questions. This helps you generate more specific content based on your indexed data. But Rogue also can organize tasks in a more user-friendly way. For example, Rogue has a built-in Kanban board, which allows you to share with the whole team the progress of the proposal, including which sections still need attention, and move the reviews through Pink Team, Red Team, Gold Team, etc.

What are Rogue’s limitations?

Right now, Rogue can’t generate and incorporate graphics beyond simple charts and tables. If you need a Venn diagram or a Gantt chart, you’ll have to use another tool to generate that information.

Who is going to benefit from using Rogue?

Some big companies are working on custom-creating their own Rogue-like applications right now. Plus, the largest companies will need some time to gain corporate approval for implementing (and investing in) a tool like this. If a small- to mid-sized company waits five years, they will find they are far behind the industry standards. That’s why Rogue will best serve a mid-sized company, with maybe 100+ employees, that has been in business for a few years. That said, some small companies are trying to level up their proposal writing capacity, and they are some of Rogue’s biggest fans.

“I think AI use is going to accelerate very quickly,” said Ferry. “There’s a reticence to being the first mover, but in the competitive environment of government contracting, you really don’t want to be the last mover. Like, you wouldn’t want to be the last person on the planet that knows how to use Microsoft Excel. Well, two years from now, you aren’t going to want to be the person who doesn’t know how to do basic prompt engineering.”

So, how can professionals learn more about AI tools and prompt engineering?

AI will transform the GovCon industry, and we know that massive new technologies feel daunting when you’re way behind the learning curve. Rogue offers a free Master Class to help industry professionals learn more about AI tools like these. The master class is offered virtually, at your own pace, so that you can work it in on your lunch breaks and in between meetings. It includes free prompts for you to use when crafting your proposals and applications for you to put your skills to use. Check out the full course here, no strings attached, to see what topics the course covers.

Expert advice: Don’t waste your resources on tools that don’t save time.

When we asked Ferry what advice he has for small businesses looking to get a foot in the GovCon world, he recommended using your limited resources wisely.

“For a B2G company, don’t waste your time with people who don’t have money or with tools that waste your time. Don’t add to your bottom line. But at the same time, don’t be afraid to make small bets that you can grow into large bets.”

For Ferry, this “small bet” was akin to him providing free user testing to get feedback to fine-tune his product while also allowing him to demonstrate its usefulness to potential customers.

Another bit of advice: check out SBIRs and OTAs.

“There’s a lot of OTA movement right now. There are a lot of commercial solutions openings and a much broader space there than traditional acquisition routes. Start looking in those areas where you can make small bets, get in front of a customer, and show your value.”

For more information about Rogue, you can learn more or request a demo by visiting their UseRogue.com or contact John Ferry at [email protected].