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How to Parse the Government RFP for Compliance and Why It’s Important

Compliance is what separates the winners from the losers. Seriously. When writing a response to a request for proposal (RFP), proposal teams walk a fine line between submitting a winning proposal and one that is thrown out for noncompliance. Government business proposals must adhere to several compliance requirements, as provided in the RFP, as well as be responsive and a compelling read. Needless to say that the pressure is on and even more intense when the stakes are high – $20 million high.

Fortunately, there are industry standard techniques that your organization and proposal team can use to stay ahead of the frenzy and on top of your government RFP. Be prepared for compliance requirements and task assignment with compliant parsing best practices.

What is RFP Parsing?

We’re glad you asked. Government RFPs can exceed 100 pages and require a fine-toothed comb to review. Parsing a solicitation document helps break down the content into manageable sections (kind of like a work breakdown structure for a project) instead of having a massive responsibility thrown at you all at once. 

Parsing a government RFP usually comes at the beginning of the proposal development process (and at the end of well-crafted business development if your organization has managed the RFP response process right). We won’t go into detail about business development here, but it is worth noting that writing a business proposal that meets compliance requirements is much easier at the tail end of a full business development process.

Yet, let’s get back to parsing. Parsing an RFP takes the solicitation document and transforms it into a compliant log, otherwise known as a compliance matrix. The proposal manager and other members of the business development team, like the capture manager, review the RFP and create the compliance matrix using the Technical Proposal and Submission Instruction RFP sections or Section L and Section M for federal government RFPs.

Compliance matrices often a business proposal outline of RFP questions or sections that require attention from the proposal writers and the order of the responses that should be clearly displayed in the business proposal. Of course, you can probably guess at this point that parsing an RFP is focused on reviewing compliance requirements.

Contrary to usual, topsy turvy practice from quite a few proposal teams today, the RFP parsing stage is not really meant to help your proposal team learn about the prospective client or the contract scope. Yes, your business development process would have taken care of that part already.

Parse the RFP to make it easy for the proposal writers to respond to the RFP with the most interesting, compliant business proposal ever.

Here’s what you should have as a final outcome of RFP parsing:

  • Section Headers and Section Numbers.
  • RFP response questions.
  • Authors responsible for responding to each section
  • Page count requirements
  • Additional instructions as provided in the RFP
  • Final evaluation criteria for the proposal

Compliance matrices vary across organizations. Some proposal managers add the RFP response calendar that covers response due dates for the proposal team and proposal team expectations as well. Our list gives you the fundamentals – try to use it to stay compliant.

Manual or Automated Parsing: Which is Better?

Now that you understand what parsing comprises, better to get the hang of completing the task yourself. We recommend training your team later too to help improve compliant standards for your organization.

Look for the same things we outlined above whether you parse the RFP manually or use a government RFP software to automate RFP parsing. Compliant review ultimately allows your proposal team to determine, once and for all, the Go/No-Go analysis so you must get it right the first time.

Manual Parsing with Excel

A good ole fashioned Excel sheet can get the job done for you. It is a reliable tool for all of you spreadsheet lovers out there – as long as you save your work! Open an Excel sheet and build out your template (because templates matter for all proposal management processes) based on the required elements we provided up top. Make sure you tailor the spreadsheet to align with company standards and RFP requirements.


  • Trusted tool available through Microsoft Office Suite
  • No limit on text content additions
  • Requires little specialization to create


  • Manual tracking
  • Must recreate for every proposal
  • Limited document sharing options
  • File capacity limit 
  • Lengthy process

Manual parsing is available for any proposal team with access to the widely used Microsoft Office suite of applications. Usually it does not require a high level of specialization to create a comprehensive Excel spreadsheet from scratch, though many do not prefer to use Excel. It’s easy to make a mistake or to become frustrated if you’re not use to the application. Nonetheless, it is available for all proposal teams, no matter the industry or company size, with minimal options for document sharing, intelligent analysis, or compliance review.

Automated Parsing with Zbizlink

Compliance is the answer and artificial intelligence is the advantage. Automated RFP parsing is possible with the best proposal management software.

With automated parsing, your proposal team can leverage user-friendly software to scale the RFP review process across your organization and external review teams. Were you interested in winning more business with the government? Is proposal management ramping up for your organization? If the answer to either of these questions teetered toward a ‘yes’, then your proposal team will have to consider technology as an integral part of improving company standards and managing more proposal processes.

Zbizlink’s RFP Parser accomplishes automated parsing with artificial intelligence. It parses requirements into manageable sections and gives the proposal manager the opportunity to order information according to the company processes.   


  • Parses up to 50 RFP solicitations at once
  • Allows user to edit or add-in information
  • Stores parsing activity for later review before publishing
  • Parses content in 30 or so seconds
  • Available online


  • Must have a Zbizlink log-in to get started
  • Section headings cater to government and commercial RFPs
  • Does not process Excel RFP documents

Automated document parsing eases review for multiple proposals to help streamline the Go/No-Go decision, task assignment, compliance review, and the proposal management process. Your proposal team would need that extra leverage to manage multiple government RFPs and ensure compliance is always held as a top priority. Even better, Zbizlink conforms to your company processes and begins to learn user behavior – RFP review across teams gets better with time.

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