Nora Foux has worked for several top companies such as the American Heart Association, Comcast, and AssetWorks.
In 2021, she was a guest on the “Proposal.Works” podcast hosted by Pete Nicholls, CF, APMP, and was a presenter at the premier proposal industry conference, Loopicon, during the “Go/No-Go Framework Show and Tell” panel.
Nora is currently with Shipley Associates as a Proposal Manager in a consultant capacity for Microsoft’s Business Applications team in the UK.
FPS Features: Nora Foux
As a FOIA services provider for businesses, we are always intrigued by how savvy professionals utilize the wealth of information you get from requesting public records. One of the best proposal-winning minds in the business, Nora Foux, was kind enough to participate in a Q&A on her approach.
How important is FOIA to your process?
“I cannot underscore the value of receiving a FOIA. It is how I stay on top of industry/market trends, and in line with the content our competitors are leveraging. I definitely use it to tear apart a loss and get at the heart of why the winner was chosen, and I update our content/format accordingly. Every lesson learned informs how I approach the next bid that comes through the door.”
Is FOIA part of your Go/NoGo or debrief?
“We are actually goaled around filing FOIAs for every single loss. I was very surprised to find out last year at Loopicon how many RFP professionals either don’t have FOIA goals or have never filed them.”
Do you only ask for the winning proposal, or do you ask for all submitted?
“I always ask for everything just to see what they will give me. I review everything. It helps me identify gaps in competitor services/software (or ours) and stay on top of competitor offerings.”
When you say “ask for everything,” what specifically?
“I ask for all items associated with the RFP, including (but not limited to) submitted proposals, evaluation/score sheets, any comments by evaluators, etc.”
What material is usually the most valuable, and why?
“In my opinion, all of the material returned by the organization is equally valuable, but for different reasons. For example, the winning proposal itself is obviously going to give you a lot to dig through but doesn’t tell you specifically where your proposal fell short like the comments by individual evaluators will.”
So you find more value in scoring and eval sheets?
“If they include comments, yes. If they don’t include comments, I find them too arbitrary to get any use out of them. There is no way to know when one or two judges score you low if it’s simply because there is a relationship with a competitor or because they really felt we missed the mark.”
“Price will always be an important factor for any procurement person, especially in the public sector, where taxpayer dollars are being spent. Since cost information becomes part of the public record once the award is made, it’s really the best way to ensure you’re not starting to price yourself out of the market.”
How else do you peel value in situations where all the pricing is redacted?
“I compare content section by section. Did they include graphics where we didn’t? What did their resumes look like? Are they using long narrative or summary format? Etc.”
Is there a strategy for knowing when to file a FOIA Request?
“My rule of thumb is to file in the following quarter. I file a lot in Oct/Nov for Q1 and Q2 just because the contract process can take so long.”
Do any specific stories come to mind about something you found through the FOIA process that was a big needle mover?
“We were knocked on one proposal for our resumes and org chart, which I found very confusing as they were boilerplate materials that were created prior to my start with the company. Also, we had never been negatively scored on those items before. The evaluators didn’t provide much in terms of comments – only scores.
The organization kindly provided not just the winning proposal but all submitted proposals, which is sort of a unicorn when it happens. So I was very excited to dig in and parse through all of the proposals. What I found was that across the board, our competitors had started truncating their submitted resumes down from a full-page per person to a more summary format containing all the same information. They had also provided far more in-depth org charts than we did.
I was able to update our content for those items to bring our materials in line with industry standards. We were not negatively scored on either of those items again, and an added bonus was saving significant space, specifically around resumes in future submissions.”
Well, you are definitely what we at FOIA Professional Services call a “FOIA Shark.”
“I did not know there was a term for that, but now I definitely want that T-shirt!”
We’ll have to have one made and send it to you!
“I will most certainly hold you to that.”