Writing a proposal is relatively simple (which is not the same as easy!) if you’re the only one involved. You don’t have to keep track of anyone else; you just need to keep track of yourself.
On most proposals, though, you won’t be the only one involved. Typically there will be multiple writers contributing to the final product. On large proposals, there can be dozens of different contributors working on the document simultaneously.
When that happens, it introduces a special kind of risk to the proposal effort: There may be multiple versions of the document in existence at the same time. Which one is the “right” one? Which one is the most current?
This is where version control is essential. If you lose control, you run the risk of having one or more contributors working on the wrong version–which can cost lost time or effort to correct or, in the worst case, result in submitting a proposal that is less than your best effort.
You can attempt to maintain version control “manually,” of course–only allowing one person to work on the document at a time, for example, or implementing a file naming convention that incorporates dates, times, and authors’ names. However, the more contributors are involved, the more challenging this will become. Technology can help. There are many document management tools available to address this critical need. Some, such as Microsoft’s Sharepoint, are more generic products that can be adapted for use on proposals. Others–such as Privia or Virtual Proposal Center–are designed specifically for the proposal environment.
Whatever method or tool you use, make version control a central element of every proposal. Lose control, and you just might lose the contract.