I was tempted to start with the bold statement, “I hate technology”, but that would be too harsh even for me. There are just things about technology that I hate.
I hate the endless choice. Just how many options do we need? Whether I’m buying a new phone, a computer, a television, a wearable or whatever, I’m forced to go through a complex configuration of size, weight, colour, optional widgets, gadgets and apps…the list goes on. And I hate the fact that I end up using about 1% of what I’ve paid for. But that’s my fault for being such a technophobe.
I hate the complexity. The simplest of functions and the smallest of errors demand endless internet searching, hundreds of half-answers and reams of meaningless instructions. I end up none the wiser and resort to phoning a friend, usually a younger person born with a smartphone in their tiny hands.
I hate the loss of traditional skills. Does anyone (other than me) read a map anymore? Or does the SatNav just do it? How many of us still do mental arithmetic? Don’t we just reach for the calculator? And surely our memories are almost redundant when all we need to do is “ask Alexa” or open a browser.
Yet, as my fingers fly across my laptop keyboard, I can’t say I miss the old days of typewriters, carbon copies, snail mail and landlines. Life was indeed more leisurely then. No one could (or would) contact me outside of work hours. Even so, I can’t deny technology has enhanced our education, capability, productivity and entertainment, and I wouldn’t be without it (even if I don’t entirely love it).
However, my pet hates colour my view of software packages and apps, even if their clever marketeers claim my bidding life will become a breeze. I approach them all with caution. Perhaps because I remember the days of ‘shelfware’ – software bought on a whim and a promise that never lived up to expectation, so sat gathering dust on a shelf – quite literally because it was delivered on floppy discs (ah, those were the days).
In my early days of selling software, we would extol the virtues of this word processor and that workflow manager. Fortunately, I was taught well and understood the difference between a feature and a benefit and the importance of matching software functions to customer requirements. Working alongside savvy consultants, I also learnt about software aligning with a technology and information strategy, streamlining processes and getting the right people and organisational structures in place. All this needs to be straight before any technology has a chance of fulfilling a dream.
And the point of this extended preamble? Well, it’s all relevant to proposal automation software.
There is an endless choice, as Bid Solutions’ BQ Tech report will show. This is why it’s essential to work out the problem(s) you are trying to solve and the outcome(s) you are trying to achieve. Doing a proper requirements analysis, developing a clear specification and running a structured selection exercise will help you to narrow down the choices. And before making a final decision and purchase, have a demonstration and consider doing a proof of concept or trial. The key message is ‘don’t be sold on a promise.’ Instead, make an informed and objective decision.
There is complexity. Before you even start, recognise that getting the benefits from your new software goes way beyond buying and installing it. You need a change management programme to adapt processes, train users, communicate new ways of working to all stakeholders and set up help and support mechanisms. Consider creating ‘super users’ who become experts and can guide and coach others. And remember to do a ‘benefits realisation’ exercise – did you get what you expected and wanted from the software?
There is a risk of losing traditional skills. Don’t assume the software will fix everything. Artificial intelligence buffs may dispute the statement that software is only as clever as the people that write it, but it’s not a bad generalisation. Sure, software can increase productivity, accountability and timeliness, but we still need bid professionals to bring creativity, structure and discipline to our proposal strategies, resource management and writing.
So, in conclusion, yes, our profession needs technology. The right technology with the right processes and the right training. And that leads us back to the requirements – get them right, you’ll love it, get them wrong, you’ll hate it. Simples.
This article was written by Sarah Hinchliffe.
Sarah has over 35 years’ selling and bidding experience, which she loves to share through her freelance work, articles and presentations. A constant champion of creative storytelling and professional rigour, she never tires of encouraging sales and bid teams to join up, work as a team and win more business together.