I first encountered bidding technology in 2012. I was so impressed!
I wouldn’t consider myself an early adopter of technology but I am certainly one who enthusiastically embraces it when I see its value. However, after the initial delight of the novelty came the realisation that bidding technology was only as good as the work I put into getting everyone to use it.
Bid software allows you to do many things quickly. It makes nudging your SMEs for their contributions easy and gives you an overview of who has done what, without the need to maintain a separate accountability matrix. It saves time and gives visibility into the current status of the bid management process. You can also see which pieces of content have been used the most, which teams respond the fastest, and so on. If you work with partners, they can also use the software and the security of your bid library of reusable content is preserved.
What’s not to like, right? I wish it were that simple.
In my previous life as a bid management consultant, I was tasked with implementing the adoption of a well-known software platform within my customer’s organisation (an NHS Trust). I coordinated induction and training for all the subject matter experts and the bid team and actively managed the process.
Having successfully implemented the technology to a large number of users (and being a user myself), here are my top tips:
- Start with an audit of your current tools and see how else they can be used. Are you sure you really need a fancy software programme? As Chris Kälin suggests in his Bid Master programme, bid management functions should have a set of basic simple tools, specific tools, and super tools. But we should all start with the basic simple tools first before we invest time and resources in more sophisticated toys.
- Know what you are trying to achieve and write the specifications as if you were issuing a bid (because you will be doing that eventually!). I didn’t have to do that because my client had already purchased the software. But if you are the one deciding which programme to choose, your budget will determine the scope. Decide what key benefits you are seeking and prioritise them. The needs of an enterprise are different from those of a small or medium business. The geographical spread of your team and customers will also have an influence on the choice of software and whether you need to give secure access to partners or whether multilingual functionality is required.
- Involve your IT department BEFORE you do anything else. Trust me, without its blessing, there is a lot that can go wrong. Also, if IT is happy with the safety and integration aspects of the bidding technology, they are more likely to support your business case.
- Have a sponsor who will support you to get resources to train your team. You will be amazed at how time consuming it is to set up new users or re-train those existing users who only use it sporadically. It will become your full time job otherwise.
- Have a team, not an individual, to implement the system. If the individual leaves, or gets promoted, or changes department, there will be no one to drive the implementation.
- Do not link the implementation of the system to some other IT project like CRM etc. Chances are the deployment will take longer. Instead, look for an off-the-shelf solution that you can use from day one but that allows you to integrate new elements later.
- How are you going to justify the continuous budget required for using bid collaboration software? Start as you intend to continue by choosing a platform that also captures data showing the benefits to the company. Do a presentation for your peers in other functions to see if they could find the technology useful in their work. Sharing the costs with other departments will secure funding for years to come.
It’s impossible to do this topic justice. Yes, I am in the ‘pro’ camp of bid professionals who think this wonderful technology enables us to maintain efficient and current bid management content and can help us to produce great looking, compliant, and persuasive proposals!
For me, the biggest draw is the reporting and analytics function. I am particularly interested in the development of more sophisticated tools to track which part of a proposal the buying organisations are opening, reading etc. If that possibility is not pure gold for a bid professional, I don’t know what is.
Returning to my original question in the title, it should only be a matter of which software to choose, provided you go in with your eyes wide open. It may be a long journey full of potential pitfalls but if you have done your homework, you should be able to avoid all those dangers and select the right platform for your needs. Enjoy the ride.
This article was written by Rita Mascia.
Rita’s journey into the world of bids and proposal started while working for an award-winning language and culture business organisation. Rita is a bid professional with 21 years of experience in the public, private and not for profit sectors. Her expertise in the bid cycle includes business development, capture, bid management, bid writing, and contract negotiations. Her passion lies in leading teams to win business by producing persuasive proposals that deliver what they promise.