Ask the Expert

Should I spend my budget on Writers or Proposal Automation Software?

Question by: Martin Smith

We often encounter clients that have a very real dilemma when it comes to creating and maintaining high quality pre-written. With limited budget they often cannot afford to employ a raft of writers that can comfortably keep on top of their ever evolving content. Similarly, their budget does not allow them to roll out an end-to-end Proposal Automation Software Solution. In your opinion, where should they focus spend?


“We cannot automate…we write everything from scratch…our solutions are unique we cannot reuse any previous content”.  This is still a statement I hear today, despite RFP/Proposal Automation being around since the turn of the century.

So, let’s accept these statements for the time being and take a step back to understand what automation is designed to deliver/support:

  • A consistent and repeatable process
  • Consistent in output
  • Consistent in quality.

If you are in the camp of saying we cannot use automation, how do you achieve the above outcomes?  Surely this is an operational aim of any organisation? Growing and expanding the business is part of everyone’s role, with the ultimate goal of “Create – Sell – Repeat”.

In the world of RFPs there are people, processes, and content. All three elements need to be aligned and, to consistently deliver success, must be fit for purpose. If any one of these is weak then it will ultimately erode the other elements.

With bid and proposal automation technology, all too frequently the business case for the technology is justified on purely cost savings, i.e. reducing heads. This is a flawed argument.  You need a critical mass of people who are good at creating RFPs. You need good processes in place to ensure you make the right decisions on your bid/no bids. You need good quality content that promotes your value and tells the buyer why they should choose your company.

Turning back to the camp of the more manual approach. You could simply have an army of writers creating everything from scratch every time. This is expensive, it is subject to variances in quality, and does not maximise their value and skill. By having these writers carry out unnecessary administrative tasks is wasting their time and does not contribute true value.

The number of documents bid teams need to manage is growing – PPQs, RFI, RFP, ITTs, DDQs, Security Questionnaires, and so on. Automation is today enabling companies to create these documents faster, more consistently and with quality. In some instances it is enabling 70-100% of the document to be create via an automated solution. Equally, it is disingenuous to assume you could take a 500 question RFP, run it through automation software, and a few minutes later job is done.  However, it is proven to absolutely enable you to get 40-60 % of it done – get to the first draft – in a fraction of the time. You can then use the time to polish and refine the document and not simply do more bids.

Bid and proposal automation software is there to underpin people, process and content (PPC).  So rather than just PPC, lets agree there are four pillars of good RFP management – people, process, content and technology (PPCT).

Such gains are not made overnight – it is a journey. Technology supporting good people, process and content will give you productivity gains, it will give you the time to improve the quality of the RFP and the content, and this combination will impact your win-rates.

Using automation for RFPs is striking a balance between a boilerplate type proposal and a completely bespoke proposal. Surely the approach is a blended approach where the use of technology will take away a lot of the standard type questions, it will provide the basis in many cases for answers which need to be crafted and yes there will be questions that require a more bespoke answer. It then becomes a simple question of how much is “boilerplate” versus “bespoke”. Even a 50/50 split between the two means that automation can play a significant role in the management and creation of RFPs. A RFP is never and should never be viewed as a single task – there is always going to be iterations but then the trick comes by either throwing resources at the document, which are always finite, or using automation to give back time to the bid team. This will allow them to finesse, polish and refine the answers in the document to ensure that it truly does answer the questions and more importantly, ensure that the buyer understands your differentiators as to how they relate to their business needs.