Proposal software benefitsQuestion by: Chris Blackburn
Given the number of bid proposal software systems on the market these days, what are the key benefits of proposal automation as you see them and what, if any, are the risks for bid professionals of implementing such software?
Hi Chris, and thanks for your question.
When looking at Bid Proposal Software Systems specific benefits will be gained by specific user groups and are likely to be around three key areas:
- Centralisation and Management of Proposal, Presentation and RFP Content
- Streamlined Management of RFP response process
- Ability to “very quickly / very simply” Generate standard pitches, proposals and presentations
For the purpose of the likely readers of this response let me ignore the third answer as it is generally more interesting to Sales / BD Directors, Account Managers and Sales People.
While not all of the benefits listed below will apply to each reader and accepting that many firms will have their own challenges that could be addressed by this type of software – I hope that the following information is of help.
Centralisation and Management of RFP and Proposal Content
Since the inception of Document, Record, Content and Knowledge Management systems – companies have strived to get rid of silos of information and to centralise. Each company will have different challenges to achieve this and will already be at different states of maturity – but bid proposal software will definitely support you in: –
- Centralising (one version) of content used in RFP Responses, Pitches and Proposals
- Keeping that content current and approved
- Tracking the use of that content
- Presenting users with an example / guideline of how the question has previously been answered and supporting the user to create a client specific response to each specific question.
- Templates and previously submitted proposals can also be accessed from a central location – so massively reducing time and effort to search for and re-use content.
Streamlined Management of RFP Response Process
This is the area where Bid, RFP and Tender teams and management really benefit.
- Adoption of this type of software will allow incoming, outgoing and collaborative content and data to be held in one place.
- Tasks and Contributions can be allocated to team members, their progress can be tracked and reported on and their responses can be pushed through reviews before being presented back to the proposal owner.
- Users can co-author a single version of the proposal to reduce the risk of using multiple formats, to increase collaboration and to avoid local versions of the same document.
- Bid and Proposal Managers can track throughput of proposals, can identify bottlenecks, can see the progress of allocated tasks and as a result can “manage” the whole process more effectively.
- Deadlines are continuously tracked, routine tasks can be automated
- Integration to CRM systems is also popular to ensure that one central pool of data is used across the firm / business / organisation
The above is a small sample of likely benefits.
You also asked what the potential risks are for bid professionals implementing such software? In my opinion, there is risk involved with any business change programme, with any procurement exercise and with any software deployment. To avoid risk it is vitally important that requirements (business, user and system) are determined well in advance of requesting a final proposal from a supplier. It you need to prove a return on investment – it is important that you identify where savings in cost / increases in revenue will be found, how they will be measured and what thresholds exist to allow you to determine success.
In our experience the primary risks to bid professionals implementing such software are
- Main Sponsor / Product Champion Leaves
- No Time / Resource to commit content to central database
- IT Engagement / Support
- Complex Integration Requirements
- Dependency on other projects
In many companies a single individual drives the deployment of Bid Management software, this creates a single point of failure. If that person (within the late stages of selection / early stages of deployment) subsequently leaves the business, changes their role or is involved in any form of extended leave from work – the new project will be at risk. Mitigation – establish a team to share responsibility.
When a user is able to find the content they need in seconds, it is up to date and approved – the system owner(s) have the responsibility to populate the database in the first place and to keep content managed. When this task is required on top of day to day response / managerial deadlines it can be daunting. Significant costs savings will be enjoyed by finding better quality content quicker – so it is important that a proportion of the cost savings will be made available to support the population and maintenance of the database. Mitigation – establish the true cost and time requirements for this task and factor those costs and responsibilities into the business case.
It is vitally important that your IT / IS team are engaged and support the software deployment project as early as possible. Even where organisations are able to benefit from hosted deployments – they will still need to rely on IT / IS colleagues for on-going support. Mitigation – Engage early with IT / IS.
Bid Managers are often encouraged to integrate their Bid Management software with other systems, most commonly CRM, Practice Management, Pricing and other databases. Quite often these integrations absorb a huge part of the project budget but don’t return an equal proportion of value. Mitigation – Consider whether the software can be deployed at the lowest cost, out of the box with minimal integration to prove value. Add integrations as later phases once the software has been established, accepted and proven.
Too often deployment of a Bid Management software is conditional on the successful conclusion of a connected IT project – most commonly a CRM system. The risk to Bid managers here is the huge, often multi-year delay is getting their hands on the software that they need to streamline their operation, reduce costs, drive up quality, improve compliance or even increase win rates. Mitigation – Fight your corner, look at the previous point – why not start working with the tools you need and think about integrating them later.