Optimise proposal creation: Make winning business more efficient
Winning business is hard work. That is a statement of the obvious, but it also contains the key to the problem, hard work. Not only is winning business technically difficult but it is also very resource intensive, it requires lots of work, from lots of people, for a long period of time. The bigger the business, the bigger the proposal, the bigger the team, the bigger the problem. Or is it?
Well the short answer is probably still yes, but, and there is a but, it doesn’t have to become a problem which places restrictions on the process. The cost of winning business is often a taboo topic, something best overlooked or drowned out in the glory of that most recent big win. But let’s consider the cost of winning business as a large organisation and identify a few key areas where efficiency improvements are entirely possible.
Most complex proposals these days centre around a document, or set of documents; the contents, quality, and punctuality of these documents is key to winning that bit of business. So how do we ensure that the content of the document is precise and compelling, the quality is outstanding and it is produced on time all whilst keeping in mind the potential costs spiral of inefficient process.
Let’s say an RFP has just landed on your desk (or more likely in your inbox), it looks like a great opportunity for your business, but it is complex, highly technical, there is a lot of work involved and you need to get your team to look at this document and quickly make an assessment. Should we respond (likely yes), if so how do we respond, what is our response and who needs to be involved. Now this initial review itself might look like a great big time sink and time is precious, the deadline is tight. Traditionally this is going to involve a lot of emailing;
Hi team members,
We have just received an RFP, it looks very interesting and I think we should go for it but I need your opinions. Please take a look over this document, share your thoughts and I shall schedule a meeting to review.
So, you send the document round to your team, everyone looks at it individually, maybe you get a few people emailing their initial thoughts back. Some people have added comments in track changes, others have just emailed some comments, some might have even used the old-fashioned phone call or maybe even a watercooler conversation. As the document owner you now have the task of first consolidating and then relaying all of this information in a review meeting so that you can make a decision about what to do and who needs to be involved in creating a response. Right away this doesn’t seem particularly efficient and whilst maybe an exaggerated example I have no doubt that similar things happen at organisations all over the world.
Anyway, you have decided that yes, this looks great, it’s complex but the business should go for it and has strong capabilities in all the right areas. Now you must create a response, and here is where the real challenges start. You work for an international business the team required to respond to this RFP involves almost 20 people all with differing responsibilities, from different teams, in different divisions, in different locations and you only have till the end of the month. Now you have a real challenge. Replay again the same email, track changes, review meeting, scenario and you have huge time and therefore cost implications. Not to mention the administrative load placed on the review owner and the frustrations of all required to contribute; email traffic, version confusions, duplication of comments and changes, formatting woes, the list goes on. You finally battle your way through to draft one, now you need to share this version with perhaps an even broader group for review, and so the cycle continues until finally you have your finished, approved document ready to go back to the client. The team breathes a sigh of relief, and then the process starts all over again.
Let’s re-run this scenario using a comprehensive document collaboration solution such as PleaseReview. The RFP lands in your inbox, you upload the document, invite the relevant decision makers and start the review. An automated email goes out to all invited, they enter the review, comment directly on the document, visible to all other reviewers in real time. All discussion is captured in a single place and the following review meeting is straight onto next actions.
You have your list of 20 contributors, you quickly create a document outline with the key areas required to meet the expectations of the RFP, upload the document and invite your reviewers. You assign each author to a predefined section of the proposal so that they contribute exactly where required. The review is started, again an automatic email is sent to all reviewers, when they enter the review, if they are an author their section will be clearly displayed and they can contribute in real time. The document quickly moves towards completion, there is no unnecessary email traffic, the document owner spends no time consolidating different versions, no time worrying about incorrect formatting and no time chasing because the automated reminders keep reviewers on track.
I think by this point the time savings are already obvious, once completed and approved the document owner can download the document straight into its original format, ready to use right away. The business has saved time, reduced costs and everyone involved is generally happier with the process and more satisfied with the end result. The team achieves an increased degree of confidence that the document is comprehensive and high quality. Using PleaseReview businesses have seen time savings averaging at 65% versus their previous review process.
So the time savings are obvious, but speed is not everything when it comes to creating proposals or tenders which win business. Quality, innovation and great ideas win business and it has been proven, time and again that large teams produce innovative ideas more consistently and at a higher level of quality than small ones. Big teams are great, or at least they would be if it wasn’t such a burden, but it doesn’t have to be so. With a collaborative solution you can involve big teams without the additional stress and frustrations, your team is free to focus on great ideas without worrying about admin, formatting and inefficiencies. Wherever they are in the world, your large team can work with all the agility of a small one, making best use of time and keeping the focus on the content not the process.
Collaboration is powerful, it creates great ideas, it gets things done and with the right solutions in place, combined with great process it doesn’t mean inefficiency and frustration. In large businesses working in highly technical industries big teams and complex proposals are par for the course, but this does not have to be a hurdle, it can be a great opportunity. Put the right tools in place and reap the rewards of effective collaboration.