Preparing for Proposal Automation
Got Content Chaos?
When proposals are created manually, reusable content elements are commonly scattered across old documents, shared drives, and inboxes. Organizations in this mode depend on a system of tribal knowledge in which senior proposal professionals are the keepers of content, knowing what exists and where the best version is located.
From Chaos to Control
The inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and risks associated with this manual proposal model have led many businesses to recognize the need for proposal software. But now what? We’ve all heard the phrase ‘garbage in, garbage out’ and know that software by itself won’t fix all problems. So, how do you get started and move from content chaos to control?
Getting Started: A Balanced Approach
Collecting and organizing your proposal content is a great place to start, but restraint is in order. The fact is that many aspects of content organization are best done with proposal software in place. For example, content management decisions such as owner or subject expert are very difficult to capture manually. So, while it is prudent to prepare, too much upfront effort almost certainly leads to repeated editing of the same content and needless delays.
Getting Your House in Order
There are things that you can do to get your house in order before purchasing proposal software. We recommend starting where you are and making simple progressions. Here is a great way to get the ball rolling:
- Gather a handful of your most recent proposals. (Don’t try to reach too far back as this content is more likely to be out of date or inaccurate.)
- Identify the common elements, those essential components that make their way into most of these proposals. These content elements will become records in the proposal system.
- Retain the RFP questions and section headers. These elements are helpful to optimize the proposal software search engine and can be used to categorize the records and build out content descriptions.
- Proofread, fix, and genericize the content. Remove anything that was too specifically related to a customer or opportunity to ensure the trustworthiness of these records in future use.
When in Doubt, Throw it Out
The expression “Don’t try to boil the ocean” applies here. It’s a common mistake to try to collect everything that has ever been written. Being afraid that you will occasionally need to recreate a highly tailored, one-off piece of content can lead to major delays in adopting the solution. Further, this ‘content hoarding’ approach can create a cluttered library with too many options for the proposal writer to sort through on the next RFP. Follow the Pareto Principle: think about the 20% of your content that brings 80% of the impact.
Evolution is Awesome
With regular use over time, this solid base of content in your library evolves naturally. Adding records, refining answers, building additional variations of key records for specific customer segments or verticals, and engaging subject experts to expand and enhance sections becomes a natural process. It’s an awesome thing!
I used several proposal software applications and knew the importance of ease of use. Many of the proposal apps are so complicated that users revolt against the system. Expedience is the easiest proposal automation software that I’ve ever used, and our proposal writers actually love using it!
Vice President of Marketing