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How to respond to a DDQ

How to respond to a DDQ

Entering into a business relationship, whether it includes making a large purchase or even a merger or acquisition, is complicated. […]


How to respond to a DDQ

How to respond to a DDQ

Entering into a business relationship, whether it includes making a large purchase or even a merger or acquisition, is complicated. With today’s security challenges, it is riskier than ever.

When a company receives a DDQ, the document shouldn’t be taken lightly. Lack of due diligence on the part of the responder can risk future deals, future partnerships, and even the company’s reputation.

What is a DDQ?

DDQ stands for due diligence questionnaire. While that sounds somewhat vague, a DDQ is all about mitigating risk by determining whether the company receiving the DDQ complies with the issuer’s standards and regulations.

A DDQ could be a precursor to an RFP, a merger or acquisition, or an audit from an existing customer. It could even be a way of creating a list of “safe” companies for future dealings.

Naturally, DDQs are as varied as the companies, and especially the industries, that issue them. Tech companies, for example, emphasize security and privacy compliance. Financial institutions want assurance that vendors won’t put them in hot water with the Securities and Exchange Commission, among other regulatory agencies. And those in the healthcare industry need to verify HIPAA compliance.

Naturally, it’s not that simple. There’s a lot of overlap. Every industry, for example, is concerned with security and privacy. Nearly every DDQ, regardless of sector, probes companies about their history, investments, organizational structure, etc.

In short, the job of a DDQ response team is to paint a picture of a company that is stable and compliant.

A DDQ is not a sales document. Most DDQs will not ask about product functionality, market share, hiring practices, etc., although they might ask about major new product releases, as they could affect financial forecasts.

Who issues DDQs?

While any organization could issue a DDQ, they’re primarily issued by technology companies, financial services companies, and government agencies.

DDQs can have dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of questions, but even the simplest DDQs require input from multiple stakeholders. If you’re in charge of responding to DDQs, you may need input from the following roles:

  • Financial – You could receive questions regarding your company’s financial health. These may include questions about anything from investors, to financial statements, to liens, to the amount of taxes your company pays, etc. If you work for a privately held company, you might not choose to answer those questions, but the issuer will ask.
  • Legal – Most legal questions fall under the purview of RFPs. However, you may see DDQ questions related to legal compliance.
  • Mergers and Acquisitions – Companies must issue DDQs before entering into mergers or acquisitions.
    Analysts – While raw data might be enough to answer some questions, many will need a deeper understanding and even forecasting.
  • Compliance – Gauging compliance is the core function of a DDQ.
  • IT – IT departments are at the front line of enacting and maintaining security protocols.
  • Procurement – In many companies, procurement departments are DDQs’ project managers. It’s rare, however, to see questions related explicitly to procurement.

Why do companies issue due diligence questionnaires?

Issuing a DDQ simplifies the collection and delivery of vital information needed before engaging in or continuing a business relationship.

A DDQ enables the issuer to learn about current or prospective partnerships’:

  • Financial status – It’s easy to understand why a company might want to learn about a potential vendor’s financial position. A financial misstep from a vendor could have reverberations down the line. However, many, if not most, privately held companies will not open their books to people outside their organization. Publicly traded companies are another story; their financial statuses must be public.
  • Business holdings – Business holdings are part of financial due diligence and could reveal debts and potential tax liabilities.
  • Compliance standards – Compliance requirements are numerous and deep. If a vendor is out of compliance with an issuer’s obligations, the issuer could find themselves out of compliance,

A DDQ helps a company measure risk in a variety of types of business transactions. Reasons for issuing DDQs include:

  • Completing a merger – A merger is a marriage, so to speak, between two companies. It’s a legally binding agreement that essentially states, “what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine.” It would be irresponsible to enter into a merger without knowing what the “yours” that will be “mine” is.
  • Assessing an acquisition – An acquisition is much like a merger in that transparency is critical, and a DDQ will reflect that.
  • Considering an investment – Large investors want to vet their potential investment before writing a check.
    Third-party vendor risk management – Even if a company is 100% compliant, their vendors could put your customers at risk. Risk assessments have to dig below the surface.

Responding to a DDQ

An effective DDQ response provides enough information to empower buyers, prospective investors, or business partners to confidently move forward.

A DDQ response process has a lot in common with an RFP response process, but there are some differences. Here are the key steps for responding to a DDQ:

1. Define your response strategy

Just as responding to an RFP requires a strategy, so should a DDQ response. First, you must determine:

  • Whether the SLA (service level agreement) is defined and available.
  • Who to put in charge of intake.
  • When you will be ready to start answering questions.
  • Who will answer the DDQ.
  • How long the DDQ will be in question/answer mode.
  • When the DDQ will be ready for review.

2. Assign tasks and due dates

A typical DDQ will have several SMEs and stakeholders. Make sure everyone knows their precise roles and responsibilities and expected timelines.

3. Answer commonly seen questions

Most questions on a DDQ, or for that matter, an RFx, are identical or nearly identical to questions you’ve answered before. A well-developed Content Library should automatically provide those repeatable answers, enabling you to accept them as is or edit them as needed.

4. Consult with collaborators

Once you’ve answered all the common questions, it’s time to turn to the experts. Consult with your response team and SMEs (subject matter experts) to complete the DDQ.

5. Review

Go through the DDQ with a fine-toothed comb to ensure there are no errors or missed (answerable) answers.

6. Submit the Questionnaire to the issuer

On time, right?

Due Diligence response best practices

Even though companies send DDQs with different goals in mind, and they are as varied as any other type of document your proposal team may see, there are a few best practices you should follow for all your submissions.

Understand your position in the sales funnel

Your latest DDQ may or may not be part of the sales process. If it leads to a potential sale, you’ll typically see a DDQ high up in the funnel, perhaps as a way of selecting compliant vendors before issuing an RFP.

Occasionally you might see a DDQ after responding to an RFP and as the prospect is nearly ready to select a vendor.

Sometimes, though, the DDQ is so far removed from the sales process that it’s nothing more than information gathering, either on current vendors or maybe-one day-in-the-future vendors.

No matter where the DDQ is in the sales funnel, if it’s in the sales funnel at all, it’s not a good idea to set the document aside. Maybe it will lead to future deals, or perhaps it will expose some of your own vulnerabilities.

Aim for a consistent and systematic approach

Some DDQs have thousands of questions, which might feel intimidating, and your instinct might be to answer each question as succinctly as possible. While that approach might save you time, proving compliance requires a detailed and consistent response.

Still, you can take steps to ensure that you don’t skip questions and to help you manage the time required to provide complete answers. They include:

  • Prepare a customized checklist – Create a customized checklist of the types of information you might need, preferably categorized by industry. You could require an organizational chart, financial information, legal documents, and of course, governance, risk, and compliance documents. Here’s one you can download right now.
  • Create due diligence questionnaire templates – Consistency saves time. If you upload your DDQs into a customized template, each stakeholder will know precisely where to locate what they need.
  • Leverage RFP response management softwareRFP response management software also works for DDQs. Intelligent response management software will help you create and store both checklists and templates.

Centralize response information

Most of the questions on a DDQ are very similar to questions you’ve answered in previous questionnaires. Storing your responses and documents in a single source of truth for information can save hours, days, and sometimes even weeks on your response process. Beyond saving time, a Content Library:

  • Ensures accuracy – A company is legally bound to their answers, so accuracy is critical. The Content Library will hold on to the company-approved answers, enabling users to produce accurate responses.
  • Supports transparency – Transparency is critical for both trust and employee morale. When all the necessary information is right there for authorized users to see and use, it creates trust among the rest of the response team and potential customers.
  • Improves knowledge access – Anyone with the proper credentials can access the knowledge they need.

Automate the response process

You may not be using automation in your response process, but your competitors and many—if not most—of your customers and clients are. There are several reasons leveraging automation improves the DDQ response process, including:

  • Tracking real-time vendor completion progress – Automated response software has (or should have) project management built right in. It tracks each stakeholder’s progress.
  • Streamlining response time – Automation can answer up to 80% of your DDQ with just a few clicks.
  • Scaling ability to respond to DDQs – Automation helps determine the size and scope of the ideal response team as well as timeline estimates.
  • Efficiently managing tasks and deadlines – Define and manage tasks and expectations with automation.
  • Improving collaboration – Automated responses value and save SMEs’ time, creating more willingness to collaborate.

Due diligence checklist

While all transactions differ, a DDQ checklist facilitates a more thorough response through better organization and time management.

Common materials collected during a DDQ response include general corporate information, financial information, compliance certifications, licenses, legal documents, etc.

Organization and ownership

A DDQ might be a potential vendor’s first encounter with your organization, which means they need a proper introduction. The DDQ could ask for:

  • An organizational chart
  • Partnership/profit sharing agreements
  • Records of shareholder meetings
  • Senior leadership information (e.g., age, tenure, promotions, etc.)

Human resources

DDQs don’t generally dive too deeply into human resources issues, but you can learn much about a company’s long-term viability and potential problems from the HR department. DDQs might ask HR about:

  • Projected headcount (by function and location)
  • Benefit plans
  • Key employment agreements
  • Personnel turnover data
  • Incentive stock plan overviews
  • Employee litigation

Financial

DDQs are common in financial service organizations. Also, because DDQs might precede a lengthy business relationship, the issuer will want to know your organization is financially stable. It is important to note, though, that many privately-held companies will not provide financial documents. Requested financial records might include:

  • Annual and quarterly financial information
  • Accounts receivable
  • Capital structure
  • Summary of all debt instruments
  • Financial projections
  • Revenue (by product type, customers, and channel)
  • Major growth drivers and prospects
  • Summary of current tax positions
  • Schedule of financing history (equity, warrants, and debt)

Fund information

DDQs are necessary for mergers, acquisitions, or business partnerships. It probably goes without saying that fund information is crucial for financial or investment partner due diligence. The document might request information about:

  • Fund strategy
  • Product and fund descriptions
  • Market share
  • Timing of new products
  • Cost structure
  • Profitability

Governance, risk, and compliance

Assessing governance, risk, and compliance is the primary purpose for issuing a DDQ. Be prepared to offer documentation for:

  • Policies
  • Code of ethics
  • Fund exposure
  • Service provider risk
  • SEC communications

Legal

Legal documentation helps issuers determine whether a company is in good legal standing. You may be asked to provide information on:

  • Pending and past lawsuits
  • Environmental and employee liabilities and safety
  • Intellectual Property
  • Insurance coverage details
  • Summary of material contacts
  • History of regulatory agency issues

Streamline your DDQ response process with RFPIO

Issuing and responding to DDQs can be repetitive and time-consuming, and not just for dedicated response teams. RFPIO’s automated response software saves time, improves quality and accuracy, and helps foster good working relationships.

Due diligence software offers several features to help optimize the DDQ response process, including:

Knowledge library

RFPIO’s AI-powered Content Library is a centralized knowledge source—a single source of truth—that enables streamlined responses by intelligently answering most of a DDQ’s questions and providing the corresponding documents without asking SMEs to reinvent the wheel each and every time a similar question arises.

Answer intelligence

Using machine learning, RFPIO response management software understands the questions and knows how to respond to routine (and some not routine) requests based on previous answers. All you have to do is edit or accept the suggested responses.

Collaborative integrations

RFPIO offers best-in-class integrations with all the productivity, sales enablement, communication, and CRM tools you already use.

*Put your best answers forward with RFPIO*

Learn how RFPIO can help your company respond to DDQs with accuracy, efficiency, and expedience. Schedule a free demo – RFPIO, DDQ management software.

Understanding due diligence questionnaires

Understanding due diligence questionnaires

The internet allows consumers to easily arm themselves with information that may influence their buying decisions. Before spending money at a restaurant or hair salon, for example, they might consult Yelp or Google Business reviews.

When a business enters into an agreement with another company, whether it’s a large purchase or even a merger or acquisition, making informed decisions is a little—okay, a lot—more complicated than just checking Yelp reviews. Before entering into a business relationship, buyers must do their due diligence, or there could be severe repercussions.

What does doing “due diligence” entail when entering into business agreements? In this blog, we’ll talk about when you can expect a DDQ (due diligence questionnaire), what to expect from it, and how to make filling one out a whole lot easier.

What is a due diligence questionnaire (DDQ)?

A DDQ is a formal document and request from a company looking to have a set level of understanding of a specific topic from a potential vendor. A DDQ enables the issuer to vet prospective partnerships.

It is worth noting, however, that DDQs vary between industries and types of products or transactions. Also, unlike an RFP, a DDQ is not a sales document and may not even be a precursor to a sales document.

Although, similarly to how many (if not most) companies run background checks on new hires, a DDQ might be that “background check” before signing an official deal. DDQs are most commonly sent from highly-regulated companies, such as those in the financial services industry.

Some DDQs are product-focused, asking, for example, what the product capabilities are. However, a DDQ is not a sales document, so it generally won’t get into specific product features, pricing, or logistics.

DDQs include:

  • Financial status – Businesses make large purchases to help them fulfill their customer obligations. Suppose they choose to do business with a company that isn’t on good financial footing and could go bankrupt. In that case, the purchasing organization risks financial loss, potential legal problems, damage to credit, and a hit to its reputation. This isn’t to say they’ll always receive the answers they’re looking for; we’ll get to that in a moment.
  • Business holdings – Asking an organization to disclose its business holdings is part of the financial vetting process. It could reveal potential red flags that expose the vendor—and potentially, by extension, the purchaser—to legal and tax vulnerabilities.
  • Compliance standards – Does the vendor meet the purchaser’s industry standards and applicable government regulations? These questions might arrive via a separate security questionnaire.

Due diligence core areas

Many people confuse DDQs with RFPs and security questionnaires, but they are quite different. As mentioned earlier, an RFP is a sales document. A security questionnaire has more in common with a DDQ than an RFP but security questionnaires are generally straightforward yes/no questions.

A DDQ might contain some narrative questions, similarly to an RFP. But a DDQ is strictly about vetting a company, not making a sale. The core areas include:

  • General organizational information (business credentials) – Typically, DDQs only ask about surface business credentials, such as company name, company legal name, year founded, primary products, number of customers, etc.
  • Financial review – Financial due diligence is one of the primary purposes for DDQs, especially in financial services. Customers may want to see the last three years of financial statements. Privately-held companies are not legally required to release financial information—and as a matter of course, they won’t. As an alternative, the vendor might suggest a phone call to discuss concerns.
  • Human resources – HR questions are generally more characteristic of an RFP than a DDQ. There might be some surface-level questions, such as “how many employees,” etc., but granular questions about HR are left to the RFP.
  • Funding – A DDQ issued to a startup company might ask about funding. A DDQ may also ask about a fund manager’s strategy.
  • Governance, risk, and compliance – This is a core piece of DDQs.
  • Legal – Legal questions are usually categories under compliance. Legal agreements are generally more RFP-focused.

What does a DDQ include?

While DDQs might have some narrative questions, most are yes/no. DDQ questions might cover several categories.

They might include:

  • Company questions – Company questions might include some narrative questions, such as, “tell us about (company history, organizational structure, subsidiaries, majority stakeholders, investments, etc.).”
  • Financial information – Financial information includes income, balance sheets, accounts payable and receivable, tax returns, credit reports, etc. Many privately held companies will not answer these questions.
  • Employee information – Employee information is generally part of an RFP. However, a DDQ might ask high-level questions such as the number of employees, types of non-compete and non-disclosure agreements, etc.
  • Legal overview – A DDQ is not a legal contract, but that doesn’t mean incorrect answers won’t get you in legal hot water in the future. You may see questions about litigations, permits, licensing, etc.
  • Financial and debt statements – It’s common for a DDQ to ask for financial and debt statements. However, while that information is public for publicly traded companies, privately held companies may not, and often do not, provide those answers.
  • Consumer/customer information – Customer questions are generally not part of a DDQ. However, it might include questions about security surrounding customer records or any litigations.
  • Industry and market insights – Industry and market insights are not common DDQ subjects.
  • Intellectual property – Intellectual property questions are common on DDQs. You could be asked how many patents your company holds, whether your products are intellectual property or crowdsourced, etc.
  • Operational information – Like HR questions, operational questions are typically high-level, such as about network security. However, in manufacturing, operational questions tend to be far more complex and in-depth.
  • Regulatory compliance – Regulatory compliance is generally the most critical part of a DDQ, especially in the tech, financial, and healthcare industries. You can expect several questions about whether you comply with an issuer’s regulatory requirements.
  • Data security and privacy – In most cases, data security and privacy fall under regulatory compliance. Some issuers might want to know whether you go above and beyond to meet stringent compliance requirements.
  • Contractual obligations – Contractual obligation questions are typically in an RFP instead of a DDQ.
    Reputation and publicity reports – Reputation and publicity report questions are not generally part of a DDQ. However, you will find them on RFPs and RFIs (requests for information).
  • Information technology systems – It’s common for a DDQ to ask about existing software and hardware.
  • Tax history – Tax history typically falls under financial questions. Most privately held companies won’t answer.

Why do organizations issue DDQs?

While DDQs are not a direct part of the sales cycle, they can help facilitate it. A company may issue a security questionnaire before an RFP or even compile a list of compliant vendors for future use.

It’s also prevalent for companies to issue DDQs to existing vendors to address significant organizational changes and maintain standards in their vendor pool.

  • Mitigate risks – Risk mitigation is the fundamental reason to issue a DDQ. Risk mitigation is a common concern in investment management. DDQs are often issued for existing relationships to ensure up-to-date compliance.
  • Guarantee compliance – This falls under risk mitigation.
    Streamline disclosure process – A comprehensive DDQ is designed to streamline information collection and disclosure.
  • Enable efficient gathering of large amounts of data – DDQs can collect large amounts of data, within limits. Large response teams can provide more data than smaller teams, although advanced response software helps level the playing field.
  • Accelerate transactions – Generally, DDQs do not accelerate transactions. However, they can make choosing vendors in the short or long-term future much simpler.

Understanding DDQ responses

An effective DDQ response provides enough information to empower transactions to proceed with assurance. Quality responses can help:

  • Demonstrate strengths with compliance – Demonstrating compliance can set you apart from some of your competitors, but again, DDQs are not sales documents. It’s essential to follow the issuer’s guidelines and never fudge or exaggerate your compliance.
  • Confirm historical performance – A DDQ may ask about past performance trends, especially in investment and financial firms. Other industries might be asked about overall growth, etc., although that’s usually not a focus.
  • Investment and asset management – A DDQ might also ask about investments and asset management. However, privately held companies might not answer the questions.
  • Disclose risks – From the buyer’s perspective, a DDQ is about disclosing any risks before entering into or maintaining a business relationship. Vendors might be tempted to gloss over risks, but it’s critical to be honest about your limitations and hopefully create a plan to address them.
  • Grow revenue – DDQs are not specifically revenue-generating documents, but in many cases, they are a necessary piece of housekeeping, so to speak, before entering a sales cycle.

Types of due diligence questionnaires

DDQs are about as varied as the industries they come from and their ultimate purposes. Some industry-specific or situational questions you might find are:

Mergers and acquisitions due diligence

Not surprisingly, DDQs issued before a merger or acquisition are highly detailed. Nothing is off the table, although a DDQ will commonly ask about financial history and obligations, security compliance, legal matters, contract obligations, etc.

It is worth noting that since mergers and acquisitions are typically not public knowledge within a company, the vendor should limit project access to executives and others involved in the query.

Vendor due diligence

Not all customer/vendor relationships begin with a DDQ; it depends on the industry. For example, purchases in the investment and management realm must include DDQs. Vendor management is about standardization to take any surprises out of future business arrangements. Overall, the goal is to reduce risk and inform decision-making.

Business relationship due diligence

DDQs can be a critical part of ongoing business relationships. Have regulatory requirements changed? Have you kept up? Has your business made any structural changes?

Investment due diligence

A DDQ is extremely important in vetting companies before investing. It is worth noting, once again, that the types of questions asked on an investment DDQ ask for sensitive information, so it’s unlikely that they’ll be answered by response teams.

Due diligence questionnaires: Best practices

Unlike the RFP process, which focuses on features, pricing, onboarding processes, etc., the DDQ process elicits details and insights that may be overlooked.

Define your strategy

Your DDQ strategy should begin long before you receive one. Response managers should determine:

  • Whether their SLAs are defined and available.
  • Who is going to intake the DDQ?
  • How long will it take before you start answering questions?
  • Who will answer the questions?
  • How long will the DDQ be in question/answer mode?
  • When will the DDQ be ready for review?

Address vulnerabilities

It’s easy to assume that a DDQ mitigates risks for the issuer with little benefit to the company responding. However, it’s not that simple. An accurate and thorough DDQ response strategy can identify vulnerabilities within your organization.

As for the issuer, failure to issue a comprehensive DDQ can result in:

  • Security breaches – If a company fails to properly vet vendors for compliant security protocol, they risk breaches that are out of their control, and the vendor risks fines and litigation when they fail to deliver or try to gloss over risks.
  • Failed revenue goals – If a purchase is tied to your company’s revenue and you’ve failed to do your due diligence, it could have revenue ramifications for several quarters.
  • Falling out of compliance – Even if all of your company’s systems are compliant, a non-compliant vendor could knock you out of compliance.
  • Breached contracts – If you choose a vendor who fails to adhere to their agreement, your customers will blame your company, not the vendor.
  • Fraud – Fraud in B2B (business to business) sales is rare, in no small part because the vetting process is far more rigorous than with most consumer purchases.
  • Mismanagement – DDQs help protect against the mismanagement of funds or data.

Clearly articulate core DDQ objectives

Why did you receive the DDQ? Is it a precursor to a sales process, or will it be an ongoing quarterly or yearly review or audit?

Employ a consistent and systematic approach

An effective DDQ response process requires thoroughness, accuracy, and consistency. Advanced response management software, such as RFPIO, is the tool that creates time-saving repeatable processes.

  • Prepare customized templates – Create a branded answer template that easily imports information from whatever format a DDQ appears in.
  • Identify and quickly access SMEs – Are the questions in their area of expertise, and do they have the time?
  • Leverage RFP response management software – RFP response management software helps ensure that your answers are accurate and on-brand while saving time and resources.

Work from due diligence checklists

Checklists are built into nearly every project management software. Checklists keep you on time and on track.

Super-organized issuers might even build checklists into their DDQs.

A checklist:

  • Enables easier comparisons – Think of a DDQ as an opportunity to check your company’s compliance as it compares to yours and your issuer’s standards.
  • Effectively collects information – A checklist helps ensure that you aren’t missing anything and aren’t gathering the wrong information.
  • Prevents missed deadlines – A checklist will help ensure that your response is complete and on time.

Centralize organizational knowledge

DDQs aren’t known for originality; however, two issuers rarely ask similar questions in identical ways. Can you make the answers repeatable? Can you store answers in a single source of truth to accelerate future DDQ responses? Whether a DDQ has 20 or 2,000 questions, having content in place is by far the biggest time saver.

A single source of truth:

  • Ensures accuracy – All information stored in a company’s knowledge library should be verified accurate through regularly scheduled audits.
  • Supports transparency – With pre-approved answers, a comprehensive AI-powered knowledge library does much of the work for you.
  • Improves knowledge access – In a perfect world, every DDQ stakeholder would have access to their single source of truth. RFPIO’s unique project-based, rather than user-based, pricing structure gives access to any authorized person without having to purchase additional licenses.

Leverage automation

Because DDQs arrive via a myriad of formats, it’s crucial to have software in place that helps you standardize them. Intelligent automation goes several steps further by doing up to 80% of your work.

Benefits of DDQ response automation include:

  • Tracking the completion process in real-time
  • Streamlining the response time
  • Scaling the ability to respond to DDQs
  • Efficiently managed tasks and deadlines
  • Improved collaboration

Due diligence example questions

Not surprisingly, a DDQ’s questions are industry-specific. Below are some common industry-specific examples:

Organizational due diligence questions

Organizational due diligence questions can be a part of any DDQ, but in-depth organizational due diligence questions are more common in mergers and acquisitions than in vendor DDQs.

Questions might include:

  • What is the organizational structure of your company?
  • Can you provide professional bios for senior leadership?
  • Can you offer diagrams and charts of your corporate structure?

Financial due diligence questions

DDQs are most common in the financial services industry. Expect DDQs to ask:

  • What are your operating costs?
  • Can you provide income statements and balance sheets?
  • Can you provide accounts receivable information?
  • Can you give a breakdown of sales and gross profits (by Product Type, Channel, and Geography)?

HR due diligence questions

HR due diligence questions are uncommon but not completely unheard of. You may have to answer questions such as:

  • What do current employee contracts look like?
  • What are historical and projected head counts, both by function and location?
  • What are your benefit plans?
  • Can you provide incentive stock plan overviews?

Investment fund information

Investment and hedge funds, of course, are an arm of the financial services industry, so you will generally see DDQs. Questions might include:

  • What are your fund strategies and goals?
  • What are your historical and projected growth rates?
  • What is your market share?

Governance, risk, and compliance

A DDQ’s most basic function is to determine and mitigate risk. Governance, risk, and compliance questions include:

  • What are your organizational policies?
  • Can you provide an organizational code of ethics?
  • Can you provide a breakdown of service provider risk?
  • Can you provide your SEC communications plan?

Legal due diligence questions

Legal questions generally fall under RFPs rather than DDQs, however there are some cases where an issuer might include legal questions, including:

  • Have you been involved in any litigation?
  • Are you currently involved in any litigation?
  • What trademarks and patents do you currently have?
  • Can you provide insurance coverage details?
  • Can you provide your history of regulatory agency issues?
  • What are your compliance programs and policies?

Simplify due diligence with RFPIO

Repetitive, manual due diligence efforts are inefficient and cumbersome. RFPIO is a response platform and a project management platform. Simplify your DDQ response processes with:

Standardize importing – Whether your DDQ arrives as a spreadsheet or a Word document, import it into RFPIO for standardized, highly-searchable, formatting and functionality.
Project management – RFPIO will let you set project goals and timelines, helping ensure your answers will arrive on time.
The ability to choose your SMEs – Your SMEs are very busy and have varying degrees of expertise. RFPIO will show you the SMEs who’ve answered similar questions in the past, and show their availability.
Repeatable answers – DDQs can have thousands of questions. RFPIO’s Content Library stores approved answers to previous questions, letting you auto populate and edit as you see fit.
Standardize exporting – RFPIO lets you customize templates to match your brand and impress the issuer.
Responding to DDQs

RFPIO is the number one response management platform, and not just for RFPs. Leverage RFPIO throughout your entire DDQ response process to provide professional, accurate, and on-time responses. RFPIO’s AI-powered response platform provides:

  • A single knowledge library (RFPIO’s Content Library) – Add answers to any DDQ from anywhere within the company
  • RFPIO® LookUp– Provides access to the Content Library to any authorized person with a browser.
  • Recommendation Engine – Automatically suggests the best responses
  • Project management functions – Assign, manage, and track workflow tasks and deadlines.
  • Scalability to respond to DDQs – While most SaaS (software as a service) products have a per license pricing model, RFPIO allows for unlimited users with project-based pricing. Your capabilities will grow as you need and scale back when your response team can take a little breather.

RFPIO also enables collaboration with seamless integrations with all of the most popular communication applications. Keep in touch with teammates from anywhere in the world using Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, or Jira to:

  • Ensure accuracy – It would be tough to answer a DDQ without help from some SMEs. Real-time communication and fact checking helps you submit accurate answers.
  • Efficiently manage tasks and deadlines – Stay in touch with each stakeholder to ensure each task is completed on time.
  • Streamline response time – Better communication enables faster response times.

Explore a better DDQ solution

RFPIO isn’t just for RFPs. Our comprehensive response management platform makes responding to DDQs fast, secure, scalable, accurate, and on time. If you would like to learn how RFPIO can help you demonstrate compliance, schedule a free demo.

DDQ vs. security questionnaire

DDQ vs. security questionnaire

From content to timing, confusion often surrounds the differences between due diligence questionnaires and security questionnaires. Read on to learn the nuances of each document to improve your responses and win that next deal.

What is a DDQ?

A DDQ stands for due diligence questionnaire. Organizations send them to mitigate risk before entering into an agreement with another company. It is a formal document designed to establish whether a vendor complies with industry and/or customer standards or needs, including how the vendor manages its own network and cybersecurity protocols.

Unlike an RFP, a DDQ is not as much about competitive evaluations. A DDQ is all about compliance and business practices.

What is a security questionnaire?

Much like it sounds, a security questionnaire is sent to potential vendors to determine whether their security protocol meets the issuer’s standards and legal requirements. Security questionnaires are technical and usually highly complex, however most questions are “yes” or “no” rather than narrative.

Note that neither DDQs nor security questionnaires are sales documents.

DDQs vs. Security Questionnaires

Now that you know the definition of a DDQ, let’s get into how security questionnaires are unique, along with a few similarities they share with DDQs.

Common industry

Any organization can issue a DDQ, but we see them most in the financial services industry. Security questionnaires are primarily used by organizations operating in technology—either hardware or software.

Market evaluation

Much like a DDQ, a security questionnaire will not be used as a method of evaluation between vendors. Although, if an organization throws an RFP (request for proposal) into the mix, then both questionnaires play a role in market comparison.

Because a security questionnaire is not a competitive evaluation, the issuer won’t spend time performing a security review with more than five potential vendors. It’s completely different from responding to an RFP, which may be sent out to tons of vendors to cast a wide net.

Issuing departments

Usually, a security questionnaire comes from a security department (infosec, IT security, cloud security, etc.). While a DDQ will not necessarily come from that department—marketing, client services, or compliance teams frequently send these documents to responders.

Sales timing

Security questionnaires and DDQs typically show up early in the sales cycle. They may come in when an organization is trying to set you up as the vendor of choice or before it’s time to renew. Before you can become their new vendor, they need to make sure you’re compliant. If you’re an existing vendor, they might need to ensure you’re still compliant.

Even when you become their vendor partner, you might see a due diligence questionnaire again and again. Especially in the financial services industry, DDQs are sent to vendors annually—even quarterly—so make sure you’re up to speed on industry regulations.

Document types

A security questionnaire is predominantly an Excel spreadsheet. A DDQ could be a spreadsheet, but about 70% of the time, this questionnaire lives in a Word document.

Question types

Security questionnaires tend to be a standard set of questions, where you answer some variation of a yes/no answer in a drop down. You might need to add some commentary to back up your answer. While there will be some black or white questions in a DDQ, there is also room for interpretation and creating a narrative.

Succeeding with Security Questionnaires and DDQs

To knock content out of the park with security questionnaires and DDQs, naturally, the best technique is accuracy. With that top of mind, here are other tips to help you succeed as a responder.

Security Questionnaires

You have a lot less room to knock this content out of the park. Your data is encrypted or it’s not. You either have the firewall or you don’t. It’s not about how you implement the firewall, it’s simply: Do you have the firewall set up?

Stick to the facts

Obviously, one thing you don’t want to do is lie. Let’s say you are asked if you check your disaster recovery plans every 60 days. If your process is checking disaster recovery plans once a year, don’t say “yes.” They will find out 60 days later when you don’t meet their requirements.

Time to completion

Time to completion is a really good thing to shoot for with security questionnaire responses. You’re usually still in an evaluation process where you might be the vendor of choice or you’re one of two choices.

DDQs

Similar to an RFP response, there is more room for creativity with your DDQ content. However, don’t respond to a DDQ exactly as you would to an RFP. Before you respond, consult with the correct SMEs (subject matter experts).

Early stage advice

If you receive a DDQ in the early stages of the sales cycle, this document might be their vendor filtering method. DDQs are not the time for a sales pitch. Instead, consider showing your strengths with compelling and (most importantly) accurate narratives showing compliance. Late stage advice

During the late stage of the cycle, your DDQ might be a recurring document you respond to with an existing client, or it could be in addition to a DDQ you’ve already answered. Get straight to the point and ensure accuracy to show you are still in compliance.

Next steps

If a DDQ is part of a sales process, and even if it’s not, response software such as RFPIO makes answering it a whole lot easier. Your RFPIO Content Library can answer many of a DDQ’s questions with a few clicks.


RFPIO can help you increase DDQ and security questionnaire accuracy and efficiency.  Demo RFPIO today to support your sales process.

RFP Process Recommendations

RFP Process Recommendations

Drawing a clear line between business activities and profits is often challenging. But two things that have a clear impact on the business bottom line are: the number of RFP (request for proposal) responses you complete, and the quality of the proposals you submit. 

Every time you fail to respond to an RFP by the deadline, that’s a sale you’ve lost. And any time you send a lackluster proposal because you were rushed and sloppy in getting it out (relatable though that may be), your chances of landing that sale don’t improve by much.  

Even understanding the value of a competitive RFP response, many companies struggle to complete persuasive proposals in a timely manner. If every RFP at your business requires internal scrambling and stress, that means you lack a strong RFP process. And that lack is costing you. 

What is an RFP Process?

An RFP process consists of the steps your company takes each time you respond to an RFP, the tools you use to enable those steps, and the people who complete them. Establishing a clearly defined process for RFP responses is crucial for getting more proposals out on deadline and ensuring each one is high-quality. 

Designing a Great RFP Process 

At companies that lack a clear RFP process entirely, the response to an RFP can tend toward disorganized chaos. But while any RFP process is better than no process at all, a weak one can still leave your team unorganized, unprepared, and overwhelmed. That won’t improve your results by much. 

A great RFP response process is one that’s clearly defined, efficient, and consistently produces strong proposals. You’ll know you’re on the right track when collaboration between team members starts to run more smoothly, you increase the number of RFP responses submitted, and the workload of completing each one decreases. Oh, and when you start to win more of those RFPs, of course. That’s the best part. 

7 RFP Process Recommendations 

To create the kind of RFP process that achieves those results, you’ll want to follow a few main RFP process recommendations. 

1. Determine the right tools for the job

The tools you use impact what your RFP process will look like. Many companies default to using the basics:

  • 28% rely on spreadsheets to capture information
  • 54% use email for communication and shared folders like Google Drive to share information
  • 84% stick with a manual process for RFP responses 

In some cases, those tools do the job just as well as you need them to. 

But if you’re struggling to stay on top of RFPs using the tools you have now, this is a good opportunity to consider whether it’s time for an upgrade. As you develop a clear RFP process—or work on updating the one you have—consider what needs you have that a new product (or a couple) could address.

If the stakeholders involved in your RFP response process can’t seem to get on the same page, you may want to go beyond email and invest in better collaboration tools. If your SMEs (subject matter experts) bristle at having to answer the same questions over and over again with each new RFP, a good knowledge management tool will help them reuse the work they’ve already done.

And if your team is letting relevant RFPs slip by because you can’t get them done in time, RFP automation software can considerably cut down on the time and work each proposal requires. Companies that invest in RFP software manage to submit 43% more RFP responses than those without. 

Be careful here not to confuse picking a product with solving your RFP response issues. The right tool has to be matched to the right process to make a meaningful difference. But once you’ve identified the tools that best address the RFP process challenges you face now, you can develop a more effective process based on the features you gain.  

2. Evaluate RFPs strategically

Even with an awesome team and the right products, you won’t be able to respond to every single RFP that comes your way. Crafting a strong proposal takes time, and submitting a sloppy one isn’t worth the effort. To keep the work manageable, an important RFP management best practice is developing criteria to determine which RFPs are worth your time.

Some useful questions to consider at this stage are:

  • Is our product even a fit for this RFP? You’re not going to win an RFP if your product doesn’t meet their needs. And you wouldn’t want to—trying to make your product stretch to do something it’s not meant for would be a bad experience for both of you. If you’re not the right answer to what they’re looking for, skip the RFP.
  • Is this company in our target market? Some prospects are worth more to your business than others. If you haven’t yet, define your ideal customer. Then weigh RFPs against how closely the company matches your target market. You may find it worthwhile to respond to RFPs for companies that don’t exactly match your ideal customer profile, but any time you have to choose between RFPs based on your capacity, it will help you prioritize your options.
  • Can they afford us? Don’t go through the whole process of responding to their RFP and pitching your product, only to learn that their budget is far too small. Consider this question upfront, so you don’t waste your time.
  • Do we have a relationship with the company? Any good salesperson can tell you that who you know is a big part of how sales get made. If the company issuing the RFP already has a prior relationship with your company, then you’ve got a bit of a head start.
  • Can we realistically meet this deadline? There’s no point in devoting the hours and work to starting on an RFP that you don’t have time to finish. If you can’t realistically meet the deadline with the resources available to you, let that RFP go. 

One of the fastest ways to make your RFP process more efficient is to weed out the bad-fit RFPs early on. That frees up time and resources to focus on the ones you most want to win.

3. Design your process to prioritize speed

RFP responses require a lot of labor hours. But when deadlines loom, taking the care you need to get every part of the RFP response just right can feel out of reach. And since your salespeople and SMEs have other important obligations, you can’t ask too much of their time without it costing your organization in other ways.

A good RFP process has to find the balance between working fast and doing good work. If you can hire more people to help, that’s one easy solution. But it’s an expensive one that isn’t always an option. If you’re at one of the 63% of organizations with no plan to increase staff, you have to look for ways to make your process more efficient.

Some of the RFP process recommendations on this list will help with this part, but additional tips to consider for efficiency:

  • Commit to moving fast to get started once an RFP makes it through your evaluation process. 
  • Create standard answers for as many common parts of the RFP as possible, so part of the work is already done. Something like company information doesn’t need to be written from scratch every time, when it mostly stays consistent.
  • Establish the priority level for RFP responses throughout the organization, so everyone involved in a response knows not to let it sit on the desk for weeks. Establishing a service level agreement (SLA) between departments can help with this. 

Considering efficiency as you define your process will pay off in faster and easier responses as you enact it. 

4. Clarify roles and responsibilities

When it’s time to move forward with an RFP, if you have to stop and figure out who should be assigned to each part of the process, that’s time wasted. If you then have to spend time convincing them to do their part, you’re facing an unnecessary bottleneck to the whole process—one that will lead to missed deadlines.

Instead, do this part in advance. Clarify who will consistently take charge of each part of the process. Figure out who the right SMEs are for each RFP section, so you always know who to turn to. Then make sure everyone knows their role and understands the importance of the process.  

Once you have your team clearly defined, ask them to provide their input on the RFP process. What would make their job easier? How can you best enable collaboration and communication between the whole team? Letting the key stakeholders weigh in will help you create a process that works for all of them. 

5. Use the content you already have

A smart way to cut down on the work and time involved in a RFP response is to use the content you already have. Answering every question in an RFP from scratch every time is extremely time and labor intensive. Consulting a Content Library to see if a good answer already exists is much faster and easier.

In order for this to be a useful part of your RFP response process, you do need to create and maintain a Content Library. Establish a library that collects all the best answers to the common questions you encounter in one place. Then think about how best to organize it so those answers are easy to find the moment your team needs them. Employing features like tagging, custom fields, and collections can improve discoverability, which is especially valuable when your team is in a time crunch. 

Having a well managed content library only matters if people use it. Make it part of your established RFP response process to look for any answers that already exist. The team will often want to tweak existing content to make it more relevant to the specific RFP they’re working on, but that’s still a lot faster than writing up a new answer from scratch.

6. Agree on clear metrics to evaluate your RFP process

No matter how much thought you put into developing a strong RFP process now, there will be room for improvement. Think through what a successful RFP process means to you, then select the best metrics to evaluate your success. 

Tracking relevant metrics enables you to spot ways the RFP process falls short, so you can improve it over time. And it’s how you gain proof of improved results, which is key for keeping (or gaining) the support of your executives and SMEs. 

Some RFP process metrics to consider include:

  • Number of RFP responses
  • Average response rate
  • Average response time
  • Time spent per RFP
  • RFP win rate

You’ll want to include metrics that measure process efficiency, as well overall results. A faster process is only valuable if quality doesn’t suffer as a result. 

7. Evaluate and improve

Anytime you get complacent, you stop improving. Make evaluating your process a regular part of the process itself. Review your metrics to determine if you’re meeting your goals. Check in with all stakeholders to gain feedback on their experience. And update your RFP process as needed to incorporate what you learned. 

Continual RFP process improvement will lead to a number of benefits that go beyond the RFP process itself. You’ll strengthen your Content Library, improve the relationship between internal teams, and increase overall revenue for the company. But getting those results requires doing the work to analyze how well your process works and strengthen your approach over time. 

Examples of high-quality RFP processes

Does putting all of this work into creating a great RFP process really make a difference? A number of companies have put that question to the test and seen notable results.

RFP Process Example #1: 

Between entrenched silos and outdated software (that everyone involved in the process hated), a health insurance company realized their RFP process was an inefficient mess. Getting RFP responses out was too slow, and none of the stakeholders involved ever knew enough about what was going on. They decided to address the issue by reworking the process to make it more user friendly. They incorporated RFPIO AI-powered automation into the process to save stakeholders time on the more tedious tasks, and made collaboration easier between team members.

With a new, improved process powered with better tools, they:

  • Improved collaboration between team members and opened easier lines of communication, so that everyone involved could keep up-to-date on the status and results of each RFP
  • Created a content library that helped them create consistent messaging and re-use quality content that’s already been created
  • Reduced the time it took to complete the RFI (request for information) portion of the process from around five days to just a few hours

RFP Process Example #2:

Small teams often feel buried under the work RFPs require, but hiring more people isn’t always an option. A two-person team at a growing software company could never manage to keep their content library up-to-date, because the process of manual updates was slow, and chasing the next RFP kept them too busy. 

But responding to those RFPs without an up-to-date Content Library to pull from was a slow and tedious process. They were stuck. So they looked at their RFP process. 

They changed the system they used for updating their Content Library by introducing RFPIO response software that made adding new content much easier. And instead of asking SMEs to provide answers to RFP questions in color-coded spreadsheets—a system that caused a lot of confusion and wasted time—RFPIIO allowed the proposal team to assign questions to each SME that would show up for them in an email. Much easier for all involved.

As a result, they: 

  • Doubled the content in their library within a few months, ensuring future RFPs are easier to respond to
  • Enabled their tiny team to manage more RFP responses at a time, while keeping track of where they are in all of them
  • Managed to submit 16 RFPs on deadlines in the first year of using their new RFP process—not bad for a two-person team

Creating a more effective RFP process

Whatever your particular challenges and needs, better RFP results start with developing an improved process. Many aspects of that process will be easier, faster, and produce higher quality RFP responses if you choose the best tool for the job.

RFPIO offers features that help with several parts of the RFP process. Some highlights include:

  • Collaboration tools that allow stakeholders to communicate with each other, clearly understand their role in the process, and stay updated on each RFP’s status
  • Automation tools that do a portion of the work of each RFP for you, significantly cutting down on the time commitment
  • A Content Library that enables you to easily update and organize your knowledge base in ways that make reusing existing content and finding the best answer every time fast and easy
  • A system that automatically tracks the most important RFP process metrics, so you can evaluate and improve your process with minimal extra work

Creating the right RFP process for your organization will work a lot better if you have the right tool for the job. To get started on your new, improved RFP process, get in touch with RFPIO’s team

 

How to respond to an RFP like an all-star champ

How to respond to an RFP like an all-star champ

Organizations issue requests for proposals (RFPs) because they have a need that cannot be fixed internally—a big need—one that will cost lots of money. This isn’t calling a plumber to fix a clog. This is soliciting bids from multiple contractors for complete remodels, or to construct full-on additions.

Obstacles in the RFP response process

The scale of an RFP can be huge

RFPs contain up to thousands of questions and requests for specific content. If your company has a solution to the problem put forth by the issuer, then you respond with a proposal that includes all the answers and requested content. Depending on the size of the RFP, it can take you hours, days, or weeks to prepare a response. As long as you submit your completed RFP response by the deadline, your solution will be considered.

Competition is fierce

The issuer compares your RFP response with all of the other RFP responses received from your competitors. Sometimes, the lowest price wins. Other times, the best solution wins. Sometimes, it’s both…or neither.

Success requires more than paperwork

Much of the time, the winner results from the best pitch — an umbrella term that includes the RFP response, relationships built with sales and subject matter experts (SMEs) during the process, pricing, reputation, and a variety of other factors. Then there are the times when winners are selected based on prior or existing relationships between the two organizations.

No matter what the deciding factor between an RFP win or loss, the ultimate truth is that you have to compose an RFP response to have a chance. Why not put your best foot forward?

How to respond to an RFP

The RFP response process is cyclical, not linear. I’ll get into more of that in the best practices section. For the sake of getting a proposal out the door, you need to follow these eight steps after you first learn about the RFP.

1. Qualify the bid —

Is this worth going after? As I mentioned earlier, RFP responses can take weeks to compose. Starting off with a go/no-go checkpoint gives you an opportunity to evaluate how your solution measures up, the financial viability of the project, availability of resources you’ll need to submit a response by the deadline, and any other factors that will impact your business during the response process. Essentially, building a proposal is like investing in your future. Every investment requires close scrutiny.

2. Understand requirements —

What do you need to get it done? This ranges everywhere from the type of content, to who produces the content, to who is responsible for signing off on the final proposal. The list can be quite lengthy, but it must be comprehensive to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

3. Answer commonly seen questions

Pull from your content library to fill in answers to commonly seen questions. If anything needs to be reviewed by a subject matter expert, be sure to get their eyes on it before submission.

4. Assign due dates and tasks to key collaborators

Whose expertise do you need to get this done? After you determine requirements, you’ll identify all the milestones. There’ll be due dates for content, reviews, edits, and approvals for multiple collaborators. The trick is respecting everyone’s time while driving the process forward.

5. Assign questions for review and approval

Who needs to sign off on this content? Likely, this will not be a Caesar sitting in the stands giving thumbs up or down. You’ll have multiple approvers to sign-off on content related to sales, product, support, legal, branding, etc.

6. Polish

Make sure you’re telling the story you want to tell. Add visuals or other supporting content to tell your story better. This is where you can nail the competitive differentiation. If you have the good fortune to have a dedicated proposal team, this may fall on writing and design specialists within that team. It may also be someone from branding or marketing—someone who puts eyes on anything that your organization produces for external audiences. Ensure your proposal is in a clean, easy-to-read format. Or, even better, put it into a branded template.

7. Proofread

Don’t let poor grammar and typos be the reason you lose the bid.

8. Submit to issuer

Push send with no regerts (See? Proofreading is important!).

The Benchmark Report: Proposal Management

Learn about the state of proposal management, and see what teams need to do to be successful moving forward

Read the report

Best practices for responding to an RFP

Whether you have a dedicated team of stakeholders from each department or you assign a new team for each project, what matters most is that everyone in the organization recognizes that they have skin in the game. 

RFP wins, proactive sales proposals, and fast turnaround on questionnaires equate to revenue and may determine whether the company grows, shrinks, or offers an extra percentage point in next year’s retirement fund match.

Build the right team

Proposal managers lead the proposal team. Proposal managers may think of themselves as the director of a motion picture. After that “Directed by” end title flashes, another three minutes of credits roll by.

The proposal team I’m referring to is made up of the individuals you rely on for a variety of roles:

  • Prospect and customer interaction – Customer-facing teams have their fingers on the pulse of competitors and customer needs.
  • Subject matter expertise – Many RFP questions require detailed answers, and for those you should turn to the people who know the most about their particular area of expertise.
  • Brand messaging – Consult with marketing before submitting your response to ensure that you are on brand.
  • IT support – Can your company support the issuer’s needs?

… and all of the others who are vital to creating a winning proposal.

Even a one-person proposal department needs input from internal or external SMEs to build a high-quality response. 

Only respond to RFPs you can win

As part of your bid-qualifying at the beginning of your RFP response process, add a go/no-go checkpoint to ensure that you only respond to RFPs you can win. Whether it’s a scheduled team meeting or a checklist, you need to answer:

  • Is the RFP the right fit for your organization and solution?
  • Do you have a comprehensive solution that addresses all of the challenges presented in the request?
  • Does your pricing match the budget?
  • Do you have an existing or prior relationship with the issuing organization?
  • Do you have any insight into why the RFP has been issued?
  • Can you meet the submission deadline?

Basing the answers to these questions on data rather than anecdotal evidence will help validate the go/no-go step as well as your role as a proposal manager. RFPIO’s AI-powered analytics tools provide that data.

Respect contributors’ time

If you want SMEs and other stakeholders to feel a sense of ownership for their proposal responsibilities, then you have to respect their time. RFP responses will suffer if contributors end up working after hours and weekends, rushing to meet deadlines. Get their buy-in ahead of time on deadlines and time required for reviews and approvals.

Document your process

A documented RFP response process will anchor your team during the most chaotic times. It’s up to you to own the process, but RFP software will make it easier to automate, execute, and monitor processes from beginning to end on multiple projects running simultaneously.

Conduct a win/loss review

The win-loss review gives your team an opportunity to close the loop. Internally evaluate what worked and what didn’t.

Did you win? Why? How can you repeat it for future proposals?

Did you lose? Why? How can you avoid it in future proposals?

Include the whole proposal team in a wrap-up summary, but make the extra effort to work hand-in-hand with sales enablement so they can bring in the customer perspective.

Let technology do the heavy lifting

Remember earlier when I said the RFP response process is cyclical? The win/loss review will inform your new go/no-go step, increasing your predictive accuracy of which RFPs you can actually win. It helps to have RFP software for a win-loss review because you have everything that went into the response—the planning, communication, content, and the actual response—in one place.

Software is the single most effective way to overcome lack of time, experience, and other resources. It’s the difference maker that will help you respond like a boss. With only 43% of organizations using RFP-specific technology, there’s a huge opportunity for you to get a leg up on competitors.

How RFPIO can help

RFPIO RFP software makes it easier to collaborate with an extended team and leverage the power of technology. With automated processes for scheduling, collaboration, and completing wide swaths of massive RFPs using our industry-leading Content Library, you can blaze through the first pass of a response faster than working without RFP software or with less advanced software solutions. 

You create more time to spend customizing the responses that really matter and focus on differentiating yourself from the competition. And that’s only the beginning! 

Using software at every step in the RFP response process

Here’s a quick overview of how RFPIO RFP software helps during each of the seven steps of RFP response:

  1. Qualify the bid — Check data from past similar RFPs. What took weeks without RFP software may only take hours with it. All things being equal, is this RFP winnable?
  2. Understand requirements — Let the tool create a checklist of open items based on what remains after the automated first pass conducted at intake by your Content Library.
  3. Answer commonly seen questions — RFPIO RFP technology consolidates all your previous Q&A pairs into an intelligent Content Library, so you can automatically respond to repeat questions in just a few clicks.
  4. Assign due dates and tasks to key collaborators — Assign each RFP question or section as a task to individual collaborators from the project dashboard in RFPIO. They’ll then receive a notification from where they’re already working (e.g., email, Slack, or Teams).
  5. Assign questions for review and approval — Simplify the review and approval process with automated reminders and cues across multiple platforms.
  6. Polish — From intake, work within a branded template and support answers with approved content that’s always up-to-date according to the SME in charge of that content.
  7. Proofread — Still important, but working with already-approved content will decrease how much you have to proofread.
  8. Submit to issuer — Push send from RFPIO or your integrated CRM!

We recently created a Proposal Management Benchmark Report where we found that organizations using RFP software already managed 43% more RFPs than those who do not use RFP software. If you’re looking to speed ahead of the field in RFP response, then gain traction faster with RFP software.

I’ll just leave these other tidbits right here…

Recognize SMEs and salespeople at quarterly meetings. Salespeople are competitive and like to be recognized for winning.

Implement formal kickoff meetings for RFPs. Make them quick and include pre-reading materials in the invitation to hit the ground running. Some organizations combine this with a go/no-go checkpoint.

Hold 15-minute daily standup meetings or calls as you approach the RFP deadline. Focus on status reports and action items.

Commit to professional development time. Join this LinkedIn group, the response management Slack community, or connect with APMP. This is especially valuable for small shops, where it can be hard to build a network.

If this has inspired you to investigate RFP software, then schedule an RFPIO demo today!

How to choose the right RFP software

How to choose the right RFP software

According to Bill Gates, “Software innovation, like almost every other kind of innovation, requires the ability to collaborate and share ideas with other people, and to sit down and talk with customers and get their feedback and understand their needs.”

Software, as Bill Gates reminds us, is a tool. The best software breaks down silos and encourages collaboration. The best software is agile—it addresses its customers’ needs today and quickly adapts to tomorrow’s. 

The best software is built by humans. Machine learning technology adapts the software to its users’ needs. Great software companies go even further by using customer feedback to routinely improve their products. 

Great RFP software and software companies do all that but with the specific goal of encouraging efficiency in the RFP response process. The most successful responders see the best results by collaborating within a single response management platform…RFP software.

What is RFP software?

Request for proposal (RFP) software helps organizations respond to more RFPs in less time. Of course, that barely scratches the surface of advanced RFP software capabilities. Advanced RFP software helps optimize every step of the RFP process, from before the document is received to after the bid is made. 

Essential RFP software features

An efficient response management platform includes features that streamline your team’s workflow. At the very minimum, RFP software should feature: 

Import and export capabilities

Before the advent of RFP software, there were *gasp* manual processes. Of course, the challenge is that issuers send RFPs in a variety of formats, including Microsoft Word and Excel, Google Docs and Sheets, and sometimes PDFs. And—this will surprise no one—issuers weren’t (and still aren’t) consistent in their formatting inside their docs, spreadsheets, or PDFs. 

Have you ever searched a poorly organized spreadsheet? Where do you search docs or PDFs if you don’t know what you’re looking for? Manual importing is tedious and time-consuming. In fact, it can be the most time-consuming part of a manual RFP process. 

RFP response software should be able to recognize critical questions and information, regardless of the format, and import them into your RFP software.

There are two kinds of people in this world: people who say there are two kinds of people and people who don’t. There are also spreadsheet people and doc people, although some live on the wild side and do both. 

Spreadsheets are mathematical and formulaic, but that doesn’t mean the formulas are standard from RFP to RFP. RFP software imports spreadsheets in a couple of ways:

  • Standard template – Basic RFP software allows for standard template import, where you download the template spreadsheet, copy/paste the questions, and then upload it. 
  • RFPIO’s advanced configuration – Forget copy/pasting. Advanced configuration lets you process raw source files, customized how you want them. Beyond that, RFPIO automatically detects predefined dropdowns and automatically configures the sections.

Word and Google Docs, on the other hand, are more visual. The biggest challenge with Word and Google Docs is knowing what you need to reply to. Word and Google documents often have a lot of filler, such as company detail, at the beginning of an RFP. 

While most RFP software can import the text from Word, they have difficulty distinguishing between what’s useful and what isn’t. RFPIO reads the document’s style guide and can auto-identify sections and questions. 

Often, RFPs arrive in mixed formats. Many Word documents have Excel tables or charts inserted into the doc. Not a problem, at least when you’re using RFPIO. Many of the same rules apply to importing Word and mixed documents as to Excel sheets:

  • Identify the sections, questions, and answers in the original document.
  • Process the source document and customize it using RFPIO’s advanced configuration.
  • Preview to make sure everything is in the right place.

RFPIO’s advanced import and export capabilities can shave as much as half the response time. 

Content management

In the early 2000s, workers whose jobs required access to company knowledge spent about 2.5 hours a day searching for information. If you’re old enough to remember, those were the days of dial-up, AOL, and Ask Jeeves. Software as a service (SaaS) was unheard of. 

Twenty years later, nearly everyone has the internet. Need an answer to a question? Google it. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a business problem that can’t be addressed using a SaaS application. Surprisingly, the time spent searching for knowledge has increased from a bit over ¼ of the workday to nearly half.

Why would that be? There are probably a couple of reasons, including that businesses are a lot more siloed now than they were at the turn of the millennium—and of course, there’s a heck of a lot more knowledge to search. 

Not surprisingly, disjointed content is one of the top challenges of an RFP process. RFPIO’s Content Library not only simplifies the search but also does much of the work for you. 

RFPIO’s Content Library:

  • Stores marketing approved content in one place – Your company’s single source of truth.
  • Lets you stitch together high-quality content – Browse previous responses to create customized answers.
  • Create content – Once you answer a question, you can store the Q&A pair for future needs. As your company accumulates knowledge or documents, it’s simple to upload it into your Content Library.
  • Format content – Organize and format content however you like. 
  • Automatically answer the majority of questions – With just a few clicks, you can answer up to 80% of the questions on an RFP, regardless of the format. 
  • Encourages regular content audits – Keep your Content Library fresh and up to date with regular audits. RFPIO will remind you when it’s time to review specific content. 

Integrations

When it comes to breaking down silos, RFPIO walks the walk with industry-leading integrations. Users from across your company can access RFPIO through more than two dozen applications you already use, including:

  • CRMs – RFPIO is an ideal solution for all revenue-generating teams, not just response management. Access the Content Library and other RFPIO features through your company’s chosen CRM, including Salesforce, Pipedrive, Dynamics 365, PipelineDeals, and HubSpot.
  • Communication apps – RFPIO enables company-wide collaboration through your existing communication apps, including Slack, Google Hangouts, Jira, and Microsoft Teams.
  • Cloud storage apps – Worldwide, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every single day. Cloud storage enables companies to manage data without accumulating vast technical debt. RFPIO seamlessly integrates with Sharepoint, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. 
  • SSO authentication apps – RFPIO works within your company’s security protocols through SSO authentication integrations with Microsoft ADFS, Microsoft Azure, OneLogin, and Okta.
  • Browser extensions – Access RFPIO’s Content Library through RFPIO® LookUp and Chrome.
  • Vendor assessment apps – Securely import directly from third-party platforms using Whistic. 
  • Productivity apps – Work faster using RFPIO with Microsoft Suites and Google Sheets.
  • Sales enablement apps – Revenue-generating employees can access RFPIO through Seismic or Highspot. 

AI assistance

RFP automation slashes time spent answering RFPs. RFPIO goes beyond simple automation. We use machine learning to intelligently assist you through every step of the RFP response process. Leverage RFPIO to:

  • Auto-identify response content – RFPIO’s advanced artificial intelligence automatically identifies response content.
  • Get automated answers – RFPIO’s AI-powered recommendation engine pulls from the Content Library to recommend answers based on previous similar questions.
  • Assign questions to pertinent subject matter experts – With RFPIO, there’s no more trying to figure out the best people to help with your RFP. AI technology identifies relevant and available SMEs.
  • Analyze win-loss opportunities – Not all RFPs are worth a response. Have you won similar bids in the past? Is this one worth it? RFPIO learns from previous wins and losses to help you decide whether to pursue the next one. 

The benefits of RFP response automation

Roughly 80% of a typical RFP consists of questions you’ve answered many, many times. Response automation lets you focus on the questions that matter most, the questions that will help you win the bid, by answering the routine queries with a click of a button. 

The benefits of leveraging RFP automation include: 

  • Streamlined workflow – RFPIO is not just a response management tool; it’s a project management platform. RFPIO uses automation to establish roles and ensure on-time deliverables.
  • Decreased response time – When a workplace tool does most of the work for you, it’s bound to increase productivity and reduce response time.
  • Improved response quality – Automated replies free you to craft winning responses to the essential questions.
  • Centralized content library – Automatically store and catalog responses in a single source of truth. 
  • Improved collaboration – RFPIO’s integrations enable company-wide collaboration.
  • Increased revenue growth – Responding to more of the right RFPs in less time means more opportunities to drive revenue.

Steps for choosing the right RFP management software

Choosing the right RFP management software shouldn’t be taken lightly. There are several factors to consider:

1. Assess your RFP response process

Before you commit to an annual RFP software subscription, schedule a meeting with your entire RFP response team (subject matter experts, executive stakeholders, bid writers, etc.). The goal is to discover gaps and opportunities in your current workflow, then make improvements through RFP automation.

2. Prioritize RFP software features

Now that you know what your RFP response team needs to thrive, it’s time to prioritize RFP software features. Divide features into two columns—”must-have” and “nice-to-have.” If having a holistic view of RFP projects is a top priority, project dashboards are a must-have. If communication is dialed in, then Slack or Microsoft Team integrations are a nice-to-have.

3. Explore RFP software comparison platforms

Third-party validation is a vital part of decision-making for any purchase, including RFP software. Think of G2 Crowd and Capterra as Yelp for software products. Use these RFP software comparison tools to compare and contrast features and check out customer feedback. Seeing use cases in the real RFP response management world will inspire ideas and validate decisions.

4. Make a data-driven value assessment

Have no idea how many hours your team spends on RFP responses? Demystify these costs by tracking everyone’s time. Use our ROI calculator to determine how much you will save on hours and resources with RFP response automation. Armed with data, you’ll rely on stats instead of emotions to make a strong case for additional funds to cover RFP software.

5. Understand the product and the service

Once you have narrowed down RFP software providers, schedule a demo to see the solution in action and meet the team you’re considering working with. Bring your priority features list, along with questions that need to be addressed. Pay special attention to the user experience as the solution should be quick and easy for all RFP contributors to learn.

Important questions to ask RFP software vendors

Adding to your existing tech stack can be a challenging sell for executives and your IT department, so it’s essential to ask the right questions of potential RFP software vendors. 

  • What is the average ROI customers report after using your product? – There’s no surer way to secure executive buy-in than demonstrating your return on investment. ROI will vary from company to company. RFPIO’s proven ROI is as high as 600%. Calculate your ROI here. 
  • How would you describe your training and onboarding process? – You have executive buy-in; what about user buy-in? The onboarding process is vital for training and creating buzz over new software. RFPIO’s onboarding process is incremental, easy to follow, and designed to set you up for success. 
  • How do you manage customer requests and feedback? –Because needs vary from company to company and change from day to day, there’s no such thing as perfect software. RFPIO recognizes the importance of a bespoke solution, which means listening to every customer and addressing their individual needs.
  • What integrations are available? – Toggling between multiple applications is a pain. RFPIO integrates with over two dozen of the most popular business tools.
  • How would your software solve problems x, y, and z? – Is the RFP software going to address your company’s needs? It’s hard to imagine a response management problem RFPIO can’t solve, but if we’re not the right solution for some reason, we will tell you.
  • What are your data import and export capabilities? – If all RFP issuers used the same format, RFP response platforms might not be such a critical tool for response teams. RFPIO imports and exports from Microsoft Word, Excel, and even PDFs. 
  • Do you offer lifetime updates and enhancements? – Technology changes, as do your needs. RFPIO provides regular updates and enhancements.
  • What are your competitive differentiators? – What makes one RFP solution better than others? As mentioned, RFPIO offers more integrations and import/export options than any other RFP response software. We lead the pack in AI-powered automation. Additionally, we have an unprecedented pricing model. Instead of charging per user license, RFPIO charges based on the number of projects going at any given time. 

Automate your RFP process with a management solution that’s right for you

If you’re ready to see how RFP software will help you craft higher-quality responses to more RFPs in less time, schedule a free demo

 

Considerations when creating an RFP process

Considerations when creating an RFP process

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency”.

– Bill Gates

Do you know how you’ll approach the RFP that arrives in your inbox today? What about one that comes next week or next quarter? You might be tempted to say, “Obviously not, because each RFP is different.” If that’s your answer, it might be too late to win those bids. 

Let me ask a more personal question. Have you received a bill lately? You’re probably nodding right now. How do you plan to pay that bill? If it’s a fixed bill, such as insurance or your mortgage, you might set up automatic payments. If the bill is for something unexpected, say a car repair or vet bill, you might turn to your savings account or a credit card. 

What will happen if you don’t have the resources to pay that bill? 

What I just described are processes. Bill-paying processes ensure that you barely have to blink when paying expected bills and are prepared in the event of something unexpected.

What does that have to do with RFPs? Out of hundreds to thousands of questions in a typical RFP, most are, if not expected, standard. Much as you have systems to pay expected bills, a great RFP response process allows you to respond to those common questions in seconds. 

But what about the rest of an RFP? Certainly, cookie-cutter responses to complex questions aren’t going to win many bids for you. If you don’t plan for the unique parts of an RFP, you will spend more time on it, and there’s a very good chance you’ll lose your bid.

So, what should you consider when creating an RFP process?

What is an RFP process?

A request for proposal (RFP) is part of a broader category called RFx. RFx also includes requests for information (RFI), and requests for quotes (RFQ). It can also apply to other supplier questionnaires, such as security questionnaires and due diligence questionnaires (DDQ). 

An RFP process is a roadmap. It outlines the entire RFP journey, from how it’s received within your organization, whether to reply, who the stakeholders are, who is responsible for each task, when each deliverable is due, how and when to send the response, to how to record and organize the attached question and answer (Q&A) pairs and documents. 

An effective and efficient RFP process decreases response time, improves response quality, and is far more likely to get your responses to the top of the prospects’ shortlists. 

Designing a great RFP process

An effective RFP response process—assisted by industry-leading automation—has several quantitative and qualitative benefits, including:

  • Quantitative:
    • Faster responses – Set your stopwatch! A great RFP response process speeds up your response time.
    • More responses – Faster responses = more time to respond to RFPs you might have set aside. 
    • A higher win rate – The average win rate is about 45%. A great response process can increase that by 15% or more.
    • Significant ROI – See how one RFPIO customer saw a 6x return on investment within just months.
  • Qualitative: 
    • Better teamwork – Great RFP response processes help develop collaboration, even across silos. 
    • A comprehensive and up-to-date company knowledge base – A great RFP process includes knowledge management. Make sure to schedule regular audits.
    • Focus – When team members know what is expected of them, and when, they are far more likely to approach a goal with focus.
    • More opportunities to personalize and customize — Re-invest time saved to give every response a better chance to win.

Considerations when creating an RFP process

One of our most common questions from our potential customers is whether RFPIO integrates with their existing software. Since the platform seamlessly and scalably integrates with more than two dozen popular business applications, the answer is almost invariably “yes.” 

Companies understand the value of business applications, especially when it comes to sales. 91% of companies with more than 10 employees use CRMs in their sales departments, so why do only 16% of companies use RFP software? $11 trillion in annual revenue, and some of the biggest deals, come from RFPs. Shouldn’t RFP response processes be as big a priority as sales processes?

Part of the answer is undoubtedly within companies’ cultures. RFP response processes require expertise from people throughout an organization. Additionally, RFP response often has a haphazard rather than strategic approach. Defining processes before RFPs hit your inbox will help you to determine which RFPs are worth your time and how to focus your efforts

Getting buy-in from stakeholders

Unlike a straightforward sales deal, an RFP response requires multiple stakeholders. An RFP process could require buy-in from finance, HR, operations, security, purchasing and procurement, sales, R&D, manufacturing, IT, etc. In other words, stakeholders can come from anywhere in the company, and you will need their cooperation at some point. 

Getting everyone aligned on the process is an essential consideration in creating it. Fortunately, RFPIO can help make the case for you. 63% of salespeople say RFPIO gives time back to them, enabling them to close more deals overall. 

71% of marketing executives say RFPIO’s Content Library saves them time locating company knowledge, and subject matter experts (SMEs) gain back more than ⅓ of each day.

Quantity vs. quality

Is it better to submit more RFPs or focus on improving your responses? In an ideal world, the answer is both, but is that reality? Although both approaches could be suitable for companies, depending on their resources and RFP landscapes, a clearly-defined response process should help with both. 

Beyond question, a response manager should focus on crafting the best responses on the most winnable RFPs. Responses riddled with errors, typos, and incomplete answers are wastes of time. So, in that respect, quality wins out over quantity. 

That said, RFP responses are a numbers game. The more well-written responses you submit, the more revenue you will generate. Given a choice, however, it’s far better to submit a few great responses than many mediocre ones.

Where to focus

When choosing where to allocate your RFP response resources, it’s best to institute a go/no-go evaluation process, which means only responding to RFPs you have a good chance of winning. You may ask about each incoming RFP:

  • Do you know the company sending the RFP? – Do you have an existing relationship with them? Were they referred to you? Your odds of winning a bid are much higher if there was a specific reason they sent the RFP to you.
  • Is yours the right company? – One of the biggest temptations among revenue-generating employees is to say, “Sure, we can do it!” While that might be true, RVP issuers aren’t looking for what you might be able to offer in the future; they’re looking for the here and now, preferably with a track record showing the ability to accomplish exactly what they are asking within their timeline. 
  • Can you meet their budget requirements? RFPs are not the time for guesswork. Consult with the right SMEs to ensure that the price you’re offering is competitive but also accurate. There might be room for some negotiation, but not for lowball bids. Suppose you happen to win a lowball bid. In that case, you risk alienating not just that customer but others in and around their industry, as well as your own company, as costs will undoubtedly escalate beyond the initial bid.
  • Is it an all-around strategic fit? – Do their needs match your organization’s business or product development strategy and vice versa? Is their industry one you know? 
  • Do you have the time? – How much is on your and stakeholders’ plates? Can you answer the RFP on time without affecting other responsibilities?
  • Have you won similar bids in the past? – Your chances of winning a bid go up when you’ve won and successfully fulfilled similar projects, especially from the same issuer.

Who’s on the team?

RFP response teams are as unique as their companies. Some, such as this RFPIO customer, have 2-person response teams. Others are larger, but the vast majority of RFPs require input from people outside the department. SMEs and other stakeholders vary from RFP to RFP, but you should have that all figured out before placing a bid.

Response managers are often known for their near-encyclopedic knowledge of their companies. They might not know every employee, but they know where to turn when they have questions. To ensure goodwill, make sure each stakeholder is aware of their roles and has the capacity to carry theirs out. 

Where is the relevant content?

Office workers report spending more than half of their time searching for information. Imagine how much more productive they would be if every bit of company knowledge existed inside a single, easily accessible, and searchable database. 

RFPIO’s search feature pulls relevant content from docs, spreadsheets, and even PDFs. RFPIO’s Content Library makes it easy to find RFP Q&A pairs, answers to security questionnaires, company history, etc. You can even store documents. 

Once you find the content you’re looking for, you can apply those answers as-is in a click or two or modify them as needed.

What else should an RFP process take into consideration?

Just as most sales departments couldn’t imagine achieving their processes without the help of their trusty CRMs, response teams should include advanced RFP software in establishing their procedures. RFPIO follows an RFP from inception to completion and even beyond. 

Whether you’re starting anew or you have an existing process, RFPIO can help by providing a framework for an optimal RFP process and the tools to get there.

  • Import an RFP from any format – Whether you receive the RFP via a document, spreadsheet, or PDF, RFPIO will capture the information and plug it into an intuitive UX platform, ensuring consistency and simplicity for each stakeholder.
  • Shred the RFP – With RFPIO, you can organize and section RFPs in the best way for your organization.
  • Analyze the project – RFPIO features built-in project management analytics to estimate the project’s time requirements and your likelihood of winning.
  • Answer all the questions you can – Tap into your Content Library to answer up to 80% of an RFP’s questions in seconds. 
  • Engage SMEs – For those questions that require additional input, RFPIO will suggest SMEs based on previous, similar RFP responses and the SMEs’ availability. Collaborate from around the globe with RFPIO’s translation tools and multi-language UI.
  • Track the project – RFPIO’s project management tools track each deliverable to ensure on-time delivery.
  • Submit the proposal – Design your customized branded template to ensure a professional and consistent look.
  • Store your new content – Once you’ve submitted the RFP, store all new content in your RFPIO Content Library for use next time.
  • Rinse & repeat – Time to start the next RFP.

Improve your win rate, organize your RFP response process, save time, and increase revenue using RFPIO. Take a few minutes for a free demo of RFPIO. 

As for Bill Gates, he’s not wrong, but RFPIO goes beyond just magnifying efficiencies. RFPIO helps response teams establish, as well as enhance, efficient processes. His brainchild, Microsoft, agrees. 

 

Benefits of a great RFP process

Benefits of a great RFP process

There was a time, I suppose, when major company purchases were relatively straightforward. If a company wanted to buy supplies, for example, they would simply contact vendors or put out the word that they were seeking bids. 

Then a salesperson answered the call with a detailed bid, including company information, product or service description, pricing, and timelines. 

Sure, there were some security concerns, as hacking and overall bad actors have been around for a very long time. Still, the regulatory environment was less rigorous, and it was generally easier to track down subject matter experts (SMEs). 

That’s not to say things were easy. Most early-day RFPs came from the government; enough said there, I assume. But response processes were somewhat less defined and usually handled by sales. 

Today, $11 trillion of revenue comes from RFPs. Many companies have entire response departments. Although nearly every other department, including sales, has software to help them become more productive, only about 16% of organizations use RFP software. 

Either organizations don’t see the viability in a robust RFP process, or it’s an issue of “why fix it if it ain’t broken.” The problem, though, is that it is broken. RFPs are tremendous revenue-generating opportunities, and a great RFP process can generate millions of dollars while saving valuable time and other company resources. 

If you are leaving viable RFPs in the virtual dustbin due to lack of time, or your win rate is in the tank, you need RFP processes. Processes will help you determine which RFPs you want to answer as well as organize timelines, key players, etc. Read on to learn more about how you can set up RFP processes for your company.

What is an RFP process?

In short, an RFP process describes the way a company responds to an RFP. It should define how you decide which RFPs are worth your time, organize the project, consult with SMEs, and determine how to manage any new content produced during the response. 

RFPIO’s response managers (yes, we answer RFPs too) use an 8-step response process which includes:

What makes a great RFP response process 

The average RFP win rate is about 45%. A great RFP response process improves on that rate in a couple of ways—it allows you to zero in on winnable and profitable RFPs and spend less time on each response, thereby letting you focus on crafting winning bids for the desirable opportunities.  

Benefits of a great RFP process

A great RFP process doesn’t just benefit the response team; it benefits the entire organization with higher win rates, more revenue, and an organized and accessible knowledge base. 

Avoid missing or delaying opportunities

RFPs are like the lottery: you can’t win if you don’t play. If your RFP pipeline is backed up to the point where you’re missing or delaying viable opportunities, a great RFP process will help you break through the clogged pipeline by allowing you to triage opportunities and get the right RFPs into the right hands. 

Higher win rate

If you’re responding to a lot of bids without the revenue to match, it’s time to focus on your win rate. An effective RFP response process lets you spend more time on viable RFPs and less time spinning your wheels. 

Focus efforts in the right place

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.” – Kenny Rogers  

Do you play poker? I don’t, but I know enough about the game to know that if you go all-in on every hand, you’ll probably lose all your money early in the game. If you take a strategic approach, however, and only bet on the hands you think you could win, the odds tilt in your favor. 

Your boss probably doesn’t want to hear this, but RFPs are a lot like poker. Indeed, there are very few royal flushes—or guaranteed wins—but laying your time and resources on the table for a less-than-viable RFP leaves you a lot less time and fewer resources for the ones you might win.

Learn to evaluate which RFPs fit with a go/no-go qualification system in place.

  • Do you know the customer? – Do you have an existing relationship with the prospect, or did they choose to send you the RFP for specific reasons? If so, your chances are much better than if it’s a more open bidding process.
  • Is yours the right company? – If your solution doesn’t fit the customer’s needs, you should pass. Even if you spend time trying to make their round peg requirements fit into your square hole solution, you’d be wasting the prospect’s time, and you could end up annoying them.
  • Can you match their budget? – Pricing is a tricky tightrope. On the one hand, you want to win the bid, but on the other, the deal should be profitable for your company. If your SMEs in charge of pricing say they can’t fulfill the customer’s needs within a reasonable price range, listen to them. 
  • Can your company meet their needs? – Do you realistically have the time and resources to onboard and support the customer?
  • Do you want the business? — Business opportunities are a two-way street. Does the company fit your product development or business strategy? 
  • Do you have the bandwidth to answer the RFP? – If you think you’re swamped now, the number of RFPs issued is increasing every year. Sometimes, even winnable RFPs have to take back seats to better opportunities. 

Less time per proposal means more proposals

This is a no-brainer. If you answer RFPs in a streamlined, more efficient way, you will have more of that aforementioned bandwidth for more RFPs.

Revitalized internal knowledge 

RFP response teams are perfectly positioned to become the gatekeepers of company knowledge. When they record and regularly audit answers in a centralized company knowledge base, it gives executives the information they need to make more informed decisions. It also provides quick answers to anyone who needs it, including other revenue-generating teams. 

Team building 

Team-building exercises are generally either fun or downright silly, not that downright silly can’t be fun. But you don’t have to fall backward into coworkers’ arms to find camaraderie. When a team works together toward a common goal, trust and friendships are bound to develop.

Even beyond that, RFP responses require input from multiple people spread across the organization. An effective response process helps tear down silos. 

Generate more revenue

I saved this one for last because if your bids aren’t generating revenue, there’s really no point. A great response process helps you identify the opportunities that will increase revenue. 

Why a company might want to reevaluate their response process

Maybe you know your response process isn’t working for you, but even if you feel it is, maybe there’s room for improvement. Here are four scenarios that should encourage you to take a deeper look at your processes:

  • You hired a new proposal manager – A new proposal manager taking over is a great time to reevaluate your processes using fresh eyes. 
  • Your current process is—shall we say—lackluster – Is your current process winning bids for you? Is your team working hard but bored out of their minds answering questions they’ve responded to 1,000 times before? Are your processes scalable so you can win future bids?
  • Your company merged with another – Which company has better results from their processes?
  • There was a significant change in your business – Do you have new products to offer? Have your products changed? If so, your RFP Q&A pairs will change as well. Sometimes a clean break is in order. Introduce new processes to go with your new everything else. 

Examples of high-quality RFP processes

All organizations benefit from high-quality RFP response processes, but not necessarily in the same ways. Here are a few real-world examples of our customers’ benefits after moving their processes to RFPIO.

  • An insurance company proposal manager said about RFPIO, “When we realized we could finish the first draft of an RFI (request for information) in hours rather than days, it was like the clouds parted and the angels sang.”
  • IBA, a medical device manufacturer in Belgium, increased its win rate by 15%.
  • TOMIA, a software company, streamlined processes, and improved company collaboration.
  • Genpact, a global professional services firm, dramatically improved proposal quality.
  • Microsoft (I assume they need no introduction) estimates they saved $2.4 million in the first 18 months after implementing RFPIO.
  • On average, it takes about 8 days to complete an RFP, and that’s when there’s a fairly sizable team. That’s about 8 RFPs per quarter. RFPIO helped this two-person team answered double that, 16, in the first quarter after implementation. 
  • Let’s cut to the chase. Your boss wants to know about ROI. Well, Crownpeak, a digital experience management platform, realized a whopping 6x return on investment with RFPIO. 

Want to make your RFP process great?

Now that you know the importance of a great RFP response process, where do you start

  • Set goals – Companies talk a lot about customer pain points, but what are your pain points? Would you like a new RFP response process to decrease your response time? Could the quality of your responses improve? Are you being taken out of the running too quickly?
  • Develop a checklist – My mother is a big list-maker. I’ve never been as organized as my mother, and I blame my lack of list-making. Be my mother. Here is a somewhat typical checklist, although yours might look a little different:
    • Identify key stakeholders – Your stakeholders won’t be the same for each RFP, but having a list of stakeholders will save you from having to reestablish roles each time.
    • What is your average timeline? – Having this as a benchmark will help you figure out where your bottlenecks lie.
    • Get company buy-in – A new process is only as good as the number of people willing to adopt it.
    • Figure out if an RFP is worth answering – See above.
    • Locate and evaluate content – Most often, this is the most time-consuming part of the RFP process. 
  • Consider RFP software – Okay, I’m biased, but RFPIO wouldn’t exist without a real need for better RFP processes.

RFPIO is an ideal tool for RFP response processes. 

  • RFPIO cuts response time by an average of 40% by answering up to 80% of an RFP’s queries using machine learning.
  • RFPIO simplifies data-driven decision-making with RFPIO’s customizable reporting dashboard.
  • RFPIO’s industry-leading Content Library democratizes knowledge management organization-wide.
  • RFPIO® LookUp gives any authorized user with a browser company knowledge at their fingertips, even if they are traveling or out in the field.
  • RFPIO integrates with more of the apps you’re already using than any other response platform. Use RFPIO within your existing CRMs, sales enablement, productivity, and vendor assessment apps. Communicate with stakeholders using your company’s favorite communication tools. Your IT team will be relieved to know we offer the same SSO authentications your company already uses.

Maybe your RFP response processes need a complete overhaul or a few tweaks here and there. Regardless of your needs and goals, see how RFPIO will quickly help you drive revenue and improve your processes. Schedule a free demo now.  

 

Understanding RFP management

Understanding RFP management

When a request for proposal (RFP) comes across your inbox, it might seem overwhelming. Some RFPs contain 100s of questions on 1,000s of pages (or vice versa). Your first instinct might be to set it aside in favor of more straightforward deals, especially if you’re in sales instead of on a dedicated response team.

RFPs might be long and complicated, but most high-value deals come through RFPs, so ignoring a viable opportunity could cost your company $10s of thousands of dollars or far, far more. Further, if the RFP comes from a well-known or enterprise organization, ignoring it could cost your company some coveted cache that could ultimately bring in more business through having that company on your customer roster.

Whether you’re a relative newbie to RFP responses or a seasoned professional, learning more about RFP management could help you win more bids. And while we can’t guarantee you’ll get a raise or promotion, winning a big deal is a big deal and might earn your boss’s respect.

What is a request for proposal (RFP)?

When a company needs to purchase a significant service or product, it will often issue a request for proposal (RFP) to collect bids from multiple vendors. Sometimes they solicit bids from specific vendors, and sometimes they open the bidding process to any potential fit.

RFPs are typically more than about getting the lowest price—we’ll get to that later in this article.

An RFP is often 100s or even 1,000s of pages long with questions as diverse as, well, diversity in hiring practices and whether the vendor complies with the customer’s regulatory requirements.

The primary purpose of an RFP is to help issuers determine which company is the best fit for their specific needs. An RFP also:

  • Formally announces a project for bidding – An RFP is a little like a starting gun at the beginning of a race. Instead of the first to the finish line, however, the winner is the vendor that best suits the customer’s needs.
  • Defines project for issuers and responders – RFPs offer detailed explanations of project requirements and expectations.
  • Enables buyers to compare potential vendors – If you’ve ever shopped for a mattress, it’s almost like each retailer or manufacturer speaks a different language. If two stores carry the same manufacturer, the model names and numbers are entirely different. That’s intentional; it makes it really difficult to compare pricing and features when you’re comparing apples to watermelons. RFPs let the buyers define the parameters, and vendors (should) respond with specific and straightforward answers, which enable apples-to-apples comparisons.

Proposal manager: role and responsibilities

At the very surface, a proposal manager is the project manager for the RFP response process. When we dig a little deeper, though, we see that proposal managers are some of the most important and knowledgeable people in an organization.

When a proposal manager isn’t herding cats, their job is to know the organization’s who, what, where, when, why, and how, or at least where to find such information. A proposal manager:

  • Is the point of contact for the organization – There to answer questions from RFP issuers, response teams, sales teams, executives, and SMEs.
  • Aligns tasks and team members – Herding those metaphorical felines
  • Facilitates team meetings
  • Drives discussion and collaboration – Once those cats are in line (I think I’ve milked this metaphor dry), the proposal manager is responsible for ensuring that the right people are answering the right questions.
  • Enforces timelines for project status – RFPs have strict deadlines. Proposal managers have the experience to know how to break the project up into manageable timelines to reach that final deadline.
  • Verifies project compliance – Does the proposal answer the issuer’s questions? Can the company comply with their needs?
  • Produces proposal submission – No matter how many stakeholders were involved in answering an RFP, it’s ultimately up to the proposal manager to ensure that it’s accurate, well-written, and on time.

Managing RFPs

An RFP response should be strategic and laser-focused on a single goal, winning those winnable bids. While it might sound straightforward, effective RFP management is akin to conducting an orchestra when the musicians are scattered throughout the music hall and even the world.

When a company specifically reaches out to your company for a bid, it’s sort of flattering, and the impulse is to answer the RFP. Many RFPs, though, are open to any bidder. A poorly-defined RFP management process might include answering the wrong RFPs and a disjointed response process, resulting in a low win rate.

That’s why a transparent, strategic approach is critical to managing RFP responses and fostering a more efficient proposal response process.

  • Organize RFP response process – Is the RFP worth pursuing? If so, who are the key stakeholders, and what are their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?
  • Establish a channel for accountability – RFPIO features communication and accountability tools to keep your team running smoothly and on time.
  • Decrease response time – Save time with efficient communication and an AI-enhanced content management system that can answer up to 80% of an RFP with a few clicks.
  • Improve response quality – Winning a bid is about far more than just price. Dramatically shaving time from the more monotonous parts of the response provides more time for crafting compelling stories and ensuring that the response is well-written, complete, and accurate.
  • Create a centralized database of assets and resources – Save subject matter experts (SMEs) and team members from having to duplicate their efforts by recording responses in a centralized database of assets and resources.
  • Increase bid win rate – Respond to the right RFPs instead of more RFPs to increase your bid win rate.

There are three primary options for managing RFP proposals. They include outsourcing responses, manual responses, and RFP software.

Outsourcing the response process

Many companies choose to outsource their response process, especially if they’re relatively small or their employees are strapped for time. While outsourcing has significant advantages, there are some steep downsides to watch out for.

Advantages of outsourcing

  • Saving time – Outsourcing does save significant company time. Proposal managers can step into more of a supervisory role and let the contractor do all the labor-intensive work.
  • Improved response quality – Outsourcing lets you pull the response manager out of the weeds and allows them to focus on the final drafts instead of each iteration.

Disadvantages of outsourcing

  • Risks confidential information – Providing outside access to proprietary information is risky. Hackers and cybercriminals could intercept even if the contractor is fully screened and has an airtight NDA.
  • Loss of business knowledge – RFP contractors don’t generally update a company knowledge base, meaning any information provided to them will be lost to the next person who needs it.
  • Big financial investment – Outsourcing the response process could pay for itself, if you answer a lot of RFPs each year. Otherwise, it’s much cheaper to keep it in-house.
  • Time spent tracking down stakeholders – The further a contractor is removed from your company’s infrastructure and org chart, the more time spent tracking them down.

Manual responses

Smaller companies, or those who haven’t found the right RFP software fit, may still use manual response processes. There’s often a reluctance to let go of manual processes, which we completely understand.

Are you working harder than you need to? As the response manager, you’re tasked with juggling all of a response process’s moving parts. It’s up to you to stay on top of everything, including sending emails, managing all authors and SMEs, reviewing each Q&A pair, and ensuring deadlines are met.

Still, there are some benefits to sticking with manual processes:

  • Requires no upfront investment – Manual processes utilize the tools you already have, such as document and spreadsheet software and PDF readers. And let’s not forget the most essential tool of all, human power.
  • Familiarity with tools and processes – If you’re already used to manual processes, there’s no learning curve.
  • No uplift – You’ll never have to worry about software price increases.

Still, it’s pretty hard to make the case that manual response management processes are the ideal solution for any company. They are:

  • Time-consuming – You have to answer how many questions? How many times can you answer the very same question? Why is pinning down SMEs so complicated?
  • Repetitive – How many times can you answer the very same question? Oh wait, did I just ask that?
  • Decentralized – Financial statements, diversity policies, data compliance assurance, timelines, pricing…an RFP will include information from multiple departments and sources. Do you have to chase each one down?
  • Collaboration inhibitors – Poor and non-existent communication and project management tools make collaboration challenging.
  • Response capacity killers – The more time you spend stalking stakeholders for information, the less time you have to craft a compelling response, and the less time you have for answering other RFPs.

Leveraging RFP software

RFP software is designed to organize and simplify the RFP response process. Most importantly, advanced RFP software lets you respond to more of the right RFPs, increasing your proposal win rate and producing a hefty ROI.

Recent statistics show that:

  • 77% of proposal professionals say that their response process could use some improvement.
  • 75% of proposal teams with fully-adopted response technology say they always respond on time.

That’s not to say all RFP software is the same, but there are some standard features.

Features of an RFP response tool

The core features of RFP software include:

  • Automation – RFP software should help make your entire response process more productive by automating as many tasks as possible.
  • Content library – A content library is a centralized resource, a single source of truth, that holds assets in a single, easily accessible location.
  • Collaboration tools – RFP response software should foster collaboration through notifications and efficiencies with repeatable tasks.

Integrations and extensions

Advanced RFP response management software has features that level up the response process with integrations and AI-powered intuition. An automated response process has demonstrable benefits, including faster response times, more accurate and better-written responses, higher win rates, and a substantial ROI.

Competitive advantages of automating the response processes with RFPIO include:

  • Efficient response management – Streamline the response process with project management features, accessible and searchable content, reporting, and intuitive automated responses that answer the majority of questions with a click of a button.
  • Improved response quality – Simplified collaboration and automated responses gives back time to response managers, allowing them to fine-tune their proposals.
  • Easier collaboration – Communicate across verticals, state lines, and oceans. Compile responses right inside your favorite communication app with RFPIO’s seamless integrations. We integrate with Slack, Microsoft Teams, Jira, and Google Hangouts. Unlimited user access ensures that all stakeholders are included.
  • Standardized formatsRFPIO supports importing RFPs, security questionnaires, and DDQs from any format (such as Word, Excel, PDFs) and plugs the questions into your preferred template. From there, you can export using white-labeled templates or the source format (usually a spreadsheet).
  • Consistent deliverables – RFPIO’s project management features keep projects on track and on time.
  • Cost savings – Most SaaS products have subscription-based pricing models, which is costly, especially for smaller companies. RFPIO has a unique pricing model; instead of charging a subscription fee for each user, RFPIO charges based on the number of projects during any given time.
  • Increased revenue growthBetter bids translate to a higher win rate which translates to higher revenue.

There are some challenges to implementing RFP management software, although they don’t have to be deal breakers.

  • Demonstrating ROI – Demonstrating ROI to decision makers who may not even know what a response team does can be tricky. RFPIO makes it simple to make the case.
  • Securing an increased budget for an RFP management solutionSecuring budgets, especially in a tight economy, is challenging, even with a proven ROI. Your company already knows the value in sales enablement tools. RFPIO adds value to your existing CRMs and the rest of your tech stack with industry-leading integrations.
  • Onboarding RFP response team – There is a short ramp-up time to learn how to use RFP software, and RFPIO’s integrations help set your team up for a smooth transition.

Tips for improved RFP management

Whether you are full-time or an accidental response manager, and whether or not you use RFP software, follow best practices for facilitating more effective proposal responses by taking time and care when there’s an opportunity.

  • Develop an efficient go/no go process – Start by deciding whether an RFP is even worth it with an efficient go/no go process. Can you meet the customer’s needs? Do you want to meet the customer’s needs? What is your track record with similar RFPs?
  • Leverage automation to streamline workflow – Automated project management processes ensure that each deliverable is met. RFPIO’s automated Content Library does up to 80% of the work for you.
  • Create a quality content library – RFPIO’s Content Library is a single repository for all company knowledge, but it needs regular maintenance to deduplicate and ensure accuracy. Conduct regular audits; audit new clients more frequently and old customers less frequently.
  • Utilize branded response template – As much as we’d love you to sing our praises to all of your customers, responses come from you, not us. Add your brand to your preferred templates.
  • Consider an all-in-one software solutionRFPIO offers nearly anything you might want to see in an RFP response solution. If there’s a feature you don’t see, ask us.

The challenges of RFP response management

Additional challenges to the RFP response process include:

  • Labor-intensive processes – RFP responses are labor intensive, but proposal software can dramatically cut the number of hours.
  • Tight deadlines – If a proposal is due at noon on Wednesday, it’s due at noon, not 12:01, and definitely not Thursday. RFPIO’s project management features will help you meet that deadline.
  • Disorganized proposal contentData professionals spend around half their time trying to find, protect, and build content. Having that content in a single, easily searchable place saves hours each week.
  • Collaboration – Everyone, it seems, is either busy or far away. RFPIO’s collaboration tools take the hassle out of working together.
  • Security – Protect your data with RFPIO’s SSO Authentication.

How RFPIO can help

RFP response management software is a more efficient way to create quality responses. RFPIO utilizes advanced technology, including machine learning, and a unique pricing model to remain at the forefront of RFP response management software. We help companies overcome challenges with our:

  • Centralized proposal knowledge library – Most questions already have answers somewhere within your organization. Keep them all in one easy-to-find place with RFPIO’s Content Library.
  • Automated proposal responses – Let us answer the common and easy questions while you focus on the dealmakers.
  • Streamlined workflow and task management – Use RFPIO’s project management features or use RFPIO within your existing task management software.
  • Simplified communication – Gone are the days when we run down the hall to ask a question. RFPIO lets you ask any question or anyone in the organization at any time.
  • Integrated data protections into your management solutionRFPIO takes security very seriously.

Improve your RFP response process with better management solutions

Improve your work processes and impress your boss(es) with RFPIO’s all-in-one RFP management solution. Schedule a Free Demo to learn how.

3 ways RFPIO-HubSpot integration streamlines proposal management and closes more deals

3 ways RFPIO-HubSpot integration streamlines proposal management and closes more deals

Selling a product takes work. Sales agents spend their days calling leads, responding to inbound queries, tracking progress, meeting quotas, and juggling a lot of paperwork in partnership with revenue and finance teams — but that’s where RFPIO and HubSpot come in to make life a lot easier.

Sales platform technology has improved so much that the tedious, manual parts of the sales process — like proposal management, document generation, and content sourcing — can now be handled by great AI, like the proprietary technology that powers RFPIO. 

RFPIO is an AI-enabled software that makes it easier for sales teams to create their best content, respond to opportunities, and deliver on expectations.

And HubSpot is a powerful CRM that enables sales, marketing, and customer care teams to find, track, and nurture prospects, engage existing customers, and deliver the right message at the right time.

Companies of all sizes can benefit from combining RFPIO and HubSpot. Sales, presales, proposal, marketing, analyst relations, customer support, IT, and legal teams can collaborate better and save time on proposal workflows by cutting out the tedious, manual tasks from the process. 

Customer revenue teams and sales teams already spend their days in their CRMs, so it’s easy to keep momentum and reduce screen-switching by extending proposal operation right into the platform where they’re already working.

Benefits of integrating RFPIO with HubSpot

With the RFPIO and HubSpot integration, teams can submit project requests, track progress, and access proposal content without ever leaving HubSpot. Sales and proposal teams do their best work when they’re truly collaborating, and connecting HubSpot with RFPIO is the best way to save time and win more business.

3 ways to use RFPIO with HubSpot to automate and streamline proposal management

1. Launch and track RFPIO projects directly from any HubSpot Deal page, leveraging existing content from account and opportunity objects

Sales teams across industries can use this integration to streamline the project creation process for anything like RFPs, RFIs, and Security Questionnaires. With RFPIO and HubSpot, sales teams on HubSpot get direct visibility into project completion status, without needing to log into the RFPIO platform. The integration can also be configured to send automated notifications and task assignments to project owners and SMEs, jumpstarting collaboration between revenue and proposal teams.

You can also drill down and track project status from any HubSpot Deal page at the project, section, or owner level, with built-in executive dashboards and summaries providing the insights your team needs. 

Example: A salesperson has gotten their excited prospect over to the contracts phase of closing their deal. Because of a high volume of deals closed thanks to a major promotion, the revenue team is a little under water and needs more time to finalize the contracts. But with the HubSpot-RFPIO integration, the salesperson can follow the progress of the paperwork within HubSpot and provide updates to the prospect without needing to further bog down the revenue team with requests for status updates.

2. Customer-facing teams can automate much of the response process when answering requests and questions

Teams can program and automate the right answers to prospect or customer questions in real time, and when creating proactive proposals. This leaves sales teams with more time on their hands to handle queries and proposals that are more complex. 

RFPIO’s patented import technology works for all types of proposal request document types. RFPIO also exports polished and personalized responses onto templates or original files. And the dynamic Content Library serves as a content repository and collaboration hub that’s enhanced by an AI-powered answer recommendation engine.

This automation results in significant process efficiencies, which in turn allow all customer-facing teams, especially those who triage incoming asks, to focus on personalizing responses that optimize the sales, onboarding, and customer support experiences.

Example: A sales manager notices that his team is getting the same handful of technical questions over and over again about their product via email and on the website’s chatbot. He goes into the RFPIO Content Library and fills in the answers that need to be fired off to these customers, and thus reduces the volume of questions routed to live sales agents by 10%—so they can better spend that time on the phone and closing deals. 

3. Sales managers can keep teams aligned and projects on track

Managers can receive automated notifications and send task assignments to project owners and SMEs—and project requesters and creators can track the progress of current projects from the same place they submitted them within HubSpot. 

This means proposal and customer-facing teams are better aligned, and can enjoy a significant reduction in status updates via email, Slack, or phone that just waste time. They can check project status on the related HubSpot Deal, communicate whether a project is “Approved” or “Declined” through HubSpot, and access completed response packets in HubSpot that have been delivered by RFPIO. 

Example: A proposal team is anxiously waiting to hear back from their partnering sales team about several large accounts waiting to be signed and closed. Instead of sending a Slack to the busy sales manager, they can log into HubSpot themselves and see the status of the RFPIO project items in the contact page. 

Knock out inefficiencies and give sales teams the time to win more than ever with RFPIO and HubSpot

Your sales, proposals, and revenue teams need to collaborate to close as many deals as they can, as quickly as possible. Using the RFPIO integration with HubSpot, this collaboration is easier than ever and happens within the software where these teams already spend their days. 

 

 

Understanding knowledge management

Understanding knowledge management

Aside from your employees, company knowledge is your organization’s most valuable asset. If yours is like most, the amount of knowledge accumulated over the years seems to grow exponentially until systems become bloated with duplicate and outdated information.

Traditionally, knowledge management was haphazard and siloed, with few auditing processes in place. AI-driven technology to the rescue! RFPIO’s Content Library is an AI-powered knowledge management database that helps democratize and organize information, benefiting anyone who needs it.

What is knowledge management?

Knowledge management is about managing a company’s content repository policies, practices, and pretty much anything that is valuable enough for the company to keep. There are several ways to capture, share, and organize knowledge. Knowledge management is about organization, but it’s also about sharing, along with the process of recording and retaining. 

If you are unsure about the importance of a knowledge management system, read how one of the most technologically advanced organizations in the world dropped the knowledge management ball, with ramifications that still reverberate, half a century later

Did you know that the main reason NASA stopped sending crewed missions to the moon is poor knowledge management? If that sounds implausible to you, we don’t blame you. 

In the late 1960s-early 1970s, the United States invested billions of dollars and tapped into some of the brightest minds on the planet toward creating the Apollo missions. 11 iterations in, and several years later, U.S. Astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. The entire world was rapt.

After that, it seemed we might be on our way to regular, perhaps even civilian, trips to the moon. But suddenly, in 1972, the Apollo missions stopped, and we haven’t sent a crew to the moon in the 50 years since. Why? Well, in large part because they forgot to write things down.

Indeed, this is an oversimplification. Other factors, such as more advanced materials and technology, made replicating the Apollo crafts difficult. And Apollo blueprints aren’t exactly single-paged documents. However, even NASA admits that its knowledge management failure hurt future projects. 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory CKO David Oberhettinger recalls, “No one thought to keep a copy of the drawing and design data for the gargantuan Saturn 5 rocket that brought us to the moon.”

Today, thankfully, NASA takes knowledge management very seriously. They have managed to recreate much of the technology, but the design for the Saturn 5 rocket is gone.


Your company might not be in business to send people to the moon, but as with NASA, moving forward sometimes means looking backward. Not only does company knowledge help you learn from your successes and failures, but it also helps forge a path toward the future. Can effective knowledge management help you avoid Apollo-sized failures?

Obstacles to a knowledge management system

People are often reluctant to share or may take for granted that the knowledge is already public, at least among stakeholders. Some people are more deliberate and have somewhat of an old-school mindset—that if they share too much knowledge, it will make them expendable. 

How to encourage company buy-in

Minds don’t change overnight, and neither do work habits. The best approach is gradual. Don’t immediately change everything. Instead, record and organize what you’re doing for processes and how knowledge managers will be able to access information from multiple repositories across the company. 

Pitch why it’s essential, such as simplifying the training process. Emphasize that intelligent knowledge management will save their time and keep them from having to pester subject matter experts (SMEs) by eliminating the need to ask for answers to questions the SMEs have already addressed.

What are the three types of knowledge management?

Knowledge management generally encompasses three main types of knowledge: tacit, implicit, and explicit. What are the differences?

Tacit knowledge

Tacit knowledge is as it sounds. It’s the knowledge that comes from years of experience but might not be easy to put into words. Still, the majority of company knowledge is in tacit form. 

Tacit knowledge might include negotiation skills, creative thinking, or knowing the company tone and voice in written correspondence. Because tacit information is by definition difficult to record, it’s best passed on through training, trial and error, and mentorship.

Additionally, tacit knowledge helps position people as industry thought leaders who can communicate with others in the industry on equal footing. 

Implicit knowledge

Have you ever tried to teach basic computer skills to someone who has never used a computer? It can be frustrating to both parties. Implicit knowledge is expertise that comes through training or practice to the point where you no longer have to think about what you’re doing. It can also refer to individual preferential processes. 

For example, how you start your workday—boot up the computer, check emails, check the calendar, etc.—might come from implicit knowledge if it’s a habit. Another example might be how you approach SMEs or make entries into the Content Library.

As with tacit knowledge, implicit knowledge is difficult to record, but it’s not impossible. Implicit knowledge is best passed along through training, which might include 1-to-1s or videos. It’s important to realize that not everyone is elbows deep in your day-to-day tasks, so thoroughness and patience are critical, as they are when you teach someone to use a computer.

Explicit knowledge

When most people think of knowledge management, they think of explicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is written or otherwise documented, and easily stored in a knowledge database. 

Examples of explicit knowledge include profit and loss statements, your company’s mission statement, compliance documents, employee handbooks, etc. 

An effective management system should provide combined access to all types of knowledge across all organizational levels, especially since tacit and implicit knowledge can disappear after the knowledge holders leave the organization.

Both tacit and implicit knowledge become explicit when recorded. 

Why is effective knowledge management important?

According to a McKinsey survey, interaction workers spend about ⅕ of their time trying to locate internal information. The same study found that searchable knowledge bases can reduce that time spent by as much as 35%.

An IDC study found that around half of a data professional’s time is lost to improper knowledge management:

  • On average, employees who manage or use data spend 14 hours per week on data they can’t find, protect, or prepare.
  • They spend about 10 hours per week building information that already exists.
  • About 80% of businesses say that accessible, searchable, and accurate information is vital for operational efficiency, policy compliance, risk reduction, regulatory compliance, and increased revenue.

A well-developed, well-maintained knowledge management system has several tangible and not quite as tangible—but still key—benefits, including:

  • Improved efficiency – A well-managed knowledge management system eliminates redundancies, saves time searching for information, and generally empowers employees to do their jobs.
  • Retention of organizational expertise – People within companies have decades of information and historical data in their heads. Retaining the expertise helps prevent repeating mistakes of the past and contextualizes current actions and processes. 
  • Facilitates collaboration – A democratized knowledge management system helps tear down silos by letting people from anywhere in an organization access needed documents or other information for maximum collaboration. 
  • Enables data-driven decisions – A well-maintained knowledge database tracks changes within an organization. It even provides knowledge managers with the tools to see how much a particular part of the repository is used, how much things are utilized and not utilized, where there are knowledge gaps, etc.
  • Reduces the risk of a data breach – A single source of truth should have consistent security processes, such as two-factor authentication. Administrators should also control access. Browser-based access, as is available with RFPIO, lets employees access the knowledge base from anywhere without logging onto the company server.
  • Increases revenue – Accessible company knowledge empowers revenue teams to provide the information customers need and close more deals faster.

See how Crownpeak saw a 6x ROI within months of implementing RFPIO

What should be included in knowledge management systems?

Of course, every company defines critical knowledge differently, but there are some things that every organization should house in a secure, well-maintained company knowledge base. Some information might be closely-guarded, and some might be publicly available. Here are some examples:

  • Company information – Company history, mission, values, public product information vs. what’s on the roadmap for the future. Policies such as diversity, equity, inclusion, etc.
  • Sales enablement material – Product info, processes, sales cycles, relevant data, quotas, busy/slower seasons, customer service information, etc.
  • Internal FAQs – General HR questions, benefits, PTO, policies, product information, customer-facing information, mission values, etc.
  • Customer-facing FAQs – Values, mission, history, products and bundles, diversity, equity, inclusion, philanthropy, case studies, notable customers, etc.
  • Calendars – Major events of importance, quarterly all-hands, meetings from the CEO, events throughout the year, quarterly deadlines, sales cycle, etc. 
  • Marketing documents – Branded and ready-to-go content, brochures, case studies, logos, etc.
  • Product information – Historical and up-to-date versions of the product(s); some include product roadmaps, lists of subject matter experts, product onboarding and training materials, etc. 
  • Security information – Security policies and practices, depth of protection, due diligence questionnaires (DDQs), compliance information, etc.

Types of knowledge management systems

There are two main types of knowledge management systems, corporate wikis and internal knowledge bases. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. 

Corporate wiki

A corporate wiki is a lot like Wikipedia. A wiki is truly democratized; anyone in the company can add to it or edit it. Corporate wikis shouldn’t house confidential information. 

Benefits of a corporate wiki

  • Enables increased employee engagement
  • Open source
  • Searchable

Downsides to a corporate wiki

  • Unreliable contributors and information
  • Difficult to audit
  • No defined page roles

Internal knowledge base software

Internal knowledge base software provides a controlled repository for information. It has defined access and page roles, and the content is generally reviewed for quality, accuracy, and timeliness.

Benefits to an internal knowledge base

What makes a successful knowledge management solution

An effective organizational knowledge management system should feature centralized accessibility, reusability, and efficiency. Intelligent knowledge management systems also include AI-powered automated response generation, real-time access, and auditing features. 

Knowledge management ensures that content is accessible and shareable within an organization and that there’s a clearly defined process for discovering and capturing knowledge. There are formal and informal ways of managing knowledge. Knowledge managers should look at what is being shared and what they need to capture.

How to develop a knowledge management strategy

Tools do not in themselves motivate people to share knowledge; however, a knowledge management strategy can support a cultural shift around sharing knowledge. Here are some steps for implementing a knowledge management strategy:

Identify organizational objectives

A knowledge management strategy should contribute to overall organizational goals, including organization objectives, culture, infrastructure, processes, etc. 

You can also break down your knowledge management practices, such as discovery, capture, organization sharing, etc.

Audit your current knowledge processes

Evaluating your current knowledge management system is necessary for benchmarking knowledge management capabilities. 

Questions you might ask to gain key insights into processes include: 

  • How effectively is knowledge currently accessed?
  • Where is knowledge presently stored?
  • Where do informational silos exist?
  • What gaps would exist if subject matter experts left and took their expertise with them?
  • What are common search terms?

Some information, such as company history, may be static, while other company knowledge needs regular updating. Setting regular—preferably automated—review cycles for existing data is essential. 

Capture and organize knowledge

As the saying goes, prevention is the best medicine. The same is true for knowledge management. Organizing knowledge as it goes into the database provides better searchability and optimized audit cycles. The best tactics for systematically codifying knowledge include:

  • Adding tags
  • Using templates for consistent formatting
  • Setting up custom fields and collections
  • Using filters for moderation
  • Restricting sensitive content visibility

Implement an accessible knowledge base

People often resist change, even if that change dramatically improves their work processes. The same is true with a knowledge management system. Rather than shock the company ecosystem, take it slowly. Tactics for rolling out a knowledge management system include: 

  • Establishing clear and transparent buy-in from departments – Include department heads in onboarding processes
  • Introducing the system to one department at a time for gradual expansion
  • Prioritizing departments in greatest need – For many companies, those in most need include revenue teams
  • Scheduling training for all users

Conduct regular audits

Advanced knowledge management systems are robust and intuitive, but when there are 1,000s of somewhat different answers to a single question, you might find yourself combing through them all. 

But a knowledge base is supposed to save you time, right? It will, but like a garden, it needs regular pruning—we suggest monthly. Here are some of the content auditing best practices:

  • Conduct a duplicate report and delete or warehouse duplicate content.
  • RFPIO’s Content Library allows auditors to pull insights reports to see how often content is used. Archive any content that hasn’t been used in the last year.
  • Archive content that hasn’t been used at all.

Measure improvement

There are many intangible benefits to knowledge base software, such as better collaboration, fewer mistakes, higher quality proposal responses, less frustration on the part of SMEs, better engagement, etc. But executives generally want to see more. They want numbers. 

Scheduling regular Content Library health reports can assist in demonstrating ROI to stakeholders.

Fortunately, RFPIO’s internal knowledge base software capabilities allow for easy, quantifiable measurements of post-implementation success through a wide range of reporting features, including:

  • Content Library Insights Report – Track trends, win/loss analysis, etc. Content Library reporting is almost limitless.
  • Content Library Timeline – Are you meeting customers’ timelines or your deliverables?
  • Content Library Search Terms Report – What are frequently used search terms?
  • Projects – Which projects are currently being worked on and which are on hold?
  • User activity – Which employees benefit from which content, and what content do they use?

RFPIO’s reporting features are fully customizable if the pre-built reporting features don’t cover all of your company’s needs. 

Breaking down silos: How RFPIO can help

Farm country, as you’ve probably witnessed, is dotted with grain silos. Silos are effective at storing grain because they’re insular—there’s little chance of contamination or leakage. That’s great for grain but not so much for companies.

Unfortunately, many companies, intentionally or not, work in solos. Departments are isolated, and any knowledge they create stays with them. RFPIO addresses the barriers that keep people from effectively sharing knowledge, including:

  • Not enough time – You have too much going on to provide information to people who you don’t even know. With RFPIO’s Content Library, they can find it themselves.
  • Cumbersome processes – RFPIO’s Content Library lets you customize and streamline your operations.
  • Outdated relevancy – The Content Library helps you conduct periodic audits to keep content fresh and accurate.
  • Lack of trustworthy source – User permissions help ensure content reliability.
  • Inaccessibility – The RFPIO Content Library is open to any stakeholder in the company. RFPIO® LookUp provides access from any browser.
  • Lack of collaboration – Desiloing helps encourage collaboration.

Dynamic Content Library

Your company might send people to the moon, but your accumulated company knowledge is vital for your future. Knowledge hygiene, or ensuring your knowledge base is accurate, de-duplicated, and current, helps ensure that employees aren’t running around like proverbial headless chickens as they try to locate the tools to do their jobs. 

Easy Collaboration

Most company knowledge is hard to define as company knowledge since it exists inside people’s heads. RFPIO’s collaborative software facilitates sharing implicit and tacit information with tools to tap into experts’ minds. 

  • In-app mentions – Tag collaborative partners with a simple @mention, right inside the RFPIO app. 
  • Messaging app integrations – RFPIO seamlessly integrates with all the most popular messaging apps, such as Google Hangouts, Jira, Microsoft Teams, and Slack.
  • Task assignment capabilities – Assign tasks and track project status in real-time with advanced project management tools.
  • Eliminates the differences between formats – Whether your information is on a spreadsheet, a document, or a PDF file, RFPIO supports full searching and collaborative capabilities.

Integrations

We get that tech stacks sometimes grow out of control, and users having to check multiple apps throughout the day is a hassle. RFPIO seamlessly integrates with more than two dozen of the applications you already use. 

Discover how sales teams can benefit from a streamlined and effective modern tech stack

Additionally, RFPIO® LookUp allows for quick access to the most up-to-date information from any web-based software, such as Salesforce, Slack, Google Docs, etc. If you have a web browser, you can access RFPIO’s Content Library.

Manage smarter knowledge with internal knowledge base software

If your knowledge management system contains out-of-date or inaccurate information, is siloed inside departments or inaccessible applications, or if you don’t have a knowledge management system at all, schedule a free demo.

 

Knowledge management best practices

Knowledge management best practices

When a business is in its founding phase, it’s undeniably chaotic, but it’s also when company communication is at its peak. Everyone is on a first-name basis and working toward the same goal.

If Mark in sales needs financial information about the company for a potential customer, it’s easy to run down the hall to ask Bethany, the CFO. If Bethany wants next quarter’s marketing forecasts, Harper, the CMO, is just steps away.

Soon, though, the business grows, which of course, is the goal. Then the company hires an HR team, and the staff begins to expand. And then, perhaps without noticing, something happens—silos develop. 

Harper and Bethany might still know each other, but their employees may not. Sales, for example, becomes wholly removed from the people responsible for building the company’s products. They may even be siloed off from others involved in the sales cycle. 

The most significant loss in a siloed organization isn’t about names or distance to colleagues’ workstations; the most significant loss is democratized access to company knowledge. 

This blog will discuss best practices for transforming scattered company knowledge into a single source of truth, a.k.a., an intelligent Content Library. 

What is knowledge management?

Knowledge management refers to how companies collect, organize, analyze, share, and maintain valuable company documents and data. The objective is to democratize knowledge and empower employees to accomplish more in less time. 

Knowledge management is also about ensuring that everyone in the organization is on the same page—a single source of truth. Effective knowledge management prevents miscommunication, incorrect information, and knowledge gaps. It also spurs productivity and helps connect, if not tear down, silos. 

Knowledge management systems

A knowledge management system is about managing a centralized repository of all of an organization’s information. It may include shareholder or annual reports, marketing collateral, sales enablement material, legal documents, contracts, company data, software documentation, operating procedures, etc. 

Knowledge, of course, is fluid—so is an effective knowledge management system. The software should prompt gatekeepers to run regular audits for inaccurate, non-regulatory compliant, or out-of-date files. It should also remind them when a record might need to be virtually shredded. 

Aside from its employees, internal knowledge is a company’s most important asset. Accurate and up-to-date knowledge management systems help executives, response management teams, sales, marketing, accounting, human resources, etc., do their jobs. Does that mean all employees should have access to the entire knowledge base all the time? Definitely not, but we’ll elaborate on that in a bit.

The importance of managing internal knowledge

We are in the midst of the Information Age. Nearly anything we’d want to know is a simple Google search away. But can we say the same about workplaces? As much as that might be the goal, for most organizations, the unfortunate truth is no. 

  • 75% of organizations qualify creating and preserving knowledge as important or very important.
  • Only 9% of those organizations say they are ready to address knowledge management.
  • About ⅓ of organizations haven’t leveraged any form of artificial intelligence (AI) for knowledge management.
  • Only 8% say they’re leveraging AI to a great extent.
  • More than half of companies’ data goes unused.
  • An employee survey showed that over 90% of respondents think it should be as easy to find company knowledge as it is to find information on Google.
  • Most think it’s easier for consumers to find information.

Advantages of developing a knowledge management system include:

  • Informed decision making – All the data and documentation is at decision makers’ fingertips.
  • Better strategies – Knowledge management systems provide click-of-a-button access to sales and market trends.
  • Increased revenue – Arm sales and response teams with the knowledge they need to win more business. 
  • Increased efficiency and productivity – No more searching for information.
  • Improved proposal quality – Content at your fingertips provides more time to write and edit a compelling, bid-winning story. 
  • Increased response accuracy – Reusing existing company-approved content is far less error-prone than rushing to compile information and provides more time to check work.
  • Trend analysis – Generate reports from anywhere.
  • Staying ahead of competition – Compile competitive and market research.
  • Expert knowledge retention – No one likes to answer the same questions twice (or more). 

What is content creation and reuse?

Content creation is about generating content that appeals to a company’s persona buyer. Content can come in written, visual, or audio form. 81% of organizations see content as a core business strategy.

A content management system allows users to create, collaborate, publish, edit, store, and catalog digital content right on the platform. Advanced content management systems help take work off of users’ hands, leveraging AI to read, catalog, and store uploaded documents. 

Then, instead of reinventing the wheel each time stakeholders need information, they can reuse and edit content as required. 

Best practices for knowledge management

Knowledge management aims to create an effective single source of truth, with accurate and up-to-date information. Whether a stakeholder works in sales, response management, legal, finance, or HR, the information should be easily searchable, consistent, and repeatable. 

But consistency and repeatability on their own aren’t enough. A knowledge management system needs to not only have the scalability to grow and change with the organization but also to help the organization grow and change. 

Determine the best type of management solution for your company

There are two main knowledge management solutions: company wikis and internal knowledge bases. Let’s delve a little deeper into which solution might work best for your organization.

Corporate Wikis

Did you know that the word “wiki” means “very quick” in Hawaiian? It sort of seems like an oxymoron for island life, right?

A corporate wiki is basically the same concept as Wikipedia. A wiki allows any employee to add, delete, or edit content. And surprisingly, most wikis are pretty quick.

Corporate wikis:

  • Are knowledge repositories – Employees add knowledge to the database as it becomes available.
  • Are searchable – As with Wikipedia, corporate wikis are easily searchable.
  • Save time – If the information is in the wiki, there’s no need to track down subject matter experts. 
  • Improve employee engagement – Since wikis are open to all employees, even relatively bottom-of-the-ladder employees can participate in information gathering, sharing, and utilization.
  • Support links – A single document or piece of content might have one or more parent or child records. Wikis let users link to related documents and content.
  • Some, but not all, wikis are open source.

Still, corporate wikis are not without their downsides, including: 

  • Unreliable contributors – Sometimes, knowledge can be too democratized, and contributors might not have the entire picture.
  • Inaccurate information – Wikis don’t generally have quality control measures in place.
  • Difficult to audit – Knowledge can have a short shelf life. Wikis aren’t famous for processes to weed out and update old content. Also, anyone can edit.
  • No way to define page roles – Wikis are open to all employees; there is no way to limit viewing or editing rights.

Internal knowledge bases

On the other hand, an internal knowledge base has more in common with a library, only without space limitations. Ideally, a knowledge base should house all company knowledge, and after an employee enters their login credentials, a library card of sorts, the virtual librarian directs the user to the content they need.

But there’s more to an internal knowledge base than gatekeeping and pointing users in the right direction. A true internal knowledge base should have several key features, including:

  • Built-in smart search feature – Leverage AI assistance for fast and accurate searching.
  • Custom fields – No two companies are alike; they should be able to create fields that match their company needs.
  • Multi-format capability – An AI-powered internal knowledge base should support both written content such as question and answer pairs, and uploaded documents.
  • An intuitive and easy-to-navigate user interface – What good is an internal knowledge base if it’s difficult to use?
  • Tagging – You would never just throw files in a file cabinet. Think of your knowledge library as a sophisticated file cabinet. All content should be tagged and, if applicable, attached to parent and/or child folders.
  • User restrictions – Content creation and editing are reserved for verified specialists.
  • Simplified auditing – Function within the parameters of a content strategy with regular audits.
  • Scalability – A knowledge management system needs to grow as your company grows. 

Implement change in gradual steps

Too much change all at once is a shock to the system. Prioritize departments in need and introduce the system to one department at a time. Gradually expand as you dial in training, word of mouth circulates about how great the system is, and you have success stories to share with new departments and executive sponsors.

Showcase improvement metrics

Internal knowledge base software capabilities allow easy, quantifiable measurements of post-implementation success. The functional value of knowledge management will rapidly become apparent to end users in how they can execute their responsibilities. 

See how Genpact increased efficiency by up to 35% with their RFPIO-powered knowledge base.

They’ll be able to build better proposals faster, respond to prospects and customers with greater accuracy in near real-time, and gain contextual insight into all the content relevant to their role.

The strategic value of knowledge management is that you’re able to show the system’s value to your leadership team so that they can trust your reporting accuracy. Numbers don’t lie, but you need measurement capabilities to get the numbers. Plus, it makes it easier to measure ROI. You have to communicate the value of your single source of truth.

Internal knowledge base software easily allows you to measure success post-implementation. I’ll call out three of my favorite RFPIO reports that help illustrate its strategic value:

  • Content Library Insights Report – This dashboard connects you to insights on your Content Library, including content moderation and usage, content owners, and content moderators.
  • Content Library Timeline – More of a tool than a report, this allows you to proactively set SME schedules, so content auditing responsibilities are parsed out manageably instead of piling on hundreds of questions at the end of the year. From a reporting standpoint, it shows leadership how SMEs use their time.
  • Content Library Search Terms Report – Which terms are end users searching but receiving zero results for? This report delivers instant insight into which content you need to develop to meet user—and ultimately prospect and customer—needs.

Ensure that your team can access the knowledge they need for shared success

If knowledge is not accessible and usable at scale, then it’s probably not worth managing. Sales teams need content to answer tough prospect questions in near real-time and build personalized presentations. Proposal teams need on-demand knowledge to answer questionnaires and create engaging proposals. Support teams need access to knowledge from wherever they’re working without toggling between applications to improve the customer experience.

This can only happen with open access to the knowledge management system. That’s why RFPIO provides unlimited user licenses, so everyone who can benefit from knowledge can also access knowledge. Technical, product development, sales, marketing, legal, security…all of this content has value and will strengthen your knowledge management. The right system will help you restrict access to sensitive content that may include private, confidential, or proprietary information.

Managing organizational knowledge with RFPIO® LookUp

Remote work and distributed workforces are the new norms, so why should employees have to go to the office to access the knowledge database? 

RFPIO’s internal knowledge base software enables better organizational knowledge management. RFPIO® LookUp provides team-wide access to RFPIO’s Content Library from anywhere and from preferred productivity tools, such as:

  • Google Chrome
  • Chromium Edge
  • Google Hangouts
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Slack

Whether from a salesperson in the field or a response manager who works from home, enhanced accessibility helps facilitate content reuse, enable real-time access to corporate expertise, improve response time, and scale the ability to respond to RFPs from wherever they have access to a computer. 

See RFPIO® LookUp in action

I often say that RFPIO’s robust, scalable Content Library is like Clark Kent—bookish, a little nerdy, but incredibly smart and has the strength of a superhero. RFPIO® LookUp removes the metaphorical glasses and lets the Content Library fly to any destination at the speed of, well, the internet.

If you’re interested in learning how RFPIO’s Content Library, teamed with RFPIO® LookUp to let your company knowledge fly, read more about it. You can also schedule a free demo.

 

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