IT RFPs: How to avoid hidden costs with better collaboration

Even in the most mature proposal groups—where there is ongoing investment in people, skills, and process—collaboration remains one of the most challenging aspects of the RFP response workflow.

The rising focus on security-related questions in today’s RFPs requires the technical prowess of an organization’s best subject matter experts. Whenever you need to call on someone from IT to contribute their expertise to an RFP response, it’s like tapping that person on the shoulder while they are in the middle of their work.

“On average, the typical office worker is interrupted or switches tasks every three minutes and five seconds. It can take 23 minutes and 15 seconds just to get back to where they left off.” – University of California, Irvine

As a proposal manager, you have your priorities and deadlines—as do the SMEs (subject matter experts) involved in IT RFPs. Having a clear RFP response process to define roles and responsibilities is important. In addition, technology such as RFP software must promote collaboration to make that process easier.

You’re already investing time and resources into your RFP response process. Here are some ways to avoid hidden costs with IT RFPs, courtesy of better collaboration.

Any RFP process for IT requires strong collaboration

Collaboration is more about people rather than technology. Collaboration can certainly be supported by technology, but there are other human behaviors to consider. The reality is that every one of the SMEs you depend on have day jobs.

They have very specific responsibilities and accountabilities. In any situation where their knowledge and expertise is being called upon, you’re taking them away from their many other priorities and in essence are saying: “Stop what you’re doing. Please help me now!”

You, as the proposal manager, are heavily reliant on the expertise of a whole variety of SMEs to complete RFP responses. In some cases you need to lean on finance and legal, or sales and product specialists. Inevitably, you will lean on your IT colleagues.

Particularly in the high-tech space, more and more questions related to security are becoming commonplace in RFPs. Before committing to a vendor partnership, organizations must take measures to ensure products or services they purchase are secure—and also confirm that the scalability of the infrastructure suits their particular needs.

The real gatekeepers for security knowledge? Your IT department. And like any collaborative effort, this is one of the many challenges you face as a proposal manager. In our current survey about RFP response challenges, 38% revealed that collaborating with SMEs is their greatest obstacle. The question is…why?

Today there is no shortage of technology to support collaboration. Five or ten years ago, this was not the case for RFP responders. A manual process was the only way, and now there are more automated options available to them.

Now for some good news. RFP software like RFPIO can alleviate the pressure in the RFP response process for you and your IT team. Because it’s built to promote collaboration specifically for RFP responders.

A better starting point for IT RFPs depends on content

As you gather more responses to IT-related questions, that information is automatically captured, stored, and managed within the RFP content library. In its own right, that means you always have a better starting point for your next RFP response.

The likelihood is that questions on IT RFPs have already been asked countless times before. Having the ability to find and reuse quality, up-to-date technical content can relieve quite a burden on SMEs in the IT department. They won’t have to spend hours and hours answering repetitive questions. (Cheers to that!)

In situations where there is still a need to access IT’s knowledge to refine a response or answer an entirely new question, RFPIO ensures the workflow for that IT subject matter expert is streamlined. The solution really narrows it down to those questions, and maybe a few sections, they need to weigh in on.

Using communication features like Slack, Team Chat, or @-mentioning within the platform, IT team members can also collaborate easily with their peers to reach a consensus on any particular response. Should they need further clarification from you on the RFP project, they are able to quickly ask the proposal lead questions through the platform as well.

Content Library review

Good content management is something that can’t be stressed enough, as it can easily become another hidden cost inside your RFP response process. Often that responsibility can be decentralized, where a subject matter expert like an IT person is ultimately responsible for the upkeep of a subset of that Content Library.

You may experience pushback from IT team members who feel they don’t have time to manage RFP content. However, what is frequently overlooked is the hidden cost of not doing it. You will likely spend five times the effort responding to the same questions time and time again.

A solution like RFPIO can help make content audits easier on your SMEs. You schedule reminders for a cadence that makes the most sense (be it quarterly, monthly, etc.) and the IT team member gets alerted when they need to review and update their content.

The key here is to make the process very simple with IT RFPs…for you and your SMEs. And remember to keep in mind the importance of being respectful of their workload and other responsibilities along the way.

IT plays a pivotal role in the due diligence of solutions and services. They will always be the team members leading that charge with RFP responses.

If you exercise these collaboration strategies with your organization’s RFP responses, contributing will be more efficient for your SMEs. Rather than running from your next RFP project, your IT team will be more willing to participate in the process.

David Blume

David is the VP of Customer Success at RFPIO. He has over 30 years of international sales management experience predominantly in the enterprise software space, while working and living in the UK, US, and Australia. Since 2001, David has been focused on sales effectiveness, specializing in RFP response and sales proposal automation. Connect with David on LinkedIn.

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