Microsoft is a company dedicated to empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. True to its mission, Microsoft is committed to helping customers modernize processes and achieve digital transformations at scale. This commitment applies internally, as well: Microsoft encourages all employees to use a growth mindset across all efforts and requires everyone to ask questions and continually improve their processes, tools, and workflows.
In 2019, proposal professionals at Microsoft saw an opportunity to improve the efficiency of proposal response management with AI-based tools and enhanced collaboration across teams. By augmenting Microsoft’s proposal response process with the right solution, it was clear they could save their sales teams valuable time that could be otherwise spent with customers — and propel their proposals to a new level of excellence.
Microsoft needed a scalable and flexible response management platform that supported multiple teams, languages, and content types, while smoothly integrating into its tech stack. And it needed the right solution partner to help. Through a partnership with RFPIO, Microsoft reimagined its proposal process — significantly improving efficiency and productivity with five key principles.
1. Unleash the power of knowledge
According to a McKinsey report, employees spend nearly 20% of their time looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks.
Democratizing knowledge is essential to working effectively and Microsoft believes in giving its teams the tools they need to thrive. For sales teams, that means spending less time searching for answers, and more time listening to customers, creating solutions, and managing pipelines. With RFPIO’s integration with Azure Active Directory (AAD), thousands of users across the company have securely activated their accounts using their existing Microsoft corporate credentials.
The response from the Field has been overwhelmingly positive. Eric Fink, Dynamics & Business Applications Specialist, said, “The first time I logged into RFPIO, it took me about 10 minutes to get comfortable with the platform. After that, I quickly found responses to all of my open questions — seeing 100% value from the very beginning.”
According to Brice Baro, Account Tech Strategist Global, “This site (RFPIO) is very intuitive, and this library really accelerates our work on RFxs.”
As exposure to RFPIO increases, so does user adoption and overall value. For example, after the legal team learned about RFPIO they realized that it could help them stem repeated requests for the same one-off questions.
“Our collaboration is helping us scale legal support to a different level, achieving better deal velocity and helping legal professionals focus on more complex deal negotiations.”
-Nadia Guarino, Sr. Paralegal
In the first 18 months after implementing RFPIO in 2019, more than 7,000 Microsoft users accessed the platform to find 36,200 ready-to-go RFx responses from the managed RFPIO Content Library. With a conservative estimate of 20 minutes saved per response, Microsoft estimated $2.4M in savings during those 18 months.
By 2022—after 3 years of utilizing RFPIO—Microsoft had accumulated more than 13,000 RFPIO users who search a Content Library of more than 18,000 Q&A pairs spread out across 9 collections. In fiscal year 2022 alone, Microsoft estimates that savings nearly doubled compared to savings during those first 18 months, from $2.4M up to $4.2M. They also saved more than 21,000 hours while using more than 63,000 answers.
FY2022 RFPIO Value
“Based on the estimated time team members saved looking for content using RFPIO, we saved $4.2M in FY22 in the self-serve libraries alone.”
-Rhonda Nicholson, Sr. Business Program Manager
2. Stay secure and connected
Strong privacy and security are critical to Microsoft’s mission and essential to customer trust. The standard practices captured in its Supplier Security and Privacy Assurance (SSPA) reflect company values and extend to suppliers who handle Microsoft data on their behalf.
RFPIO’s proposal automation solution meets the privacy and security policies and integrates nicely into Microsoft’s existing tech stack. Microsoft’s RFPIO platform is hosted securely on Azure with AAD authentication and integrates with Microsoft Translator to support its multi-lingual customer base. In addition to the standard browser experience, RFPIO fosters adoption by meeting employees right where they are, including:
- Microsoft Teams,
- Microsoft Office, and
- Microsoft Outlook
By giving everyone access through familiar platforms, RFPIO has improved collaboration and enables proposal managers, contributors, and Field users to search faster—and find the information they need to work effectively.
“RFPIO’s impact on our pursuits has been incredible: It’s simplified and streamlined finding relevant content and improving it; it’s centralized and minimized burdensome administrative tasks. In short, the time it saves pursuit teams enables those teams to focus more on what will win.”
-Mitchell Galloway-Edgar, Senior Business Program Manager
3. Simplify content curation
According to 2019 research from Richardson Sales Performance, the top two biggest challenges when pursuing new opportunities are demonstrating competitive differentiation and creating a case for change.
When sales and proposal teams have ready access to pre-approved content, they’re able to spend more time showing how their solution addresses their customers’ specific problems.
That’s where content governance steps in. At Microsoft, content governance goes beyond organizing and presenting online content. It’s a craft. Content managers shape compliant, compelling, and customer-focused information by proactively seeking out information from subject matter experts, harvesting answers from proposals, and storing content in a shared database for future users.
RFPIO simplifies this process. Advanced content organization, moderation, and review features mean content managers are able to keep content relevant, fresh, and working in harmony with RFPIO’s AI engine.
As a result, proposal professionals can use the AI engine to automatically respond to commonly-seen questions—SIG security questionnaires (documents many corporations use to understand risk from potential bidders) that used to take several days to complete, can now be completed in less than an hour.
“Without access to the reusable content in RFPIO, it would have been nearly impossible to meet the customer’s RFP deadline.”
-Joe Straining, Strategic Client Technology Lead
With trusted content at their fingertips, Microsoft’s proposal professionals have time to focus on crafting compelling win messaging tailored to each customer’s needs. With more time to spend polishing each proposal, the stronger their proposals are—and the more likely they are to win.
4. Enhance communication and collaboration
Teams stay collaborative and aligned when all members are working in sync and communicating constantly to accomplish a common goal.
When communication is dispersed across email, chat, and in-person meetings, keeping track of moving parts is complicated and time-consuming, and it’s easy for teams to fall out of alignment.
Microsoft focused its attention on keeping everyone connected and communicating by rethinking their proposal processes. With RFPIO, all communication happens within the application in a single place, using in-app commenting and @-mentioning. Proposal contributors and proposal managers use in-app collaboration features for their projects. SMEs, proposal managers and content owners all communicate within each question-answer pairing, which helps keep content fresh and improves deadline commitments.
Communication around project status has also been simplified to a few clicks. Rather than reaching out to proposal managers for a status update, anyone can check RFPIO project status right from the dashboard in Microsoft Teams. By tracking status in real time, project teams are able to prevent roadblocks before they happen.
“RFPIO’s enterprise-level capabilities enable multiple business units, including partners, to collaborate on a single platform. It also reduces communication channels during the proposal development process.”
-Page Snider, Director of Business Program Management, Microsoft Consulting Services
5. Stay flexible and keep evolving
According to the Adobe State of Create Report, 78% of respondents agreed organizations that invest in creativity increase employee productivity. When each problem or inefficiency becomes an opportunity to think creatively about finding a solution, the lines defining limitations become blurred.
When the team at Microsoft set off to reimagine the proposal process, they knew it would be a continual journey, a persistent state of questioning the status quo—constantly making tweaks, adjustments, and changes as they go along.
That’s why a solution that was flexible enough to grow alongside their process was a necessity.
“The content management capabilities allow our team of content managers to effectively manage more than 18k pieces of collateral. The moderation and review workflows allow our team to work directly with SMEs and control the flow of information to our more than 13k users around the globe.”
-Amanda Heather, Business Program Manager, Content Lead
The customer success team at RFPIO has worked closely with Microsoft to continuously evolve to meet its changing needs. Diane Holt, business program manager at Microsoft, added, “RFPIO is a rare gem in that the company delivers a mature product with the agility of a startup. This tool continually improves with capability and usability.”
RFPIO and Microsoft continue to work together to find new ways to improve efficiency and advance productivity. Rather than staying ensconced in familiar workflows, Microsoft is a company that welcomes the hard work and creative thinking required to push the status quo.
In the end, both Microsoft and RFPIO believe that when teams are willing and encouraged to think outside the box, processes become more efficient, nimble, and agile… and that’s when results start snowballing.