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Collaborate now to prepare for that looming software RFP

Collaborate now to prepare for that looming software RFP

Life as a subject matter expert (SME) at a SaaS company is undoubtedly fast-paced and demanding. Contributing to software RFPs […]


Category: Tag: Collaboration

Collaborate now to prepare for that looming software RFP

Collaborate now to prepare for that looming software RFP

Life as a subject matter expert (SME) at a SaaS company is undoubtedly fast-paced and demanding. Contributing to software RFPs requires even more of your time and attention. Your time is valuable, but so is your participation in the software RFP process.

TJ Hoffman, COO of Sibme, offers some words of wisdom to help you understand why…

“My advice for any SME who thinks they don’t have time to prioritize the work it takes to help with an RFP is this: You don’t have time not to! Everyone in SaaS is busy, but market growth has to be at the front of everyone’s mind. Helping to capture new business through an RFP has to be at the top of your priority list.”

For your team to win business and achieve success, providing accurate, complete, and timely answers all fall under your domain. Let’s help you foster a collaborative environment now so you’re fully prepared when the next software RFP lands on your desk.

Why is collaboration vital with software RFP responses?

With software RFP responses, good collaboration is key. And, good collaboration requires good communication. Why?

  1. No one person can be an expert in all of the elements that are required to completely answer an RFP. An RFP responder acts as the wheelhouse, and all of the applicable SMEs are the spokes of the wheel. Every spoke must be solid and in place to keep the wheel rolling.
  2. SaaS companies often have remote teams scattered across the country or the world. Managing the entire RFP response process involves complex interdepartmental collaboration and can entail multiple and lengthy meetings to get RFP questions answered.
  3. Everyone already has a full-time role outside of helping with an RFP response. Working after hours to complete an RFP frequently becomes routine for you and your team. In such a scenario, collaboration must be efficient to keep everyone productive and to drive home that winning software RFP.

Good collaboration through better processes

65% of subject matter experts said their primary goal with RFP response was to increase efficiency through better processes. Creating efficient processes is also one of the key opportunities to save valuable time and help SMEs contribute more effectively to RFP responses.

Working smarter when responding to RFPs can mean the difference between winning the business or losing out to a competitor. Yet, a major impediment to efficiency is tracking down SMEs for answers.

You’re buried under a pile of projects while you’re on a well-deserved tropical vacation…these things happen. With such high stakes, how can you improve efficiency and answer software RFP questions proactively? Use intuitive RFP software to manage your content.

RFP software like RFPIO streamlines collaboration for every player in the RFP response game. The answer library organizes and stores content for anyone on your team to access and use.

This gives you the opportunity to be proactive and maintain content so it is available to your team when you’re out of the office for your sister’s wedding. In turn, your proposal manager has direct access to the necessary content without having to text you in a panic. Everyone wins.

Own and maintain your content with RFP software

In a study conducted by Strategic Proposals of over 500 organizations, proposal teams who had the best and well-managed content library won the most business. To build that best-in-class library of pre-written content requires two things:

  • Subject matter experts who fully own and maintain their content.
  • A collaborative tool like RFP software to help SMEs own and maintain content efficiently.

You stand at the frontline of the RFP response process. SMEs possess the details necessary to form a complete, cohesive RFP response. Integrating RFP software like RFPIO reduces time spent tracking down answers so you can focus on winning the business.

RFPIO is a collaborative tool that allows you to take ownership of company knowledge and oversee a significant piece of the puzzle within the software RFP process. When the time comes to pull together an RFP response, all the disparate parts from each contributor combine into a cohesive final product.

RFP software is a holistic solution that helps you navigate logistical chaos in an efficient, collaborative environment. Using RFPIO to store and manage content gives you a medium to provide your expertise proactively, empowering you, your team, and your organization.

Ready to feel empowered? Foster a collaborative environment with RFPIO.

RFP automation and enterprise collaboration software

RFP automation and enterprise collaboration software

Business success doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and that’s true in today’s world of tech more than ever. Innovative programmers need marketers to get the word out, self-confident sales reps need solutions consultants to answer those impossible prospect concerns, CEOs need CMOs, proposal managers need proposal writers…it takes a village. And that village needs the right tools to stay competitive. Enter, enterprise collaboration software.

We’ve talked about the importance of enterprise collaboration tactics in process. But a key way to make sure your business is running as smoothly as possible is to find and implement enterprise collaboration software (ECS) that aligns not only with your current needs and processes but also your key goals for the future. There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help, especially when that help can increase productivity, improve morale, and reduce costs.

Our friends at Smartsheet take a deep dive into enterprise collaboration and choosing the best ECS for your needs, so we’ve compiled some of their hot topics and discussed how great ECS like RFPIO can take your enterprise collaboration to the next level.

Enterprise Collaboration Software Then and Now

Did that really require a reply-all email?

One key thing to understand about today’s enterprises is we’re already collaborating all day long—just ask my calendar full of meetings before the work week has even begun. What ECS helps ensure is that our collaboration is smarter and more tailored to getting real work done as opposed to simply abundant. Unless it’s the only line in our job description, nobody feels good about spending the entire day trying to wrangle The Inbox.

Enterprise collaboration software removes much of the unnecessary “noise” that results from typical modern collaboration, such as reply-all emails with 10 attachments requiring some kind of attention from someone in the giant email chain. This streamlines project management and keeps your inbox free to hold information that actually belongs in emails.

This is not to say email isn’t still crucial to successful enterprise collaboration: in fact, the best ECS (like RFPIO) will leverage your current processes to get work done faster and smarter. For example, an email notification letting you know your expertise has been requested in an open RFP response is a fantastic way to take advantage of email without relying on it to go back and forth about the RFP question at hand, tweaking language, pulling in others who then have to read the entire email chain, etc.

We at RFPIO believe hugely in leveraging the right collaboration methods for each unique goal. Integrations with collaboration tools—along with comments and @-mentioning—make RFP response collaboration easier for SMEs without going back and forth via email with small updates to the original information.

“Software should actually help you work better, rather than simply boast cool functions and awesome design. This means that the focus should be on more intuitive interfaces and integrations with the apps that team members already use. It also means that the needs of your teams should drive your software choices.” – Smartsheet

I’ve been around the world (and worked the whole time!)

Staying in close proximity to our work even if we’re not in front of a desktop has become increasingly important over the last few years. We get work done in taxis, on buses, in line at the grocery store. No one screen size owns more than 26% of the market share, and 90% of people move between devices to accomplish a given goal.

At the end of the day, enabling productivity means bringing work to you versus going out of your way to get work done: solution mobility and the ability to fluidly move between devices is king.

The next generation of flexible, web browser-based enterprise collaboration tools is here, and RFPIO is no exception. If your RFP response contributors are traveling all the time and only like to work on planes with their tablets, your chosen ECS should anticipate that and offer feature parity across every device, not just laptops.

Further to that end, integration with third-party applications is perhaps just as important as the ECS’s functional features. Since the goal is ultimately to reduce user effort and bring the work to you, you should be able to utilize every tool at your disposal the way it’s meant to be used.

For example, RFPIO lets you consolidate the tools most important for your organization, with bi-directional integrations with CRMs like Salesforce, as well as with cloud storage like Dropbox and communication platforms like Slack. Implementing new ECS doesn’t mean overhauling your existing processes. Slack and Zoom certainly have their place in enterprise collaboration just as RFP response automation does.

Compliance, Compliance, Compliance

We could talk about the sexiness of different ECS features all day long, but any new software your business implements still has to comply with the applicable laws and regulations of your industry, not to mention the particular protocols of your unique company. So let’s talk audit trails and why they’re no joke, especially when it comes to creating RFP responses.

Everyone loves a good surprise party, but projects with looming deadlines is not where we want someone to jump out of the cake and squeal with delight, “I DELETED WHAT YOU HAD THERE AND REPLACED IT WITH SOMETHING I LIKED BETTER!” Having full visibility into the response’s assignments and activity history can be the difference between putting out last-minute fires and submitting the proposal days ahead of schedule.

“Working together” means much more than simply showing up every morning and getting along with your colleagues.

Fools rush in…to enterprise collaboration software

Of course, not all ECS is created equal, nor are all companies’ needs. Finding the right software for your unique needs will also be crucial to securing employee buy-in. What’s the point of implementing new software if nobody wants to use it?

Involving key departments and players in the selection process can help you make sure everyone is working toward the same mission versus competing against each other for resources, power, attention, etc. “Working together” means more than simply showing up every morning and getting along with your colleagues. True enterprise collaboration signifies that your workforce is dedicated to moving the entire company forward, not just if they have time or if the project suits them.

Let’s take RFP automation software like RFPIO. How scalable does it need to be? Has your RFP department been begging for more proposal writers? If you plan to triple your size in the next year, will it be able to grow with you without tripling the price? Will only the RFP department ever adopt it, or do you think others across your entire business can be moved to use it as necessary?

Asking these kinds of questions ahead of time will help get everyone on the same page when it comes to planning your organization’s vision for the future. The right ECS for your needs will not only encourage your employees to do their jobs, but also help them see how much more is possible in a day, in a week, in a year when they can collaborate in the most streamlined, real-time ways available today.

Ready to collaborate on RFPs? Schedule a Demo with our team.

4 RFP response collaboration tactics for the savvy SME

4 RFP response collaboration tactics for the savvy SME

Enterprise collaboration continues to be a popular topic for businesses in constant pursuit of increased efficiencies. An RFP response process is only as good as the people behind it—of all the contributors, the subject matter expert (SME) plays one of the most important roles. Increasing efficiency is a dream every proposal management team would love to see come true.

It all comes down to focusing on the collaboration factor. In our recent Facebook survey, we were curious whether our audience of RFP responders thought collaboration or processes affected team productivity the most. Effective collaboration was the clear winner.

collaboration during rfp process

We know effective collaboration is ultimately the key to a successful RFP response process. But, how do we achieve that? As an SME, you’ve likely explored a fair amount of solutions to find the answer—and you’re on the right track.

RFPIO’s CEO, Ganesh Shankar, stopped by the Smartsheet blog to discuss enterprise collaboration software and shared these tips for selecting the right solution:“When choosing enterprise collaboration software, there are a few basic requirements that I look for—I think all of these use cases must be met in order for the app to be a useful EC tool…

  • Does the functionality allow for collaboration outside of standalone documents and email threads?
  • Does the licensing structure allow for a growing number of users?
  • How easy will it be to gain user adoption among disparate teams?”

RFP software arrived on the technology scene to offer a single solution for teams navigating the complexities of responding to RFPs. It’s the whole enchilada: enterprise collaboration software, project management software, AND content management software.

We are champions of better RFP response collaboration at RFPIO, because we believe this is the heart and soul of the best RFP response processes. Here are 4 RFPIO features that dramatically improve collaboration, so SMEs can happily contribute their expertise and move on with their day.

“EC software can only be successful if there are primary adopters who are evangelists of these technologies across the organization. Then, it should also scale to other users without any barriers. It is not an enterprise collaborative platform if the users do not adopt it.” – Ganesh Shankar, RFPIO on Smartsheet

RFP collaboration tactic #1: Reviewer workflow

A winning RFP response is one that has been crafted with care. This is why your expertise is called in at the front and back of the content creation process. The review workflow is a mess when teams are working with a manual process, since multiple people are involved in a single response.

“Distribution of collaborative work is often extremely lopsided. In most cases, 20% to 35% of value-added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of employees,” according to Harvard Business Review.

Besides you, the SME, other players might be: a proposal writer, proposal manager, marketing manager, and the executive who gives final approval. Needless to say, it’s confusing to understand your place and timing when so many people are involved in the RFP response review workflow.

Within RFPIO, it’s easy to assign multiple reviewers. Even better…assigning sequential reviewers. This brings order to the chaos, since every contributor knows where they fit into the timeline of the review process with email alerts. The beauty here is that you can concentrate on other priorities and swoop in to finish the job.

SMEs face common challenges with RFP Response. Read our guide to overcome them.

RFP collaboration tactic #2: Team communication

Being that every RFP project is a team effort, communication must be consistent and easy. Your days are already filled with time-sensitive priorities and back-to-back meetings. Contributing to an RFP adds to this—you have to make time in your schedule to help your team. The quicker the communication, the better.

Relaying RFP project details by email is a dangerous game for organizations. Your inbox is full enough as it is, and communication will be lost or set aside for other priorities that win your attention. Status meetings are also a difficult option, since you have few hours to spare for quality facetime.

RFPIO brings a wealth of communication options to promote easier collaboration. Both at the section level and at the project level, team members can leave comments and @-mention the necessary contributors as needed. Slack integration offers yet another way for teams to work together. You enjoy direct communication on projects with less email and fewer meetings…cheers to that!

“RFPIO allows us to collaborate in real time, reduces our turn around time on these requests, and allows certain team members to take on more than they typically would with the response. Because we are responding faster with more consistent answers we are also winning deals at a higher rate than ever when an RFP is necessary.” – Ben Grimm Zapproved

RFP collaboration tactic #3: Project clarification

A lot is riding on these RFP responses—winning the RFP equates to winning business, after all. Every RFP is unique. Be crystal clear on the requirements instead of guessing or repurposing historical responses that are just “good enough.”

If a misstep happens, one of your competitors will pass you up and take the win. Since your time is so valuable as an SME, you want your RFP response contributions to count. So, you need the ability to clarify details and language both internally and externally.

For swift clarifications, RFPIO allows you to invite the issuer to collaborate within the solution. Quickly solve any uncertainties and track all of their comments to reference. Global chat is our newest internal communication feature. Much like Google Hangout chat, you work one-on-one with team members to raise questions and talk through details. Now you won’t get hung up on foggy areas of an RFP project, so you can respond like the wind.

RFP collaboration tactic #4: Content review

Content management keeps your knowledge repository up-to-date and ready for action. Every business evolves over time—some quicker than others. Your world of ever-changing responses might involve technical specs, medical compliance, or government requirements.

One thing even the busiest SME must make time for…content audits. Your expertise is a critical step in the content management process to ensure the most accurate version is on-hand. Finding the time to clean up RFP responses probably sounds like a pipe dream, which is why you need the occasional friendly reminder to help you stay on top of things.

Stale content, outdated content, duplicate content don’t stand a chance with RFPIO’s content audit support. Set up reminders to audit content. Quarterly is a great cadence—unless your responses change constantly, in which case monthly is better. Content will be flagged when it’s time for review. You work your updating magic, without keeping tabs on every last response in your answer library.

benefits of rfp software

Businesses are becoming increasingly dependent on teamwork to reach success. Successful proposal management teams are highly focused on collaboration—they are increasing connectivity and breaking down silos. And, they’re using RFP software’s collaboration features to do it all.

Your expertise is in high-demand as an SME already. To juggle RFP response contributions along with other high priorities, you need technology support. Otherwise, you will always feel buried under RFP deadlines instead of staying ahead of them.

RFP software is here to help you deliver the value-add efficiently. All you have to do is be the A-player that empowers your team’s success to win new opportunities.

RFP content library methods that make life better for all

RFP content library methods that make life better for all

By now we’ve all heard that old adage—content is king. In the context of RFPs, RFIs, and security questionnaires, the higher quality your content…the more efficient your responses will be.

Your RFP content library is really the heart and soul of your response process. Without one, your team lacks quick access to company information that fuels the chaotic operations of RFP projects.

While having an answer library to store responses is tremendously important, so is how your organization tends to that content.

Let’s make life better for your response team by exploring a few methods for fine-tuning the hub of your entire RFP process…the answer library.

Why clean up your RFP content library?

Think of your RFP content library as your bedroom closet. Seasons change, so you have to swap out shorts for sweaters—clothes go out of style or they wear out.

Thousands of Q&A pairs that aren’t culled periodically will affect your team in the long run. Instead of a hole in your favorite t-shirt, it’s a hole in your workflow. And folks, that’s a lot harder to fix.

It never fails that panic and excitement come with every RFP, where all questions need to be answered as efficiently and effectively as possible. The added pressure, of course, lies in the outcome you are aiming to achieve of winning new business.

When you’re under the gun, you want to have peace of mind and feel confident in the historical data resting in your content library. So, just like you clean out your closet at home…it’s time to take inventory of your RFP responses.

Treat RFP content with the same respect

Responding to RFPs involves a ton of content management. This is something many responders don’t realize, because they don’t relate the two.

Content is the culprit, but a necessary one across different stages and departments of every modern organization. Oddly enough, there are many shared challenges proposal teams face that marketers already know.

content management process

Source: ClearVoice

When 1,000 marketers were asked to reveal content challenges related to process, well over half said “time” was an issue. Yet, the remaining marketers were divided among management, planning, and communication with content.

Sound familiar? It does to us too. Because lack of time is the result of an inefficient process. Managing an RFP content library well can dramatically save your team hours when an RFP is due.

Ownership is worth noting here. Just as you would have someone owning all the content for marketing, the same rule applies to your RFP content. Make sure you identify the content manager for RFPs—whether that’s a proposal manager or someone in marketing.

Small organizations often have one person who drives the RFP response process and takes full ownership of the content. Larger teams typically require multiple people to handle content management variables.

Content audits for a slick RFP response process

Great. Now you know a bit about why you need to clean up your RFP content and who will run the show.

A key thing to remember is that quality RFP responses win deals. Even the most captivating content will collect dust in your library if it’s buried under a mess of stale, outdated information.

To avoid this all-too-common bottleneck in the RFP process, content audits are necessary for proposal management teams. At a minimum, audit your content annually. Better yet would be to perform an audit twice a year. Best of all, we recommend quarterly audits.

“84% of organizations still use a manual process to manage RFP responses.”

Really, it depends on bandwidth and how much content you have on-hand in your answer library. The point is…make sure you take the time to audit. We find the quarterly cadence works best for a lot of teams, because it’s not overkill for a busy team-of-one or a team of many.

Consistent content audits will keep quality front and center, so deciding on cadence is truly one of the most important steps in this process. From there, you can decide on the criteria for sorting through your RFP responses. (Helpful questions can be found right here to help guide you through an RFP content audit.)

Neat ways RFP software helps you manage content

While it’s possible to organize RFP content with a well orchestrated system of spreadsheets, technology wins by a longshot when it comes to boosting productivity. RFP software allows you to centralize content for a stronger process from start to finish.

It’s up to individual teams to maximize their success by leveraging features that work best with their process. Here are a few methods that make managing content easier in RFPIO:

Tagging responses accordingly

Tags make finding responses a breeze, and they might be named: Company, Benefits, Security, etc. If you’re the content owner, check that these tags make sense to everyone on your team so they can quickly find the right content.

Assigning cntent to owners

This feature clarifies ownership to ensure content stays in top condition, such as performing regular content audits. Avoid assigning 200 questions to one person to monitor by divvying up responsibility to relevant owners across the organization.

Viewing answer library report

This report shows you the health of your RFP content library. Seeing top owners is helpful in understanding your team’s workload—and when you need to call in support. A timeline allows you to review cadence from last year and know what’s coming up in your pipeline. That way when you’re scheduling those important content audits, you know what’s on your plate.

Your RFP content library deserves a little love from time to time. These are just a few ways to improve your RFP content library to have a successful year. As always, do what’s best at your organization.

3 RFP software features that make your work life way easier

3 RFP software features that make your work life way easier

A proposal has many faces—whether it looks like an RFP or a security questionnaire. When it’s time for a business to respond to a proposal, there isn’t a lot of time to get acquainted with a proposal. It’s go-time the second it greets you in your inbox.

One look at the stats Capterra rounded up in this article reveals how truly necessary project management is, with: “97% of organizations believe project management is critical to business performance and organizational success.”

The days of manual, repetitive tasks are behind us in many ways but still tend to be a common occurrence for companies of all sizes responding to RFPs. This is where RFP software comes in to alleviate project management stress for teams to make them more productive.

“Competently responding to RFPs is just the lowest bar to clear when looking to grow your business. Anyone can read the requirements and submit a bid. To really grow your business, you need to focus on how the solution you provide solves the problems laid out in the request. By automating and streamlining your responses with RFP software, you can spend more time crafting a solution and less time fiddling around with layouts and basic information.” – Andrew Marder, Capterra

Just like any other technology, there are a lot of options to choose from—especially with SaaS solutions. According to The Access Group, “Reliability, ease of use, and ease of integration are the top three requirements project managers look for when shopping for software.”

So, how do you know which is the right RFP software for your team? How do you know which features will provide lasting benefits?

Here are our picks for the top three RFP software features that will help make your work life easier.

Import and export

Ask any proposal manager and they will tell you…this is the part of the RFP process they spend the majority of their time on. Our client, Josh Itzoe from Greenspring, realized that a typical RFP required anywhere from 20 to 40 hours of manual work, so he made it his personal mission to make their process more scalable and effective.

By using RFP software, he was able to cut completion time down to 5 hours. The ability to import and export with ease made a big difference for Josh.

Import

One question can have multiple responses. If you work with security questionnaires, you’re very familiar with the Excel document that has rows and columns that seem to go on forever.

Although there are technologies that allows you to import questions and requirements, very few can support multiple answers for the same question. For example, do you support XYZ feature? Column 1 – Yes/No. Column 2 – Additional Comments.

import rfp

It’s important to have a dependable import to save you time from the beginning of the RFP project. Equally important is to be able to import from any source—be it Word, Excel, or even PDF (which is a recent feature we implemented at RFPIO.)

Export

When you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you want the export process to go smoothly. However this is another task that can delay teams that think they are finished with an RFP then realize the formatting is all wrong.

With RFP software, there are two ways to export an RFP:

  1. Export to the source: This exporting option is critical when you have a specific format to follow and you don’t want to modify the source document. Typically we see this in spreadsheet-based RFPs.
  2. Export in a template: You want to be able to customize templates at will, with the flexibility to have one template for an unsolicited proposal and another for an SOW. You should even have the ability to send the final proposal in your own corporate template. (Yes, RFPIO supports unlimited templates!)

The key with exporting is consistency.

SMEs spanning departments will come together to respond to an RFP—and often everyone has different fonts they prefer. If you have a great template, it doesn’t matter if you used Arial 10, Susan used Calibri 12, and Jim used Comic Sans 18 because he has a weird sense of humor.

Your deliverable will have a consistent look and feel because the system will align font, colors, bullet points, etc. Then, marketing doesn’t need to spend as much time manually polishing the deliverable—and your team is much happier and productive as a result.

Curious about how much RFP software can save you?

ROI calculator

Use our ROI calculator to find out!

Integrations

RFP software on its own will increase your organizational effectiveness by eliminating the manual labor of spreadsheets and documents. A solution that integrates with other applications you’re already using will further boost your team’s productivity.

CRM

Salespeople typically accept one tool, the CRM—and they will rebel against learning new technology that might steal them away from selling time. Having a true Salesforce integration means your sales team can remain in the tool they already use daily, without being distracted by a technology learning curve.

Long term, a CRM integration will require much less effort with team collaboration while keeping sales focused on revenue generating priorities.

rfpio salesforce appexchange

View RFPIO on Salesforce AppExchange

Collaboration

Less email is a good thing, not only for our inboxes but also for better RFP collaboration. Integration with popular communication tools, like Slack, can greatly reduce friction between a proposal manager and an SME when an RFP deadline is looming and input is needed.

With email, it’s inevitable that something will slip through the cracks. Slack is a nice complement to RFP software, because team members can communicate more effectively.

Cloud Storage

Support documents need to be centralized and accessible, and companies want a centralized drive that meets their storage needs. RFP software integrating with cloud storage solutions kills two birds with one stone, allowing teams to manage all responses in the cloud with quick access to the latest and greatest content.

Answer Library

A strong answer library helps speed up the RFP process tenfold, but the majority of companies are still storing their responses in a disorganized fashion: some are in emails, others are in spreadsheets, the rest are in forgotten folders. This is where RFP software truly helps organize existing content—and even autosuggest answers—to save teams time.

answer library review

When you’re on the hunt for a good RFP management solution, make sure your answer library can do these three things:

  1. Be able to assign owners periodically and have an established review workflow, so your content never goes stale.
  2. Be able to identify duplicate content and have the flexibility to override what stays and what goes during a content audit.
  3. Be able to change responses into different languages to seamlessly communicate internationally, when applicable.

rfp software multiple languages

With your answer library, the right setup and consistent maintenance will set the tone for success at your organization. A disorganized or nonexistent answer library will only slow your team down.

“After the initial setup of our RFPIO answer library and the templates, we started saving a ton of time just having those responses available. It’s important to set the RFP response schedule and create a culture where that schedule is sacred.” – Hayli Hay, Metal Toad

Listen to the podcast to find out how RFP software helped Metal Toad!

With the time and resource constraints companies are often working with, it is absolutely necessary to have a sound RFP process in place before the proposal shows its face. This not only helps teams collaborate easier to meet a quick deadline, it allows teams to focus on delivering a high-quality response with a greater win potential.

When you’re on the hunt for RFP software, these three features are a non-negotiable for the ultimate success of your organization. Take your time and find the right fit.

Why RFP collaboration is just better without email

Why RFP collaboration is just better without email

Email has been the most common form of communication for businesses since the emergence of the internet in the 1980s. We’ve sung email’s praises for decades, saying it facilitates easier communication and helps us get more work done. But email only goes so far when it comes to managing the RFP process. Especially since it’s not 1987 anymore.

The world has about 2.6 billion email users. That number is expected to grow to 2.9 billion by 2019. You might be thinking: “So email should be the ideal medium to exchange ideas on RFPs, right?”

Well, not really.

Growth has its share of pitfalls, and there is plenty of spam to deal with in the email world today. The sheer volume we face in our inbox is enough without adding the communication it takes to complete an RFP response within a tight deadline.

So, why do we think email is the only way to collaborate? Here are a few ways using RFP software can change your outlook and enhance team collaboration.

Tracking RFP progress and improving productivity

RFPs often come in as a last-minute surprise, with strict deadlines for submission. Anyone working on RFP responses knows that the request just gets more complex, and there is no looking back once the initial email arrives asking for input.

Only using email communication as a way to assign tasks, measure working hours, and track the daily status of the RFP process is far from efficient. Tracking and reporting productivity becomes increasingly difficult, as your inbox is already cluttered with other priorities.

Since RFPs are typically low on the priority list already. Having other distractions around can easily steal an SME’s attention, leaving the unanswered RFPs collecting dust in a file or tossed away in the trash “for later.”

Here is where an RFP response solution truly scores over email. It enables large teams to track RFP progress, aiming at reduced redundancy and improved productivity. This is crucial because team members might be working on the same RFP, so a tool can alleviate the weight on your organization’s resources.

Managing your internal RFP responses

Email threads involved in RFP responses are often so long that it’s tough to track the single response which triggered the email chain in the first place. This often leaves us searching for emails with the latest version of a file, managing revisions of outdated documents, or having multiple versions of a document in circulation.

Usually there are dozens of emails with similar subject lines. Filtering out the irrelevant and locating the relevant responses is a job all on its own. Even with a dedicated proposal manager or lead, it’s hard to read through complicated email threads and note individual responses from SMEs when you’re trying to get the RFP response out the door.

Our client Brian Zielinski from Wolters Kluwer ELM Solutions had this to say:

“On average, a company responding to 2-4 RFPs per month can expect to save, at minimum, 80-100 man hours in time spent researching and answering technical questions. With employee hourly rates ranging anywhere from $25 to $50 per hour (or higher), the cost savings on man-hours far outweighs the cost of RFP software.”

Using an RFP platform that organizes individual responses and pinpoints accountability of team members can go a long way. Email simply can’t compete.

Clear communication and less email

Email doesn’t allow for the exchange of ideas, which is why there are so many popular communication platforms that exist today to eliminate the confusion of email collaboration. With the RFP process, there are often multiple team members working together and things can easily slip through the cracks.

Imagine this…you have a slew of email attachments from different team members that talk about different aspects of the RFP. Wouldn’t it be great if you had a single dashboard that clarified the purpose and impact of every response? RFP software does that.

Necessary integrations with apps like Salesforce and Slack make communication much easier for teams across various stages of the RFP process. While email still has its place, it’s a catch-all. The clearest communication will happen in a solution that is built for the goal your team is trying to accomplish.

Easy collaboration promotes high-quality responses

When working on an RFP through email, there is no way of telling who sent the initial document and who owns the most current document. The document might be revised multiple times by various team members, so efforts are being duplicated.

Scouring through multiple email threads to find relevant information that would add value to the RFP also makes collaboration more challenging. A strong answer library of responses gathers expertise from your team in one place to eliminate repetitive tasks.

A high-quality RFP response is what we need to increase our chances of winning. Easy and consistent collaboration can truly set successful teams apart from the competition. Optimizing your answer library and fine-tuning your review process for RFPs can make a big difference—yet another reason why RFP software wins email.

Email as a tool for simple communication serves its purpose with everyday business. For RFP collaboration, having a dedicated internal tool will ultimately help your team be more effective and efficient with RFP response.

Still using email to collaborate on your RFPs? We hope you’ll consider changing your ways to enhance your team’s productivity.

5 cloud security questions to ask when you’re SaaS shopping

5 cloud security questions to ask when you’re SaaS shopping

If you take a good look at your SaaS vendor selection process today, is cloud security on your checklist? Or, does your checklist consist of all the shiny features you’d like to have?

The SaaS model makes it easy to sign up and get going—with free trials and integrations with your favorite applications. While it is important to evaluate if the solution solves your business problem, it is just as important to look beyond the core features.

cloud usage

Source: RightScale

SaaS vendors range from a couple of guys operating out of a garage to full blown enterprises. During the startup phase, the focus is on getting a workable product out to the market with the intent to “shore up” the product when they have a few customers that have kicked the tires.

Unfortunately security ends up taking a backseat. Failure to evaluate security features with these vendors can mean major trouble for businesses, both short term and long term.

As just one example, we’ll use cloud-based RFP software solutions.

Say your SaaS provider has an outage when you have a request for proposal deadline looming. You have no way of retrieving that data, and you don’t have it backed up, because you entrusted your SaaS vendor with everything.

By the time your vendor is up and running again, it’s too late. You missed out on submitting your RFP responses and lost millions of dollars in potential revenue.

cloud adoptionSource: RightScale

Focusing on a tool’s exciting features during SaaS vendor selection is alarmingly common. Enterprise companies will typically bring in their IT department when choosing a SaaS solution, but frequently companies operating with smaller teams miss this important step.

It’s never too late to optimize your vendor selection approach, whether you’re just establishing security measures, or strengthening existing processes.

Here are a few cloud security questions worth asking when you’re evaluating SaaS vendors.

saas challenges

Source: RightScale

#1  What is your disaster recovery plan?

Most SaaS vendors have a disaster recovery plan, but not all plans are created equal. Some mistakenly believe taking regular backups constitutes disaster recovery.

Make sure your SaaS vendor has a solid plan that covers a recovery timeline, routine testing, and geographic isolation. In other words, if there is a tsunami, is that going to wipe out all of your centers?

#2  What if you go out of business?

Often we think of catastrophic events in the form of natural disasters, but a vendor going out of business can do just as much damage. When comparison shopping, look into business viability and don’t be afraid to ask some tough questions.

If I invest all of my work, data, history into your solution, is that safe? What is your fallback plan? Having access to that data is non-negotiable no matter what happens outside your control.

it cloud softwareSource: RightScale

#3  Do you take my security seriously?

Okay, you don’t have to frame the question that way—instead you can ask if they have a proper security plan. Be careful when a vendor sidesteps security to focus on the shiny features. You don’t ever want security to be an afterthought.

If you find it difficult to know which security features are most important, bring in your IT department for guidance.

The security rundown might include:

  • Encrypting data
  • Secure data transmission and storage
  • Access restrictions
  • Secure practices
  • Staff training
  • Regular monitoring and scanning

enterprise cloud
Source: RightScale

#4  Who is responsible?

Accountability is a big one, because you want to know who you are dealing with when a support request spirals into a data mess. Many vendors depend on others, and the finger-pointing can escalate quickly. This is the last thing any business wants to experience when there’s a problem, so be upfront to avoid a surprise down the road.

A storage solution managed entirely by the SaaS vendor is preferable, as mom and pop cloud storage companies can be unreliable. The accountability factor can speed up your selection process in a jiffy if a vendor fumbles over roles and responsibilities.

#5  How scalable is your product?

It is one thing to watch a flawless demo, or run through a proof of concept without a glitch. But can the application withstand what the real world throws at it? Unfortunately, it is tough to know the answer to this until the real world happens.

For example, if one of the other clients of the service provider executes a huge project, is that going to negatively impact security? It is smart—and absolutely appropriate—to inquire about how well the vendor can scale their product to meet demands, and how quickly those demand will be met.

saas securitySource: RightScale

Finding the right SaaS vendor should never be taken lightly, so always think of it as a collaborative decision.

While these questions will cover your cloud security bases, if you can, get your IT person involved in the process too. If you are unable to engage your IT department in vendor selection, you can still take these steps to ensure the vendor has a solid security footing.

What cloud security questions do you ask when you’re selecting a SaaS vendor?

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