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Knowledge management best practices: Out with the old, in with the new

Knowledge management best practices: Out with the old, in with the new

A few years ago, Netflix debuted a show called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. It was an overnight hit. Why? […]


Category: Tag: Content governance

Knowledge management best practices: Out with the old, in with the new

Knowledge management best practices: Out with the old, in with the new

A few years ago, Netflix debuted a show called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. It was an overnight hit. Why? It might not surprise you to hear that Americans, Europeans, and presumably much of the world, sit on a lot of clutter.

Clutter in the home can lead to stress and anxiety. Clutter in the workplace isn’t any better. But what happens when what you need is hidden away in a basement or crawlspace—or inside a subject matter expert’s head?

When your household clutter is hidden and you can’t find the vinyl record you’re looking for, it’s annoying. When employees can’t find necessary information, the ramifications extend far beyond their immediate departments.

While Marie Kondo is not (at least that I know of) a content management expert, a well-curated and maintained knowledge management system breaks through the clutter to ensure that the right information gets into the right hands at the right time.

What is knowledge management?

Knowledge management, as defined by Slack, has four objectives:

  • Capture knowledge
  • Improve access to knowledge
  • Enhance the knowledge environment
  • Treat knowledge as an asset

Are organizations achieving their objectives?

  • Employees spend an average of 19% of their time searching and gathering information
  • Data professionals spend about 20% of their time rebuilding existing information assets
  • 87% of employees want transparency in the workplace, yet only 18% feel their workplace is transparent
  • Only about ⅓ of organizations leverage AI as part of their knowledge management strategy

A centralized knowledge management system is vital to an organization’s operations. A single source of truth, as opposed to scattered knowledge, provides:

  • Organizational resilience and agility
  • Faster and better-informed strategizing and decision making
  • A greater ability to confront challenges and solve problems
  • Faster and improved innovation
  • Improved employee engagement, productivity, and morale
  • Better sharing of subject matter expertise
  • Enhanced collaboration
  • De-siloed business processes
  • Competitive benchmarks
  • Improved security
  • Increased revenue and profits
  • A better customer experience

Creating and maintaining a content library

A content library is not a dumping ground for documents and data. Each entry into the content library should align with business goals and processes and help maintain legal and security compliance. All content should be up-to-date and relevant—a.k.a., used or at least usable.

Doing the content management heavy lifting

In the first of our two-part series, we discussed respecting your subject matter experts (SMEs), which means doing as much heavy lifting as possible.

With the end of the quarter approaching, this is a great time to audit existing content. Here’s how:

Be organized and keep track of your own work

I keep track of my work using an Excel spreadsheet. I list all the categories of content I will review, who my subject matter experts are, and how much content I have.

I also indicate how often to review the content. For example, a publicly traded company’s content requires quarterly review. The content might be owned by a content manager, someone in investor relations, or corporate communications.

If a company is privately-held, it might have some high-level information it provides on a quarterly basis, although many privately-held companies provide that information annually. If you don’t know how often to review your content, rely on your SMEs. They know the content the best.

Once the SME has provided a review schedule, you can track it on a spreadsheet or on a content management platform to establish review cycles.

Once you’ve established your review cycles, there are a few metrics you want to consider to show SMEs and leadership that your content is in the best possible condition, including:

  • Usage
  • Recency
  • Completeness

You should do a few things to show SMEs that you are organized and ready for them. Build out a plan, including:

  • Showing that you’ve removed unused content
  • Showing that you’re focused on the most-used content
  • Showing that you are organized
  • Showing that you know how to distribute the content to be reviewed
  • Testing your proposal automation and content management platform in multiple environments (office, home office, client’s site, hotel and airline wifi, etc.) to ensure stability
  • If you are using a content management platform, leverage the review and reporting functionality
  • Strategic tagging, especially if an SME has a lot of content to review (consult with your customer success manager before going into that level of detail)
  • Engaging leadership at both the proposal and SME sides, so they know what you’re doing, what the SMEs are doing, how much work there is, and when it’s expected to be completed
  • Recognizing contributors once the reviews are completed

Review most-used content first

The first step to an efficient content management system is pretty simple. However, you will need a lot of help from your subject matter experts to ensure accuracy. The key to maintaining a collaborative relationship with SMEs is to honor their time. Rather than hand them a mile-high virtual stack of content, sort by that which is used the most.

As a proposal manager, you know that RFxs aren’t exactly creative documents. Most questions are near duplicates of those you’ve seen 100s of times before.

So, if your organization doesn’t have content management software and you use SharePoint or Excel to track your content, you can still review the most-used content by seeing the Q&A pairs used on your last 2 or 3 proposals, or perhaps the previous 3-6 months.

You could even take your very first 2023 proposal, review every piece of content that goes into it, and call that your 2023 gold standard.

Review zero-times-used content

The next step is to approach content management from the other end of the spectrum—look at never-used content. It might be tempting to automatically archive or delete (I’m not a fan of deleting) all your never-used content, but that could be a mistake.

As with your most-used content, look at the last 3-6 months. Ask yourself this:

  • Is some of the content relevant, but you haven’t had the time or an opportunity to use it?
  • Is some of the content deal- or client-specific?
  • Is some of the content product- or service-specific and something you might only need to use every 2-3 years?
  • Was the content updated in the last year?

If any of your never-used content meets the above criteria, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on it during the upcoming year to see if it proves its value.

Keep your review/moderation queue current

Once you’ve completed your initial review, keep your review/moderation queue current by setting aside time each week and each month to work through your new and existing content.

Make sure you get content out the door and into the content library in its most accurate state as it is reviewed and updated through projects and SMEs.

Break down your content to achieve success

Now that you know which content is relevant or which might be relevant in the future, it’s time to think strategically about content and how to organize it. It might seem daunting, but it’s very manageable if you approach it in bite-sized pieces.

High-level groups of content

High-level groups of content might carry different names depending on your content management system. If you use RFPIO, those groups fall under “collections.” Others may refer to them as “folders.”

Regardless of names, collections or folders are great ways to begin to attack the content and look at its health as you enter a new quarter or year. You can organize the folders by solution, geography, language, product, etc.

If you added the information to your folders in the last 6 months, keep it. If the content was not used during that time, you can archive it. If you aren’t comfortable creating a periodical archive, you can create a holding tank (or parking lot) for content you want to make available to a limited number of people.

The holding tank will contain content that’s still relatively current but not locked down. Then you’ll be able to access that content and pull it back into the content library if used. If you haven’t used content in your holding tank or parking lot in 3, 6, or 9 months, depending on your review cycle, you can archive it.

Using the holding tank is a great way to strategically add content back without muddying your current content library.

If you have a way to export the content from a SharePoint site or existing non-RFPIO platform to an Excel spreadsheet, you can begin to run some pivot tables. Look for:

  • Number of Q&A pairs in each collection or folder
  • Number of times used
  • Date it was last used

You can also run a pivot table on the zero times used content to see what was added and not used over the last 6 months vs. what should be archived because it’s more than 6 months old.

Report, report, report

Most leaders aren’t particularly interested in the minutiae of a content management review cycle. Still, they want to see results and a demonstration of continuing value, beyond just time savings, in your proposal automation system. That’s where reporting comes in.

Most proposal management systems contain built-in reporting features. Look for them if you are about to deploy a new proposal management solution.

The goal is to show that you have demonstrable time savings and that you are getting into the strategic benefit of the platform by showing that you can keep your content current, accurate, and fresh.

Reporting metrics should include the following:

  • Time saved
  • Accuracy of answers
  • The number of people successfully using the system
  • The number of people who can successfully access content that they may not have had access to before

Let leadership determine reporting frequency

Reports are how you substantiate the strategic benefit you’re getting out of your content management platform, so let leadership determine the frequency.

Most likely, they’ll say quarterly, although it could be monthly at the beginning and then quarterly after your first review cycle. Think of these reports in much the same way you think of the reports your proposal team has to create.

Be consistent and strategic

Stick to your reporting schedule, metrics, and format. Show leadership usage, review schedules, and recently updated content reviewed by your SME and polished by your proposal team and content manager.

Show these for each group of content, line of business, collection, geography, language, or however you organize your content. Be consistent in your format by nailing down your template at the beginning of the year.

Get feedback from the proposal leadership, SME leadership, sales enablement leadership, or, if your company is small to mid-market, from your C-suite.

Ensure that you’re reporting in a way that is valuable to them. Use that format every time you report. Executives and leaders like consistency; they also like graphics. Instead of a lot of Excel spreadsheets, use graphics such as charts or screenshots.

If, for example, you’re an RFPIO user, show leaders used vs. unused content for the annum and then quarterly going forward. You can also show them content that has owners, no owners, has been reviewed, hasn’t been reviewed, etc.

Explain to them why these things matter, and make sure all your content managers, SMEs, and leadership teams are involved in the reporting conversations.

If you use RFPIO or another platform that includes reporting functionality, you can take screenshots of your system reports and include them in your slide decks. Having that consistent graphic will be helpful for leadership, and it will show you the incremental and cumulative progress you’re making.

Also, it will show you when you need to start archiving content and maybe gaps where you need to add new content. RFPIO users can take screenshots of your content library insights report at the beginning of the year, then monthly and quarterly.

At the end of the year, the screenshots will tell a powerful story. Halfway through the year, you might start seeing gaps and areas you may need to improve upon, so by the end of the year, you can show where you spotted that and where you can make adjustments.

Monetize the value of time spent

Leadership likes to see that you’re flexible, nimble, and always thinking about best practices. Additionally, as you save SMEs’ time by reducing the number of Q&A pairs they have to review, etc., leadership will be able to put a dollar value on time saved.

For example, it takes around 3-5 minutes to review a Q&A pair. 10 of those at 5-minutes-a-piece saves 50 minutes of an SME’s valuable time—time they can spend with clients, prospects, doing demos, or other vital aspects of their day job.

If your company has some newer SMEs, content review is a great way to engage the new SMEs and make the time they spend learning the new system and products valuable to the organization.

Think about the next thing coming

As you know, content evolves. As you acquire new knowledge and content, be strategic. Don’t just start loading content to your newly reviewed content management system. Spend time with the content before you load it. Make sure it’s the right content for your content library—it will be used again…it has been reviewed…and it’s current, accurate, and comprehensive.

When you import the new content, identify who owns it, whether you work from a content management platform, a spreadsheet, SharePoint, etc. You also want to set the content up for success.

Tag the content, organize it, and put it in collections, folders, or however your system works. Additionally, you want to work with your SMEs to identify when that content needs to be reviewed—quarterly, annually, every 18-24 months, or when there’s a new product release.

Then use the sweet spot of 10-12 Q&A pair reviews per week to spread the content out in a way that’s easily manageable for your SMEs. Be mindful of the review work they already have assigned to them.

Technology-enabled content review

Keep your content current, accurate, and fresh, and set your SMEs and content review process up for success with RFPIO’s review cycle reminders, advanced reporting, and project management features.

If you would like to learn more about how RFPIO, with the help of machine learning, helps ensure best practices throughout your content review processes, schedule a free demo.

Knowledge management best practices: Gaining company buy-in

Knowledge management best practices: Gaining company buy-in

At RFPIO, one of the first questions potential customers ask is whether our platform is scalable. The answer is an unequivocal “yes,” but we can ask the same about most other organizational content management systems.

Is your content management system scalable? Do you know how much content you have? How much of it is redundant? How much of it is outdated? How much of it is trivial? Do you have systems in place for new content?

According to Deloitte, 75% of organizations recognize the importance of creating and preserving knowledge, but only 9% of companies are ready to make that commitment. There are a few reasons for this, but 4 of the top 6 reasons cited are easily overcome by creating top-down buy-in through adhering to content management best practices.

  • 55% report organizational silos
  • 37% specify a lack of incentives
  • 35% say there’s a lack of organizational mandate
  • 35% point to shifting roles

Perhaps yours is one of the 75% of companies that appreciates the need for a compliant, organized, accurate, and up-to-date knowledge library. However, with most obstacles coming from within, leadership might see sprucing up your knowledge base as too high a hill to climb, at least right now.

You aren’t alone. In this blog, we’ll discuss achieving organizational, and most importantly, subject matter expert buy-in.

The importance of information governance

Information governance, as defined by Gartner, is the “specification of decision rights and an accountability framework to ensure appropriate behavior in the valuation, creation, storage, use, archiving, and deletion of information.”

Your company’s information management system is everything—and I mean that literally. A well-developed and maintained content management system prioritizes and categorizes all the key documents and pieces of information your company has collected since its founding.

It also includes retiring information that is inaccurate, no longer relevant, redundant, and past a document’s “shred by” date.

Information may be called upon to facilitate major decisions, create proposals, close sales, reassure customers, prove regulatory compliance, help resolve legal matters, etc.

It’s not just decision makers who benefit from a content management system, so do employees. A disorganized system brings about higher labor costs, reduced productivity, and lower morale.

  • Employees value information that is easily accessible
  • Most employees perceive the information in their company’s knowledge base as average or below
  • Over 70% of companies believe that effective knowledge management will increase productivity by at least 20%
  • People spend more than half their days on “busy work,” which includes searching for information
  • 42% of company knowledge lies with individuals, and when they’re unavailable, coworkers lose 42% in productivity
  • Enterprise businesses lose $47 million per year in productivity due to poor knowledge sharing
  • 81% of employees feel frustrated when relevant information for their jobs is withheld
  • SMEs are extraordinarily busy and, like everyone, resent when they think you’re wasting their time

Benefits of good information governance include:

  • Informed decision making – Decision-makers need accurate and current information
  • Breaking down silos – Good governance helps break down information silos by democratizing knowledge
  • Regulatory risk management – Document lifecycle management helps ensure regulatory compliance
  • Legal risk management – Proper digitization and tagging simplify the legal discovery process.

Proving value to leadership beyond just cost

When you initially implement a content management system, the time savings will be impressive—often 40% or more in the first year. But once you begin to reach peak efficiency, demonstrable time savings drops.

That’s when you need to think strategically to show lasting value in your content management platform. Your goal is to prove that value to leadership and keep your content in gold-standard shape.

Unfortunately, many content management strategies don’t provide the types of reporting that include the metrics decision-makers expect, which may include the number of Q&A pairs, those that are regularly used, those that are never used, the amount of redundant information, and how much time is spent searching for information, etc.

Done right, regular content auditing and reporting will provide the data leadership demands as well as help improve morale and boost productivity.

Who are your key decision-makers?

Every organization is different. You may need to get buy-in from one or more members of your C-suite. You may also need to engage sales, sales enablement, and of course, your SMEs (subject matter experts).

Working with your content teams

Subject matter experts are not octopuses—or is that octopi? At most, they have two arms, and if you tug too hard at one, it will never grow back. All of this is my roundabout way of saying, “respect your SMEs!” and do as much of the heavy lifting as you can.

Monetize the value of time spent and time saved

SMEs are typically either consultants or high-ranking members of your organization. Either way, their time is worth a considerable amount of money.

If you can demonstrate to leadership that you’ve reduced the number of Q&A pairs SMEs need to review, you will have shown significant cost savings.

Typically, reviewing a piece of existing content will take about 3-5 minutes. Removing 10 unused Q&A pairs could save your SME as much as 50 minutes. That’s time that could be spent with prospects, doing demos, or performing other tasks.

How to make friends with your SMEs

SMEs may not be official content team members, but they are vital participants in the content creation process.

SMEs are almost, by definition, some of the busiest people in most companies. Odds are, they’ve already invested a considerable amount and expertise in your Content Library. They may have answered many questions multiple times, so you might understand their frustration with the process.

Keep your SMEs engaged by:

  • Forming a partnership – Assure your SMEs that once the Content Library is clean, duplicate efforts will be unnecessary.
  • Involving management to drive SME participation – You’ve proven value to decision-makers. Let them use their influence to encourage SME participation.
  • Soliciting feedback from the SMEs and incorporating it into your process – They will likely have insight into content management and development.
  • Respecting their efforts by spreading content reviews over time – As I like to joke, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Not that we’d advocate actually eating an elephant, but the point is, break the project up into smaller, easier-to-manage pieces.

Your SMEs have ownership over all of their content. Respect their time, but also respect the thought and effort they’ve given each answer. Show them that you value the integrity of their content while taking on as much of the work as possible.

You will be working long-term with your SMEs, so build a rapport by showing that you have a plan. Let them know that you’ll do as much of the project as possible before calling for their assistance.

If you can show that you have carried the baton as far as you can, they’ll realize that you respect them and that their time matters to you.

Communicate with leadership

You’ll want to keep leadership informed regarding both your proposal team and SMEs so they know what you’re doing and what the SMEs are doing, how much work there is, and when you expect it to be complete. When the work is complete, show leadership who was invaluable to the process.

The best way to do this is to identify the leaders and then ask your leadership to coordinate a meeting for all those leaders. Create a PowerPoint deck to show that you are invested, prepared, and ready to partner.

The deck should show that you are ready to own the process, communicate with all parties as often as needed, and you will be a partner with the SMEs. Show how it will not be incumbent on the SMEs to complete the review.

Earn and maintain leadership buy-in with regular reporting. Early on, you might issue weekly reports. Once you get going, you can move to monthly reports.

The goal is to show the impact you’re having, the amount of updated content, the SMEs who are involved and have done good work for you, and time saved.

Get user buy-in: Understand how different people use the Content Library

Content management is not a one-size-fits-all approach. User input is critical for managing a Content Library. Adjust your approach depending on the type of person who owns the content.

Content hoarders

Like those who don’t regularly clean out their email, content hoarders won’t generally archive their content.

If the hoarders are rolling along just fine because they’re familiar with all their content, that’s great, but perhaps not for others who need it.

You should build a strategy for hoarders and get creative using their own tags, star ratings, or keywords instead of archiving their specific content. Then, gently guide them toward warehousing content.

This incremental approach will encourage content hoarders to trust that you aren’t out to get rid of all their content while preventing negative feedback from other users.

People who know the answers

Some authors are so familiar with the content that they might know the answers cold, or at least to the point where they can simply check the boxes on an RFx, add any comments, and go on from there.

The problem for other users is that the authors aren’t using content in one of the identified ways to capture content usage. They aren’t applying or copy/pasting the answer as they would with RFPIO.

Authors are probably highlighting what they need, copying it, and plopping that right into the answer field if they’re using it at all.

The best approach to get them on board is to ask them to strategically go through the content and review and mark their best content.

With RFPIO, they can use a star rating system, where the author can mark only their frequently-used content with 5 stars. The rest of their content should have no rating, at least for now.

People reluctant to change

Generally, people who are reluctant to change have all their Q&A pairs conveniently stored on a spreadsheet. Show those who are change-averse that a content management system will save them time and keep them from having to repeat themselves.

It will take them a little time to get used to the system, and they’ll need to see trust from others. One way to do that is to team them up with someone already using the system successfully.

RFPIO helps you identify those who are reluctant through usage reporting. For example, those who spend very little time in the system might be reluctant. This could also be true of people who spend more time in the system than their productivity indicates. In both cases, additional training sessions could help.

Another way to identify reluctant users, or perhaps just those who need additional training, is to survey them. I suggest using a Likert scale, where for each statement, such as, “Using RFPIO is simple,” there are 6 possible responses, from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”

If a few people choose answers in the bottom 3, individual training might be in order. If more than a few are uncomfortable using the system, it’s time for general training sessions. I recommend about 6-8 questions per survey. You can issue further surveys on a quarterly basis or what works best for you.

The knowledge management platform that instills trust

RFPIO is the industry-leading response and content management platform. decision-makers undoubtedly know about the cost and time-saving benefits of RFPIO’s proposal response features. Even the most reluctant users will recognize the benefits and soon become expert content librarians.

And what about RFPIO’s role in information governance, turning your knowledge library into a sales enablement tool and a true repository of company knowledge instead of simply a response management tool?

Schedule a free demo to see how RFPIO can help turn your knowledge library into a business asset, remove some of the burden from SMEs’ shoulders, and provide leadership with the reporting and results they need.

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

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.

 

Deploy content governance that will take your breath away

Deploy content governance that will take your breath away

I recently hosted a webinar called Building a Solid Content Foundation about how to set up a content review workflow. Since then, it has occurred to me that there can be no content review without content governance.

This short article will provide some brief background on content governance, why it’s important, and how proposal automation and knowledge management software can help.

What is content governance?

Content governance is the framework and processes you use to create, store, and maintain your content. But before we dive too deep, let’s start with a bad joke and a Top Gun analogy…

What do you call it when an entire population is satisfied with its gubernatorial leadership? Content governance. Ha! I know, it’s terrible.

How is content governance different from content management and content strategy? I could just tell you, but that would be boring. You can find all sorts of places on the Internet that can give you the glossary version. We’re going into the Danger Zone.

We’ve been in a Top Gun mood around here. Anticipation around the release of Top Gun: Maverick is ramping up faster than that titular character’s need for speed. In a Top Gun analogy, content governance would actually be the U.S. Navy. Content strategy is “Top Gun,” or the Navy Fighter Weapons School (I hear it’s frowned upon to use Top Gun terminology while at the school). Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Content governance = U.S. Navy. This is the universe in which all organizational content exists, from its creation, storage, and access, to its moderation, and, ultimately, to its archival. All content is subject to the laws of the content governance universe.
  • Content strategy = Top Gun. There has to be a framework in place to create world-class content. Everything from rules of engagement to battle tactics to overcoming pushback must be taken into consideration when determining what to create when and for which targeted audience.
  • Content creators = Pilots. In case you’re wondering who the best is…well, it doesn’t really matter. Like the real Navy Fighter Weapons School, there is no room for ego. Within the parameters established under content governance in your content strategy and style guide (see below), content creators are free to do what’s necessary to connect with their audience.
  • Content management system (CMS) = Aircraft carrier and crew. It’s a team effort, and effective content cannot exist in a vacuum. Any successful content endeavor needs technology and subject matter expertise in its earpiece. You can think of the CMS as the execution phase of content governance, where theory is put into practice when buyer-facing content is created, reviewed, stored, and accessed
  • Style guide = F/A-18C/D Hornet (aka, the jet). Content governance only works when creators have guidelines to follow. They need a cockpit from where they can work their magic, otherwise they end up in a flat spin out to sea with content that is off-brand, off-message, and possibly off-putting to the buyer.

Why do you need content governance?

While content governance is often associated with marketing content, it’s time to think bigger, like sales content bigger. According to the April 26, 2021, Forrester blog, From Monolithic to Modular: Kicking Your Sales Content Engine into High Gear, “Because marketers produce more monolithic than modular content, 70% of sales reps spend between one and 14 hours every week customizing content for their buyers.”

Sales reps understand that their competitive advantage comes from personalizing content to customize a solution around buyers’ specific pain points. Releasing these content creators into the wild without any content governance is a recipe for disaster, in accuracy and efficiency.

4 benefits of content governance

I’m still adding to the list. Seriously, content governance is a huge benefit to all of my clients. Here are the top four:

  1. Better content: It’s always created with accurate information and undergoes peer review (none of us are adept at proofing our own work).
  2. Efficient workflows: When everyone knows their roles and content governance is being driven by technology, then the content runs through its lifecycle with less friction.
  3. Greater productivity: Automation, accurate content building blocks, and the democratization of content creation makes it easier for creators and reviewers to move faster.
  4. Improved outcomes: Breaking down monolithic content into buyer-focused customized content improves the overall buying and customer experiences.

How to create a content governance workflow

As is the case with most new process implementations, the pain is frontloaded. Trust me, the long-term payoff for proposal managers, sales representatives, content editors, subject matter experts, and all content creators is well worth it.

Conduct a content audit
You need to rein in out-of-bounds content first. Get your house in order by ditching redundant, outdated, trivial (deal- or client-specific), and off-brand content.

Identify content gaps
Now that the content bin has been cleaned out, you should have full visibility into what you need. Break it down by buyer need, not product need. According to the December 16, 2020, Forrester blog, Happy B2B “Contentukkah”: Spinning the Editorial Dreidel, “We encourage content creators to join forces and push back on the company’s tendency to sing the praises of its portfolio when it should be waxing poetic about its audiences’ challenges.”

Create a style guide
Specify the writing and graphic standards for content. You can go high level and just cover fonts and color palettes, or you can get down to a level of detail where you provide standards for individual content types (e.g., videos, presentations, data sheets, blog articles, etc.). Also, consider creating templates to make it easier to create that content that always has to be personalized according to your style guide.

Implement a CMS
Unless you want to go the manual route of spreadsheets and checklists, you’ll need a CMS for automation, auditing, and reporting.

How can proposal automation and knowledge management help with content governance?

Creating content on the fly—which is the preferred method for sales representatives creating content—can be challenging in a content governance environment rife with bottleneck risk. Manual processes are the biggest culprit, but an ill-fitting CMS can be just as dangerous.

Proposal automation and knowledge management software such as RFPIO presents a huge advantage to sales teams and other content creators because it breaks content down to its lowest common denominator: questions and answers. These are the building blocks of all content. When these accurate, curated questions and answers are accessible from anywhere, then content can be created from anywhere.

Beyond the advantage of creating content within your content governance model, proposal automation and knowledge management helps in three primary areas:

  1. Let the system drive your workflow. Assign content owners, establish content moderation teams, and set up content review cycles from an intuitive dashboard.
  2. Govern from a single, closed-loop system. Ditch the spreadsheets, checklists, and risk of human error. Once the workflow is established, you have an audit trail for every entry in your Content Library. You can also keep all collaboration in the system so that even emails to external collaborators can be monitored within a project.
  3. Robust reporting out of the box. Being able to monitor the health and hygiene of your Content Library is essential to adhering to content governance. Monthly and quarterly reporting to leadership gives them a window into the value of content governance, its efficiencies, and its ability to guide content creators to better sales outcomes.

Ultimately, content governance gets you that single source of truth. RFPIO makes sure you can provide the right content (sales, marketing, corporate, financial, solutions, etc.) to the entire organization.

If you’re interested in having RFPIO as your wingman, schedule a demo today!

How TOMIA improved global collaboration with bid response software

How TOMIA improved global collaboration with bid response software

As a company that creates solutions for the world’s leading service providers, including some of the telecommunication industry’s largest groups, TOMIA defines its mission as enabling their customers to drive the future of connectivity through new technologies.

They’re also a company that takes compliance extremely seriously, which is why requests for bids are such an important part of their business model. Bids and tenders are their opportunity to demonstrate their expertise, professionalism, and commitment to security in the fullest detail—and clearly showcase why they’d be the best fit.

John Marcow, the Bid Response Manager at TOMIA—and a veteran of the industry, who’s responded to 700+ bid requests in his lifetime—knows better than most how important bids are to the sales cycle. “It doesn’t matter how good your relationship is. Sometimes you need to respond to an RFP if you want to win the deal.”

Before RFPIO, the TOMIA bid response process was highly manual. After receiving a bid request, John would paste the following table underneath each question:

He would then ask subject matter experts (SMEs) to search for their name and respond to all their assigned questions.

As one can imagine, this process not only left plenty of room for human error, it also lacked visibility John needed to keep RFPs on track. Since everything was answered in static documents on personal computers, John would constantly send emails to assignees, requesting status updates or reminding them of the due date.

Once John received all answered questions (often in the eleventh hour), he would proofread and polish each of the answers, and compile the responses into a single, cohesive document.

This process was tedious, time-consuming, and inefficient. The TOMIA bid response team knew there had to be a better way to respond to RFPs. So they turned to RFPIO’s AI-enabled RFP response solution.

Bid proposal software: Before and after
Before RFPIO:

  • Assigned questions to SMEs by adding a table to the Word or Excel document that includes assignee name, compliance status (y/n), and a place to write supporting information.
  • After receiving completed questions from SMEs, the documents would need to be compiled into a single cohesive document.
  • The bid manager constantly reminded SMEs to finish their assigned questions.
  • The bid manager had no visibility into project status. He had to manually reach out to SMEs via email to ask whether they had started working on their questions.
  • SMEs who wanted a question reassigned to someone else would ask thebid manager (John) to do so.

After RFPIO:

  • Questions are assigned in just a few clicks.
  • RFPIO automatically sends reminders.
  • The bid manager has full visibility into question status from the project dashboard.
  • Questions are reassigned by the SME in RFPIO.
  • Completed, cohesive responses are exported into the source file in a few clicks.

Improving collaboration and increasing efficiency with RFPIO

When the TOMIA team responded to their first RFP using RFPIO, it was hard to believe how much of a difference it made.

With RFPIO, John uploads an RFP to the platform and assigns questions or sections to subject matter experts. After that, the process is relatively hands-off—RFPIO will automatically send reminders to everyone who hasn’t answered their questions.

seamlessly collaborate by assigning tasks to collaborators in-app

John also has full visibility into project status from the project dashboard. He uses that information to send out periodic project updates to keep everyone informed and keep projects on track.

Identify project scope before starting any RFP

“RFPIO gives me full visibility into the entire process. And I’m able to easily collaborate with team members across the organization, from product to finance to legal.”

Getting stakeholders across the organization up and running in RFPIO

Since TOMIA implemented RFPIO in 2018, they’ve created user accounts for 25% of the company, even though most of them only use it for a few questions. But since RFPIO has an unlimited user license, they’re able to maintain their accounts for those moments when they do need to support RFPs.

“One of the best things about RFPIO is that it’s really intuitive. You don’t need much instruction to use it. Our SMEs are able to easily answer any questions they’ve been assigned with little to no training.”

When an SME has been assigned a question, they’ll receive a notification in their inbox letting them know their expertise is needed. They can either respond directly from their email, or open up the platform to respond there.

When they log into the platform, the first thing they see is the list of questions they’ve been assigned. They can click into the question to respond. Or, if they don’t know the answer, they can assign the question to someone else—or simply @mention them for help.@-mentioning makes it easy to collaborate on RFP projects

Overall, RFPIO has significantly cut response time and improved the bid response process. With RFPIO, the TOMIA team—with regional headquarters in the US, Israel, Luxembourg, and India—is able to collaborate with team members all over the world to craft compelling bids that win more business.

“I would absolutely recommend RFPIO to anyone looking for a better way to manage proposals. With RFPIO, we’re able to collaborate in real-time with team members all over the world. It has made a huge difference.”

Ready to streamline collaboration on bids and tenders?

See how RFPIO can help your team uplevel your bid response process and make global collaboration a breeze. Schedule a demo to get started.

Where’s the answer? Ask Slack!

Where’s the answer? Ask Slack!

“Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”
-The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge

If I were writing the poem, The Rime of the 21st Century Proposal Manager, it might include the lines:

Data, data everywhere, Not a clue to find
As silos rise, I lose my mind.
I chase my tail. I chase your tail.
My efforts always seem to fail.
Chaos abounds.
My head spins round.
Where, oh where, does my answer lie?
In the depths of our silos, it seems to hide.

I’m no poet, wouldn’t you know it?

But I am a Senior Proposal Manager at Illuminate Education, Inc., and I am charged with taming our data sprawl problems using RFPIO. I started by creating a data map. By assigning collections, tags, and subtags, I can migrate from data everywhere, including…

  • Google Drive
  • Confluence
  • Drop Box
  • HubSpot
  • Website
  • Client Library
  • Resource Center
  • Individual PCs

…to a consolidated Content Library in RFPIO. At that point, a new $64K question pops up: Can I make it accessible to everyone in the company? I could add as many RFPIO users as I wanted at no extra cost. But introducing another new software platform to the team is a challenge. Not because I doubt the value; but because some people resist change—even if it helps. It’s a lot easier to call me than to learn a new process!

Enter RFPIO® LookUp, which makes the RFPIO Content Library accessible from Google Chrome, Microsoft Teams, and, most importantly for Illuminate, Slack. The LookUp for Slack is the wrecking ball I need to break down all of the data silos used across my organization.

All teams use Slack. We talk, ask questions, and collaborate with Slack. Now we can extend this engagement to include RFPIO proposal projects. Log into Slack, ask a question, and BOOM! There’s the answer. Using @mentions or inserting a tag using #hashtags, users find their answers. They can even do it from their phone! All activity is captured by RFPIO for tracking usage and uncovering retraining opportunities.

Slack questions are easy to add to our knowledge base. We simply grab the conversation from Slack and create a new Q&A pair. Our workflow delivers the new content to moderation for edits and enhancements. Once moderation is done, the content is available in the library.

Slack evolves into an on-demand knowledge base. Through Slack Bot, we eliminate the “I need an answer and I need it now” dilemma. As a self-service tool, management teams, sales, SMEs, customer support, and all Illuminators can get answers or content quickly. Fast answers. Quick responses. Improved quality. What more can you want?

While RFPIO® LookUp for Slack is a huge help for all your users, your sales team will be doing happy dances! To just type in a question on their phone or laptop while sitting with a customer, and get a trusted answer—well, that is huge.

Sales is your biggest challenge. They’re busy, short on patience, rely on others, and hate change. Training this team is a challenge. LookUp for Slack simplifies integrating sales into the RFPIO proposal process and exposes them to an Content Library knowledge base.

If you’re looking for more information about how I am implementing RFPIO® LookUp at IlluminateEducation, check out my RISE UP session! If you like detailed anecdotes, data maps, and user adoption hacks, you’ll probably get a kick out of it. Although, admittedly, I may be biased.


Building a portal to your company knowledge base from Slack is just the beginning of what RFPIO® LookUp can do. LookUp is also compatible with Google Chrome, Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, and more! Learn more here.

How Genpact transformed proposal quality with an access-anywhere knowledge base

How Genpact transformed proposal quality with an access-anywhere knowledge base

Genpact (NYSE: G) is a global professional services firm that makes business transformation real. The company drives digital-led innovation and digitally-enabled intelligent operations for its clients, guided by its experience of running thousands of processes primarily for Global Fortune 500 companies across more than 30 countries.

One of the recent examples is the transformation of the BidPro (the bid and proposal team) team. The team was spending 80% of time on deals that represented just 20% of revenue. As is common across the industry, bids turned into fire drills and deal managers provided stock-standard responses rather than focusing on winning messaging.

The result? Poorly articulated value propositions. Inconsistent messaging. Low team morale. And disappointing conversion rates on deals they knew they should be winning.

There was no doubt that the bid-pro team was ready for a transformation. And one of the key catalysts of this transformation was content.

Here’s the story of how they did it.

Chapter 1: Building a strong content backbone

Content is at the heart of any strong proposal. While there were already different types of collateral available, proposal-specific content is a different ball game. It needs a differentiated approach. In addition to content “breadth and depth”, content also needs to be of the right quality.

By simultaneously broadening and deepening leadership-approved content, they were able to give bid managers the valuable content they needed to build out a standard proposal and could customize from there — improving the quality of the final submission, the way they always hoped to do.

The next big thing was ensuring content was available in multiple formats. 80% of their submissions were made in Microsoft PowerPoint, which meant the RFPIO library needed to be compatible with PowerPoint.

The Genpact team partnered with the RFPIO team to find a solution that could serve their unique needs. After multiple discussions and iterations, an optimum solution was agreed upon and the new capability was launched. With this, the proposal library became comprehensive, full of Q&A pairs, templates, boilerplates, infographics, and images.

Chapter 2: Making content easily accessible

Before RFPIO, the Genpact team was managing content on a different cloud-based system. Since this content catered to different use cases, finding the right content was not easy. They kept hearing the same feedback over and over again — nobody could find relevant content, content was dated, and searching for content was a pain.

RFPIO met their needs on both content management and search.

However, change is never easy. To simplify the process and provide a seamless user experience, the Genpact team implemented the RFPIO® LookUp subscription, giving the BidPro team direct access to the RFPIO Content Library via Microsoft 365 programs like Word and PowerPoint.

In addition, people outside the BidPro team can download template slide decks directly from the library. Then, they can create the storyline using boilerplate content (also stored in the Content Library) and customize it to the client’s specific use case.

Using RFPIO® LookUp, the Genpact bid-pro team can now download template slide decks directly from the Content Library. Then, they can create the storyline using boilerplate content (also stored in the Content Library) and customize it to the client’s specific use case.

By strengthening content quality and creating easy access to the Content Library via RFPIO® LookUp, bid managers now have immediate access to pre-approved content they can easily add to their proposals. As a result, proposal quality has improved dramatically.

Chapter 3: Increasing efficiency by 30% by empowering a team of high-achievers

Before RFPIO, the bid-pro team would repeatedly answer factual questions such as “What’s your address” and “What’s your D&B number”. As such, talented proposal professionals weren’t able to seize opportunities to advance their career.

“Since implementing RFPIO, we’ve been able to do so much more with the same headcount. We’ve increased efficiency by at least 30-35%. We’ve diverted the effort and time to more value-added activities, creating a win-win both for the organization and the team members”.
-Shashi K, Assistant VP of Content at Genpact

Bid-pro team members are no longer grinding to complete repetitive tasks. Instead, they’ve been able to grow into content professionals who are experts in the subject areas they’ve helped build-out. “Not only are they creating real value for deal managers, but they’re developing important skills to advance their careers,” Shashi said.

Another key benefit of RFPIO for a fast-paced organization such as Genpact is accelerating onboarding. With a rich repository of high-quality, pre-vetted content, new team members across the organization are able to create strong proposals without relying on their more-senior counterparts.

And like they say, the proof of the pudding lies in eating. The team is witnessing early success —over 90% of the content they’ve created is being used. Their content strategy is working. Going forward, they’re going to continue to use RFPIO’s built-in analytics to track how their team is using RFPIO® LookUp for Microsoft Office to gain more insight into how their content is being leveraged.

Epilogue: And the journey of excellence continues

In addition to the outcomes envisaged, this transformation has also been recognized by the industry. In 2020, they were recognized by the Association for Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) as “Best Team of the Year.

And they’re not finished yet. As Sanjay Singh, Vice President, BidPro says, “And the journey has just about begun. The BidPro team is now planning to empower the entire sales team to create proactive proposals using standard content from the RFPIO Content Library. A new phase begins.”

And they’re not alone. According to the 2021 Benchmark Report on Proposal Management, of organizations planning to respond to more RFPs in 2021, 82% will also complete more proactive proposals.

Powered with strong content and a drive to succeed, the Genpact BidPro team is perfectly poised for the next phase of its transformation. At Genpact, the future is bright.

5 steps to healthy RFP collaboration between sales and presales

5 steps to healthy RFP collaboration between sales and presales

Friction can be a good thing. With the right amount, sales and pre-sales teams share productive exchanges, respectful pushback during disagreements, and shared admiration for jobs well done on all sides.

Too much, and those relationships can quickly flare up with resentment or burn out in an unwinnable blame game (“It’s pre-sales fault for losing the RFP!”). Too little, and silos develop, making collaboration difficult and agility nearly impossible (“It’s sales’ fault for not not giving us what we need to create a winning proposal!”).

Sound familiar? It’s OK. Sometimes when the kids are bickering in the back seat you have to follow through with your threat to pull the car over right this instant. Breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Namaste. Let’s move on.

How do you maintain that ideal level of friction? Glad you asked. I have five steps to help.

Before you skip ahead, remember that everyone in your organization is always working toward the same goal: Win conversions based on responses, whether they be reactive requests for proposals (RFPs) or proactive proposals designed to solve specific prospect or customer problems.

When your organization commits to the unified goal to win through proposals, then it’s just a matter of creating the best game plan to do so.

5 steps to improve collaboration between sales and presales

Step 1: Add transparency to RFP roles and responsibilities

Attempting to collaborate without transparency is a bit like playing the card game “Go Fish”: One person knows what they want, but they’re not sure where to get it. You can avoid this first by documenting all RFP processes. If you have a proposal manager or, better yet, a dedicated proposal team, then you can ask them for this information.

As soon as assignments are delegated to sales and pre-sales teams, then make sure each team is aware of the roles for both teams. You’ll also want to include responsibilities that don’t fall under either sales or pre-sales.

For example, if your responses consistently rely on polished product marketing documentation, then your resource is likely someone in the marketing department. Calling this information out will help avoid unnecessary blaming from either team when they know it’s neither of their faults.

If you use RFP software, then your platform can help promote transparency. I cannot speak for other solutions, but with RFPIO you can:

  • Give every sales rep and pre-sales person access to the project dashboard.
  • Assign deliverables to respective teams to avoid confusion over who is responsible for what.
  • Provide a project timeline so both teams can keep up with RFP progress.
  • Monitor all deliverables to help identify bottlenecks.
  • Gather and contain all communication related to the RFP, including emails, Slack, Salesforce/CRM communications, as well as any alerts or messages initiated from RFPIO.
  • Store all questions, answers, and RFP content for unified knowledge management across every team working the RFP.

Step 2: Write the executive summary

Sales must lead the way. There’s no avoiding it. Sales is responsible for the customer relationship. Without their unique insight, pre-sales is flying blind on the RFP. If sales wants to cross the finish line with a win, then it has to guide pre-sales in the right direction. Back at the starting line, that means writing the RFP’s executive summary.

Write the executive summary first to help set the tone for the RFP. Again, RFP software can help here. After you write the executive summary, your RFP software can make an automated first pass at answering all of the questions based on the content in your Content Library. From there, pre-sales will be able to review the answers under the direction that sales established in the executive summary. Sweet, fancy efficiency…

As the owner of the customer relationship, the salesperson should actually demand to write the executive summary. It explains the entirety of the RFP and sets up the narrative for the customer journey. If you have a proposal team, then sales can at the very least outline the executive summary so the proposal team can flesh it out and add polish.

“Sales owning the executive summary is extremely important, because it provides context and color into how the company will position itself throughout the RFP. From there, PreSales can bring insight into where the product or platform may fall short, and discuss a strategy on how to approach the response.”
James Kaikis, Co-Founder at PreSales Collective

Step 3: Schedule a kick-off call

If you have a proposal team and documented proposal processes, then a kick-off meeting for RFPs may already exist. If so, make sure sales and pre-sales are invited. If not, then take the initiative to include a kick-off meeting in your RFP response process.

Three of the main reasons you need this touchpoint are to:

  • Give all parties involved a chance to set expectations and clarify roles.
  • Exchange unique insights about the prospect, your relationship history, and how to differentiate your response from competitors.
  • Insert a Go/No-Go evaluation in your RFP response process to solidify team commitment to responding to a winnable RFP.

Step 4: Play an active role in responding to the RFP

Sales teams sometimes make the mistake of washing their hands of an RFP as soon as they hand it off to pre-sales or proposal teams. From the standpoint of the customer relationship and the reasoning behind the RFP, the sales team is the SME! Just as SMEs for product, SLAs, support, legal, pricing, etc. are expected to contribute their expertise to a response, so too should sales be expected to contribute their expertise about the customer.

Sales-related answers and content can also be managed in the Content Library of your RFP software. That way sales can focus on the review process and personalizing content after the automated first pass takes place.

Step 5: Reflect on the results, win or lose

When you hear back from the issuer, come together as a team to reflect on how the RFP landed — win or lose. If you lose, talk about what you could have done better. If you won, talk about what you did well.

This win-loss review gives your team an opportunity to close the loop. It also gives you an opportunity to heap some well-deserved praise where it’s due. Sales knows that it cannot survive without pre-sales. Sometimes pre-sales likes to be reminded. There’s no better time to do so than after a win, when you can call out the outstanding job that pre-sales did in composing the response.

You can also use this opportunity to make sure what you learned in the finished RFP is carried over to the next RFP. Win or lose, factoring in what worked and what didn’t will make it easier to determine the next Go/No-Go decision.

Good collaboration = good content

Winning proposals resonate with good content. And behind every piece of good content is the collaboration that made it happen. The better the collaboration between sales and pre-sales, the better your proposal will be.

In our new proposal management Benchmark Report, we found that 75% of organizations plan on responding to more RFPs in 2021 than they did in 2020. The only way that can happen is if sales and pre-sales are collaborating at a healthy rate of friction.

If your sales and pre-sales teams need a collaboration tool to kickstart that healthy friction, then schedule a demo today!

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