Responding to an RFP (request for proposal) is a collaborative effort. Your proposal team needs help from compliance, legal, IT, and a host of subject matter experts (SMEs).
But there’s one big hurdle when it comes to content collaboration: information silos.
What is silo mentality?
Knowledge silos happen when every department is its own fiefdom; one person or department has knowledge that no one else shares. If someone else needs that information, they need to find the person who controls it and ask for it.
This can spell disaster for a bid team that needs to get an RFP response together quickly.
To be fair, knowledge silos are seldom the fault of the people within each silo; they’re a result of company culture. They tend to develop naturally when a department works in isolation, and they’re common. Take the example of customer experience departments: according to a recent report, more than half of organizations (54%) report their customer experience operations are managed in silos, while only a third of customer experience professionals say they can actively communicate and collaborate across teams to drive improved CX.
Silos occur in all kinds of departments and in all kinds of organization, and unless a company commits to breaking down those silos, knowledge can get stored away in various departments, or even lost forever. That’s deeply unhelpful to bid teams, who need knowledge from everyone in an organization.
How silos can slow down a proposal
- Communication breaks down: One of the biggest problems caused by silos is a communication breakdown. Silos throw up invisible walls between departments; because siloed teams work in isolation, your team doesn’t know what other teams are doing. That makes it tough to know who has what information, which SME needs to be consulted for your bid, and who has the authority to sign off on the content they provide.
- Finding the right SME for the job: According to research firm Aberdeen, salespeople average about 43 hours a month searching for the content they need to do their jobs. That’s a lot of time not spent selling, and when your bid team spends that time searching, they’re not writing proposals. Silos mean that your team may have to go from department to department, looking for the person who has the information they need to write their RFP response. (Think of all the time writing emails and messages that could be spent on the bid itself.)
- People feel they own information: One of the worst things about silos is the “us vs. them” mentality that can develop. People feel they have ownership of specific information and become a gatekeeper you have to go through before you can get the content you need to write your bid. This can take time, and even worse, it can cause ill-will between team – especially if you’re made to jump through hoops before you can get the information you need.
- People leave and knowledge leaves with them: Silo culture means that information is hoarded, not shared. So what happens when an SME leaves work for another job? Unless they’ve written it down somewhere, chances are, that information has left the company with them.
- Not everyone is using the same tools: Data can be siloed in the same way that knowledge can. That means that although your team may be using one set of tools (a spreadsheet, documents, or a project management system) another department might be storing their information in a completely different technology stack. If their tools don’t talk to yours, that data is siloed, and it can be hard to share and convert that information so you can use it.
- Tasks are duplicated: When two people are doing the exact same work, that’s a sure sign of silo culture, and it can slow down an RFP response by wasting everyone’s time. What if two departments think they own the security questionnaire? Security questionnaires can take a lot of time, so if your IT and security teams are both answering the same questionnaire, one of them has wasted hours.
- Information isn’t updated: Siloed information may mean that you’re not getting the latest and best information for your bid. This might happen if a proposal writer doesn’t want to email an SME and deal with the hassle of tracking down information yet again, and copies information from an old message. This could also happen if an SME gives a response but doesn’t have the latest product information.
How RFP response automation can help the bid process
It’s difficult to overcome communication silos in companies, but using RFP response automation software can help to break down some of the walls between departments by creating a single company-wide database of the knowledge your proposal team needs to write their bid.
A tool like an RFP Response Library stores all the content from SMEs in one place so that your team doesn’t need to ask SMEs for content for every single bid. It also allows your team to search content so they can find what they need while they’re drafting. SMEs can also sign in and update content, so you have the latest information available. If an SME leaves the organization, no problem. Their responses are already in the library.
Ombud’s cloud-based software allows your team to vote on reference documents in the response library, so that the best, most up to date content is always visible. For more information, visit our website or request a demo here.