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Response Management

RFP Automation and Workflows: 4 Tips to Get Started

August 12, 2022

Does your bid process run like a well-oiled machine or do you find yourself scrambling to put together responses to Requests for Proposals (RFP)? If you find that the RFP response process is slow, panicked, or inefficient, it may be time to examine your workflow. 

What’s a workflow? 

Also called a process, a workflow is a start-to-finish sequence of activities that must take place in order to complete a task. Take the example of an invoice. The invoice is sent to the company, a manager signs off on it, it’s submitted to Accounts Payable and the invoice is paid. That’s a workflow. 

Processes tend to develop organically at most organizations, based on whoever owns that specific task and the tools being used to complete tasks. Unfortunately, an organic workflow is often a needlessly complex one. Take the example of an RFP response. Perhaps the company has been using email to store responses from subject matter experts (SMEs) because email was the simplest tool for the job when the company was founded. In the time since, various bid team members may have tried to create documents or spreadsheets with RFP content, but everyone keeps using email. 

This is an inefficient workflow because when team members leave, they either have to forward all those old emails, transfer them to one of the spreadsheets, or the content they’ve been using is lost to the team when IT shuts down their email account. None of this is efficient: your team is either losing institutional knowledge, or spending time searching for information in inboxes and documents. 

For this reason, it’s important to revisit workflows and redesign them so that they’re quicker, more efficient, and easier for everyone involved. That’s where RFP response automation comes in.

What is RFP response automation? 

RFP automation is the use of technology to automate any part of the RFP response process. 

Ombud’s solution, for example, automates the content collection process by creating a content library made up of sales content contributed by subject matter experts (SMEs)  across your organization. This means that your writers just search for the content they need in the library instead of chasing SMEs for answers. 

One of the benefits of RFP automation is that it allows you to set up processes, or workflows, that help your RFP response move smoothly and quickly through the bidding process. 

A strong, efficient workflow is a benefit to any RFP team: it streamlines time consuming tasks, outlines clear tasks and roles, and eliminates unnecessary steps that might be holding a process up. Designing a good workflow requires careful thought and planning, however. Below are 4 tips that will help you build the best RFP response workflow possible. 

Tips for designing your RFP workflow

  1. Document your existing workflow: To build a solid workflow, you first have to know the steps in your existing process. Work with your team to document the entire RFP response workflow, from the moment an RFP comes in to the second the bid gets sent out. What steps does the team go through? What tools do you use? Who engages with the workflow? How long does it take? Once you can see the workflow, you can start to arrange it so that it is more efficient. 
  2. Identify the stakeholders: Who is involved in the RFP response process? What are their roles on the team? Identify everyone who touches the bid workflow, from writers to proposal managers to SMEs. By getting a look at the people involved, you can get a better idea of whether your team needs to be rearranged. Maybe you need more leadership, or a large team can be split into two smaller ones. 
  3. Look for trouble spots: A good workflow does just that: it flows. Find the areas where the flow of work gets dammed up, or the areas that are too complex. These are the areas that need help, and this is typically where an automated solution comes in. Automated tools are designed to make these difficult areas of your processes simpler. For example, if your writers are constantly waiting on responses for SMEs, or if they spend too much time searching through emails for content, an automated tool can help by putting all the content they need in one spot. 
  4. Get buy-in: The best workflow in the world is useless if your team ignores it. To get buy-in, involve your team in the workflow design process. Talk to them about the problems they have with the current process and get their ideas for how to change it. If you drop a new process on them without warning, chances are they will ignore it and go back to the old way of doing things. Like using email for content storage, for example. 

Building a process for your bid team may seem daunting, but a good RFP response workflow will help your team create strong bids more quickly. As long as you involve your team and take a thoughtful approach to designing the process, it will serve you well for years. 

Interested in improving your workflow? Learn more about Ombud’s RFP software here

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