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Does proposal management software really help you win new business?

17 March 2022
  

Many businesses have to regularly respond to requests for proposals (RFPs) - after all, each RFP is a sales opportunity. But proposals require resources and good proposal management to be successful, and to realise that business growth potential. How well is your business equipped to produce efficient and effective proposals?

What is proposal management – and who is responsible for it?

Why you need proposal management

What is proposal management software?

What about Microsoft proposal management software (MS Teams or SharePoint)?

What are the benefits of a proposal management system?

Features you can expect from Microsoft proposal management software

 

What is proposal management – and who is responsible for it?

A quick definition: Proposal management is the process of overseeing and facilitating the completion of proposals, on time and with all criteria for the RFP being met.

What can be harder to define is who is responsible for proposal management. Some organisations have a dedicated proposal team whose sole focus is to produce winning proposals. However, in other businesses responsibility for the RFP may vary from one project/proposal to another. Proposal management may fall to different individuals in various departments, depending on what the RFP is for.

RFPs usually draw on the skills and knowledge of the following teams:

Marketing team – their knowledge of the business and the market, as well as their skill set enables them to present a proposal that looks professional.

Business operations/project management – these teams have close relationships with different departments within the business and a good understanding of their different functions. They know who the subject matter experts are and have a big picture view of the business.

Sales team – most likely to interact directly with clients, salespeople have the best understanding of the potential client’s needs and provide a context to the RFP that will make it particularly relevant and targeted.

Even if you have a dedicated proposal management team, RFPs require input from people across the business and access to readily available information. Effective proposal management is dependent on being able to obtain information quickly, collaboration, knowledge sharing and efficiency as deadlines are always tighter than you’d like them to be.

Why you need proposal management

Proposals require coordination and planning. Someone needs to ensure different teams are communicating with each other, all the relevant information is being gathered, and that the deadline is met.

In most cases, the RFP you’re working on isn’t likely to be the first proposal your company has produced. Every single proposal requires a significant investment of time and resources. Proposal management also ensures that all previous proposals, whether successful or not, provide the groundwork for the next one and that the hours of work spent on one proposal contribute to the success of the next.

What is proposal management software?

Every proposal demands quality, consistency and timely delivery – and that’s just to make the cut. To stand out, your proposal needs to convey the unique attributes your business can deliver, and demonstrate how it understands and meets the prospective client’s need. But too often effort and resources go into just getting teams to share information, research, creating content (often recreating content!) and simply getting the proposal done.

This is where proposal management systems or software are so valuable.

Proposal management software is a technological solution that enables people to create, organise, collaborate on and archive business proposals. It allows companies to keep information current and to easily access the information needed for an RFP.

Good proposal management software saves the business valuable time, allowing the proposal team to focus on producing quality bids.

Some of the ways proposal management systems save time, freeing up your team to direct their efforts towards the high value aspects of the bid, include:

  • Automation – proposal management software automates processes and manual tasks
  • Facilitate collaboration and communication – proposals often require input from different teams often working on different systems. Providing a single platform for communication and knowledge exchange make the bid management process more efficient.
  • Surface relevant information – so much proposal management time is spent searching for information and creating content. Often content that’s previously been done for another RFP but which is impossible to find has to be recreated, wasting time and effort that could be better spent on making your proposal stand out from the competition.

In short, good proposal management software automates parts of the bid creation process, streamlining work and freeing up your team to focus on creating a high-quality proposal.

Proposal management software that uses technology your teams already have and know, and that allows them to integrate data held in different systems (like your CRM) is even more useful.

What about Microsoft proposal management software (Microsoft Teams or SharePoint)?

From March to June 2020 Microsoft Teams grew by 894%. About 1 million companies worldwide use Office 365. So the chances are, your organisation already owns and uses Microsoft software – an excellent reason to look at using SharePoint and MS Teams for your proposal management solution.

Microsoft Teams, as you know, drives collaboration and communication and is especially useful for managing projects and proposals. Proposal management is a collaborative effort so using technology that facilitates collaboration and better still, that your people already use and are familiar with, gives you a head start.

Microsoft SharePoint is the go-to for information and document management and is well-equipped to support your proposal management processes.

Other benefits of Microsoft SharePoint for proposal management:

  • Licensing is already budgeted for if your company owns and uses Microsoft SharePoint.
  • People are familiar with SharePoint so adoption is easier.
  • SharePoint is a huge knowledge repository.
  • SharePoint is highly-customisable, but also has out-of-the-box features, so it can be as simple or as complex as your business needs it to be.
  • Features include site templates, automated workflows, versioning and co-authoring.
  • MS Teams and SharePoint work together and enhance capabilities.

There are some downsides to SharePoint, including:

  • An effective SharePoint implementation requires careful thought and planning.
  • SharePoint also requires solid business governance and a well thought-out information architecture and taxonomy.
  • The user experience is not always stellar.
  • Search configuration needs to be well done to avoid findability issues and lack of confidence in search results.

At this point, I’m going to step in and say that Atlas, by ClearPeople, is developed on and for Microsoft 365, and addresses all of these issues, effectively leveraging all that smart technology while making it easier and more intuitive to use. Find out more about how Atlas Bid Hub streamlines bid management even further here. 

What are the benefits of a proposal management system?

Regardless of whether you use Microsoft proposal software or not, proposal management technology should streamline your proposal management processes and enable higher quality proposals. It should deliver the following benefits:

  • Centralised content
  • A single view of everything you need for your proposal
  • Knowing you have the latest version of the truth
  • Facilitating collaboration and communication anytime, on any device, from anywhere
  • Producing higher quality proposals
  • Better-looking proposals through templates and automatic formatting
  • Less effort, greater efficiency, more quality
  • Make it easier to meet tight deadlines
  • Reduce the costs of creating RFPs

Features you can expect from Microsoft proposal software

  • Cloud-based –The proposal management software should be cloud-based. This is essential if you want multiple users to work on the proposal at the same time and from different geographical locations.
  • Enables collaboration – The software should take advantage of, and be fully integrated with, Microsoft Teams to facilitate and encourage collaboration across teams and departments.
  • Quick to setup - Your team should be able to create proposal workspaces in less than 5 minutes.
  • Powerful search –The proposal software should have a powerful search engine to help you find previous answers, case studies, CVs, etc. to incorporate easily into new proposals.
  • External support – Your internal IT team isn’t burdened with having to support another system as external maintenance and support is available.
  • Upgrades and new features – These are included as part of your subscription.

In conclusion, many organisations struggle with proposal management – an activity that has great potential for business growth but that is also resource- and time-intensive. The good news is that you may already have the technology at hand to support your proposal management processes, and enable everyone to focus less on the manual, low-value tasks, but rather to put the expertise and knowledge into the proposal that will give you a competitive edge.

 

You may also be interested in:

Atlas Bid Hub -  How Atlas supports and streamlines proposal management

Blog: Should knowledge management software be an investment priority?

Blog: Everything you’ve been wondering about using SharePoint for your Intranet

Author bio

Jeanne Davies

Jeanne Davies

From journalism to content marketing, I've always enjoyed learning and writing about a diverse range of topics, but the digital world has become particularly interesting to me over the last decade or so. ClearPeople gives me an opportunity to shape my work life and it's fascinating how technology allows me to create great working relationships with colleagues across continents and time zones.

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