What is RFP Management?
RFP management is the process of overseeing and directing the entire lifecycle of an RFP or RFP response documents, including accepting the bid, identifying stakeholders, and creating the document or proposal.
What is an RFP?
Organizations have various reasons for seeking outside support on projects. A project could be new, too large to handle internally, or have specific implementation needs that require outside contractors. In these situations, where outsourcing a certain project or service is needed, a request for proposal (RFP) is issued by the organization to elicit bids from vendors willing to implement the project. Through RFPs, organizations can solicit bids from specific vendors or cast a wide net and open bidding to any vendor that fits the RFP’s criteria.
The RFP document specifies the scope of work, and requests vendors to respond with a bid for the project. Once the bids from multiple vendors are received, they are evaluated and compared to select the best bidder suited for the implementation of the project.
This process of requesting proposals helps organizations judge the strengths and weakness of the bidding vendors without wasting time and resources researching vendors directly. Additionally, the proposals submitted by vendors can help organizations discover new project implementation strategies, as each vendor likely has their own unique action plan. As a result, organizations can use the RFP response process to assess different plans before deciding on the best-suited strategy for their needs.
Multiple types of requests exist, and often an RFP is confused for a request for quote (RFQ) or request for information (RFI). However, there is a huge difference between these two types of response documents. When companies send an RFQ they are solely interested in price quotes from vendors for a specific service or project implementation. Likewise, when companies send an RFI, they’re interested in broad and often basic details about an organization.
However, when companies send an RFP, they are looking for complex details about pricing, project implementation plans, details of the implementation team, deliverables schedules, lists of services, timeline of project completion, and any other information relevant to the project.
The most complex RFPs can be hundreds or thousands of pages long and include a variety of questions that help companies understand whether the vendor complies with all necessary requirements and regulations.
Primarily, RFP responses help a company determine the best-suited vendor for providing a service or implementing a project. Additionally, RFPs have other benefits for organizations:
- Raising an RFP request is the formal announcement of starting of a project
- RFPs help companies define the project, internally and externally, through detailed explanations of expectations and requirements. By ultimately partnering with an organization that fully and correctly scopes the project, end products are of higher-quality and less confusion is created during the implementation process.
- RFPs allow companies to define the parameters and requirements of the project, enabling vendors to respond with specific answers. This way, different types of vendors can respond to a set of the same questions, making it easier for the company raising the RFP to compare and choose the best proposal.
What Is the RFP Response Process?
The lifecycle of an RFP response starts with an initial assessment of the value of bidding and ends with the ultimate submission of a custom proposal. For organizations responding to RFPs, the process can be broken down into six parts:
- Holding a kickoff meeting
- Prepping the RFP document
- Crafting the RFP response
- Reviewing the RFP
- Delivering the RFP
- Auditing and analyzing the results.
1. Holding a kickoff meeting
The first step towards responding to an organization’s RFP is hosting a kickoff meeting. This meeting should include all relevant stakeholders such as the proposal manager, subject matter experts, proposal writers, and other proposal team members. During this meeting proposal teams should review all of the requirements listed in the RFP carefully. Once all the requirements are understood, teams need to decide whether or not to bid on the RFP.
While it might seem helpful to bid on every single RFP that’s posted, most teams lack the time and resources needed to craft winning proposals for each RFP. Additionally, an RFP ultimately might not fit into an organization’s internal goals, business objectives, or internal timelines and schedules. By reviewing all the requirements first, teams can ensure they’re only working on RFP responses that best fit their organization.
Once the team has decided on whether or not to bid on the RFP, they should assemble all of their team members, distribute responsibilities, and develop a project timeline.
2. Preparing the RFP response
Before RFP response teams start working on an RFP they should first assemble as much of their RFP response as possible. Initial templates can be loaded into whatever software or tool an organization is using, signature pages can be gathered in advance, and any preprepared documents can be slotted into the document to save time later in the process.
Additionally, if teams are using RFP response or management software, they can populate their document with merge fields or preapproved content to speed up the RFP response creation process.
3. Crafting the RFP response
The largest part of the RFP management process will be crafting the RFP response. During this process, response teams will need to answer all questions or requests outlined in the RFP. To do this well, team members will need to work together to gather existing content that can be used to answer relevant questions.
Next, teams will need to identify any new pieces of content needed to appropriately respond to the RFP. Once identified, these requests for new content can be sent to SMEs or outside team members who will search for answers and craft new relevant responses.
Finally, once all content is crafted and ready, teams will build their RFP response. Generally, this process involves using a pre-approved template to package all content answers and necessary information into an eye-catching final RFP response or project proposal.
5. Submitting the RFP response
Once everything is reviewed, revised, and approved, it’s time to submit the RFP response. While this can be a straightforward task, teams need to pay close attention to the initial RFP before submitting. Most RFPs will include specific requirements for how all proposals or responses should be submitted. Check back on these requirements to ensure teams are sending the appropriate file type to the appropriate place.
6. Auditing and analyzing responses
Finally, after a response is submitted, teams should set aside time to audit and analyze the results. Using analytics software teams can track which RFP responses won bids, which pieces of content were most used, and which content pieces need retooling. This information is crucial for securing future wins and can help response teams remain proactive rather than reactive.
What is RFP Management?
When thinking about RFP management, we’re usually thinking about responding to an RFP. The RFP response process can be time-consuming, repetitive, tiring, and seem endless. Keeping track of all proposals submitted and all the RFPs posted can prove to be a humongous and tedious job. That’s why companies need to invest in a high-quality RFP response management tool.
The right RFP management tool can help a company streamline their entire RFP response process and reduce the human effort and time spent responding to RFPs. It can also allow the company to respond to more RFPs and spend more time customizing each RFP response they work on.
Different types of companies rely on different types of RFP response management tools. But the most commonly used tool is RFP response management software.
What is RFP Management software?
RFP management software helps businesses manage every step of the RFP response process from organization to final document creation. Many businesses rely on standard workforce productivity tools to manage their RFP response process. While these tools can be useful, they might not be the best fit for every business. Additionally, using multiple tools to create and respond to an RFP often results in a disjointed and time-consuming process.
RFP management software archives information in central storage and provides relevant stakeholders with access to all content and documents when needed. It allows automated reminder messages to be sent to everyone who contributes to the RFP process to ensure that the workflow is streamlined, and tasks are completed on time. It also promotes transparency in the system and allows all stakeholders to follow the bid selection process.
A good RFP management tool increases the efficiency of the RFP process, enabling companies to issue more RFP responses in less time. It also provides a common storage space for easy access to data, documents, information, and better visibility to all those who are involved in the RFP response process.
Many tools offer collaboration features so different stakeholders can build the RFP together, ensuring that the RFP has clarity and no errors. RFP management tools also allow the management team to assign scoring, invite evaluators to evaluate certain sections or the entire RFP response, and more.
For most companies, using comprehensive RFP management software is the best solution. A good RFP management software will include powerful features to help teams tackle multiple parts of the RFP response, such as:
- Availability of templates for RFP document creation
- Storage to create a repository of templates and documents that can be used to generate RFP responses quickly
- Automatic generation of proposals and quotes based on stored answers and content
- Integration with tools like CPQ and CRM to extract data
- Creation and sharing of RFP responses while allowing feedback and editing
- Evaluation and analysis of the efficiency of the proposal process
- Maintenance of an audit trail and history of all content used in the RFP response process.
- Availability of robust reporting features to track success of content and responses.
Benefits of RFP Management software
Today, a massive variety of technology is available that can help organizations manage the overall RFP process, making it more efficient, cost-effective, and less time-consuming. By integrating RFP management software with the existing RFP response process, businesses can avoid performing manual repetitive tasks and instead automate them. This empowers teams to focus time and resources on more important jobs at hand. Streamlining the data management process using the right tools can prove to be very beneficial.
Ultimately good RFP management software can help teams:
- Streamline RFP management
- Find appropriate content
- Collaborate throughout the RFP response process
- Increase the number of RFP responses
- Reduce chances of errors
- Automate processes
Streamline RFP management
As mentioned above, the RFP management process can be complicated and time-consuming. RFP management software streamlines processes, saving a company valuable time, resources, and money.
RFP management software might include tools for setting up custom workflows for review, approval, and gathering content as well as tools for setting up deadlines and due dates. When used appropriately, these tools keep all stakeholders in the loop and aware of necessary deadlines and project milestones. Additionally, by automating these processes through workflows, teams can devote less time to manually keeping track of assignments and more time customizing RFP responses.
Finding appropriate content
All good RFP management software should include tools for finding and storing appropriate content. Since RFP responses are often complex documents, sometimes with hundreds of pages, organizations need a place to store and categorize content to stay ahead of the game.
These central content libraries usually include features for tagging, organizing, and structuring content. Teams will use these libraries to find appropriate answers and store new content pieces. By keeping all content in one singular location, teams spend less time searching for answers and more time responding to RFPs. Additionally, through the use of automation, many RFP management solutions can automatically scan RFPs and suggest relevant content pieces stored in the library. This type of automation significantly cuts down on the time teams spend responding to questions asked in an RFP, allowing them to get to final draft faster.
Collaborating throughout the response process
Response teams are often diverse and distributed across an organization. To respond to an RFP an organization might need to talk to marketing team members, top sales staff, content writers, subject matter experts, proposal managers, and many other members of an organization.
RFP management software usually includes features that improve collaboration. This could be features for in-product messaging, workflows for review and approval, or integrations with other popular workforce productivity software. Whatever the specific features, using RFP management software helps boost collaboration by keeping all stakeholders in the loop.
RFP management software also improves collaboration by centralizing all work and discussions related to an RFP response. This might take the form of in-product messaging where all comments and questions related to the RFP response are collected within the software. Or it might take the form of native integrations to tools organizations already use like SharePoint, Teams, or Microsoft Office.
Reduced chances of error
By automating processes and allowing AI-assisted intelligence to utilize your central content library there’s less risk of error. While humans still need to check the document, there’s less likelihood sections or information will be missed or incorrectly noted.
When repetitive, menial, and data-heavy tasks involved in the RFP process are automated, it reduces the risk of human error. At the same time, it allows team members to devote time to more important tasks that help in value addition to the process.
Some tasks which can be automated are:
- Extracting data from the central content library to load it to RFP response
- Tracking the lifecycle of the RFP response
- Notifying stakeholders of the RFP process about the tasks they need to perform
- Automatically suggesting relevant content or answers
Request for Proposal Management is Essential
Once an organization reaches a certain size, managing RFP responses becomes unwieldy. The documents are often large, highly confidential, require many inputs from diverse sources, and need to be very consistent and accurate.
For this to happen, some management process is required. While manual management via spreadsheet is acceptable for small numbers of proposal requests, a certain amount of automation and integration is required. This need increases as the complexity and volume of requests increase. Failure to manage this process correctly results in huge loss of time, possibility of errors, and proposals that aren’t helpful or comparable with others.