A request for proposal (RFP) is a formal invitation for organizations to submit their qualifications to provide a product or service. Those who have experienced this process — whether issuing or responding to RFPs — know exactly how frustrating it can be.
Fortunately, RFP software can substantially improve the overall experience for both issuers and responders … but what exactly is RFP software?
RFP software empowers issuers and/or responders to simplify the RFP process by streamlining complex, time-consuming tasks. Generally, this type of software relies on some combination of automated workflows and document sharing.
The idea behind RFP software is that RFP issuers and responders often repeat work unnecessarily due to information silos and poor document version control.
“There’s a lot of inefficiencies in the RFP process, and there’s a lot of data that needs to see the light of day and that needs to be released,” said David Hulsen, Co-Founder and Operational Lead at RFP365 — which offers the only end-to-end RFP software on the market that streamlines the RFP process for both issuers and responders.
So, how does RFP software help?
5 ways RFP software streamlines the RFP process.
- Provides easy access to vital information
- Ensures version control among key documents
- Helps users track progress
- Addresses security concerns
- Helps issuers evaluate vendors
1. Provides easy access to vital information
According to Stuart Ludlow, Co-Founder and Technical Lead at RFP365, “around 60 percent of an RFP is just boilerplate stuff,” meaning the same information get used over and over again.
Unfortunately, many organizations have trouble providing an easy way for its employees to find and access that boilerplate information.
That’s where a solid electronic knowledge base comes in to play.
As stated in an article on Technopedia, an effective knowledge base:
“Promotes the collection, organization and retrieval of knowledge. Many knowledge bases are structured around artificial intelligence and not only store data but find solutions for further problems using data from previous experience stored as part of the knowledge base.
“Knowledge management systems depend on data management technologies ranging from relational databases to data warehouses. Some knowledge bases are little more than indexed encyclopedic information; others are interactive and behave/respond according to the input prompted from the user.”
In the context of RFP software, a knowledge base should provide the following:
- A central repository where users can draw upon previously used RFP content to help create or answer questions.
- The ability to segment and tag content so users can quickly find the information they’re looking for.
- The ability to see who added the content, as well as when and by whom it was last edited.
Creating and responding to RFPs requires collaboration between multiple stakeholders. When done manually this can lead to issues where multiple people simultaneously work on different versions of the same document.
Trying to bring together each individual’s edits into a single document is difficult and can lead to inaccuracies.
An effective RFP software will allow multiple users to make edits on a single document, so users can always be sure they’re working with the most recent version. (This is one of the main reasons using Excel as your RFP management solution is a horrible idea.)
In this instance, the capabilities needed depend on the user.
Consultants who are issuing RFPs to help their clients find the right solution will need to ensure they can work on documents alongside their clients.
Responders, on the other hand, need to ensure that various internal writers can all work on the same version of their proposal and that they can grant editing permissions to as many writers as needed.
In both cases, seeing when the document was last edited and by whom can help users ensure the document’s accuracy.
Organizations often need to issue or respond to RFPs very quickly. Providing the project manager with visibility into the progress of subject matter experts (SMEs) and key stakeholders creating or answering RFP questions ensures he or she can take appropriate action if progress stalls.
RFP responders will generally want software that can track how quickly their writers and approvers are answering questions, as well as whether key information in their knowledge base is updated regularly.
For RFP issuers, software should track how quickly vendors are preparing their responses, as well as how quickly decision-makers evaluate vendors once they submit their proposal.
Determining the security of a vendor’s solution is a top priority for many RFP issuers. Over the past several years, security breaches that put sensitive data into nefarious hands have become increasingly common. And those breaches often have lasting repercussions.
RFP software makes it easy for issuers to create security questionnaires that identify vendor risk by:
- Tracking real-time vendor completion progress.
- Automatically scoring vendor responses.
- Storing and organizing key vendor security documentation.
In addition, the right RFP solution will empower responders to calm buyers’ fears by:
- Assigning security questions to the SMEs best equipped to answer them and tracking their progress.
- Identifying who answered which questions and when they were answered.
- Providing easy access to previously written security responses, as well as identifying when they were last updated and by whom.
Identifying the best vendor involves more than simply collecting information about them. It also involves weighing the pros and cons and determining which vendor offers a solution that’s most likely to satisfy the RFP issuer’s needs.
That’s where a strategic evaluation method — such as weighted scoring — comes into play.
Effective RFP software will empower multiple users to score responses side by side and even set up weighted scoring configurations to help users more effectively assess the impact each vendor would have.
In some cases, the ability to share feedback with vendors on how they were scored and why will also be valuable.
For consultants who issue multiple RFPs on behalf of their clients, software that supports the creation of vendor profiles is key. A vendor profile consists of a questionnaire or set of questionnaires that vendors can respond to and update at any time, empowering consultants to stay up to date on new solution features and capabilities vendors offer.
Learn how RFP365’s end-to-end RFP management solution can streamline the RFP process at your company.