Top Trends in RFP Response Tools for 2020

As many Proposal teams wind down this time of year, it’s a great time to look ahead and think about training, best practices, and changes for the coming year. One area to consider is what new technology and tools might be helpful to evaluate now for deployment in the new year.

Over the past 10 years, the progress and advancements in digital tools supporting Bid teams hit new heights. What’s coming next in the New Year as well as into the rest of the decade? Here are just a few of the trends that are happening now and will grow exponentially in the coming year and beyond.

Content Libraries and Repositories

Despite the progress with digital tools for supporting RFP responses, content libraries and repositories for proposal development remain a challenge. According to the 2019 APMP Industry U.S. Benchmark Survey Report, “Access to resources for proposal development (e.g., proposal templates, content libraries, and CRM) is strong, yet many of these tools are not user-ready and require many revisions or are not actively maintained.” 

Why has this crucial part of the RFP process lagged behind? Simply because it still takes too much time and effort on behalf of actual team members to do it. And technology hasn’t caught up with the challenge—until now. There is an immense amount of data that is buried in these documents and can be difficult to parse out due to language. 

But, thankfully, things are changing. 2020 and the next decade will finally deliver the remedy to the content repository and library headache through new, easy-to-adopt solutions. Not only will content finally be in one central spot, but also easily findable. You can discover any phrase or any text with a single click and insert it into your new proposal. At the same time, management is so much easier with functionality that allows the technology to keep track of content—not you.

Collaboration

Over the past few years, truly collaborative approaches to RFP responses have begun to emerge. Sales teams recognize the need to get the proposal team involved much earlier in the sales cycle—and the proposal team has recognized how sales can contribute their expertise in the drafting of a successful RFP response. 

At the same time, collaboration is extending out to even more stakeholders within an organization. Tapping into leadership and subject matter experts brings more perspectives and insights for a strategic bid. However, this trend of more collaboration and voices can also lead to version control issues, bottlenecks, and workflow challenges.

The next step is creating truly organized collaboration. Technology can now enable the RFP writer or manager to simply tag a stakeholder for input with a pre-determined deadline. There is also transparency of the RFP response’s status and where it stands in the review process. Collaboration is core to a winning RFP, but it can only happen with the latest advancements that make it a seamless, efficient process.

Integration of Proposal, Sales, and Support Systems

Organizational silos are becoming a thing of the past, whether it’s marketing, sales, support, product, or legal teams. Overall company success hinges on a holistic approach where departments are increasingly tied to each other for collaboration and communication. 

For the proposal teams specifically, collaboration is just one part of the puzzle. There is now a concerted effort to bring together entire systems—not just the process. CRM, CPQ, and more must be fully integrated to provide full views of customers and data. The benefits are pretty apparent: If a proposal team can see the latest information about a customer in the CRM, they can better adapt the bid, or even make the recommendation not to bid. Building an ecosystem of teams and technology systems is on the rise to bring about this new level of information transparency.

Artificial Intelligence

There’s a lot of talk about artificial intelligence (AI) across many industries. According to a recent O’Reilly Media survey of more than 1600 respondents, “61 percent, regardless of company size, indicated machine learning and AI as their companies’ most significant data initiative for next year.” But what does the term really mean? To put it simply, AI is a technology that will help you work faster and automate certain mundane tasks. In 2020, it’s going to start making a huge impact on proposals and security questionnaires.

Instead of writing the same content over and over again, AI can help access information from previous proposals or questionnaires and provide the best content right away. This type of time savings helps proposal management professionals and sales teams to focus more on the customization and collaboration required for a winning deal.

There’s one aspect of AI that might surprise you: It actually needs to learn from you. AI doesn’t just arrive ready and out-of-the-box. The more content that is added and the more you work with it, the more the AI engine is able to deliver better and better suggestions as time goes on. Think about it as the admin or assistant you never thought you’d have—and it’s all happening right now. You’ll soon see how AI will save you time and actually open up new opportunities to be more strategic and creative with your RFP responses.

The Future’s So Bright

For years, RFPs and the response process remained rather stagnant. With the cloud becoming mainstream and new document sharing options appearing over the past decade, the digital approach is now the only approach. However, these advancements also brought their own unique challenges. But improvements and new innovations are happening. It’s only a matter of time before these trends are a reality, making even greater impact on the success of RFP responses this year and in the years ahead.