The most successful bidding companies take a proactive, systematic and repeatable approach to qualifying opportunities and securing more business through the open competitive tender or bidding process.
Improving organisational capability in work-winning behaviors through formalised processes is now a core competency for sales and revenue enablement leaders. Now with digital and automation solutions on the rise, bid management must adapt if it wants to race ahead and reap the benefits.
The arm’s length, complex procurement process
Selling to public and private organisations via the competitive bidding or tender process requires a special set of skills, and a defined approach. While bid management is an executive sales role within an organisation, Request for Proposals (and other types of RFx), and how to approach them, are not the same as sales proposals.
Enforceable rules and considerations around value and risk of the goods, services or works make the process especially complex. With procurement guidelines now establishing participation requirements to increase competition, companies seeking to mature their processes will need to build new competencies.
Unleashing the power of digital platforms and advanced analytics in bid management is one of the greatest opportunities for sales organisations today to boost productivity and streamline efficiencies in what has been a traditionally manual process reliant on spreadsheets and email trails.
The most powerful way to realise the full potential of digitised bid management is through a user-oriented transformation of the entire end-to-end process. That goal translates into a focus on the user experience to instil systematic and repeatable work-winning behaviours across the enterprise.
Using bid (and big) data to power your productivity and performance
Today’s most advanced sales organisations are already using analytics to extract value from historical customer data through their CRMs. Opportunity qualification, solutions development, bid strategy and customer insights however, either live in disparate systems or ring bound folders or worse, remain unrecorded and untracked.
These essential work-winning elements can all be transformed when companies abandon heuristic or gut feel approaches and instead commit to driving productivity by executing coordinated processes in a more organised and informed way.
Digital technologies have the potential to boost bid management quality management to a whole new level. Big data, advanced analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and API integration between collaborative platforms provide a high degree of precision, enabling companies to predict and mitigate quality failures much more effectively than in the past.
New tools and technologies can help organisations:
- centralise the capture and sharing of lessons learned and customer insights to assess customer needs and evolving opportunities during the planning and pursuit phases
- overcome silos to collaborate across sales, business development, technical and commercial functions using tools that facilitate knowledge capture, and resource and task allocation
- fast-track proposal development
- aggregate the wisdom of hindsight with powerful data analytics to inform future decisions.
Using technology as a retention strategy
Today over 50% of the world’s population is under 30 years of age and mobile devices are now responsible for over 50% of all ecommerce traffic. With such progression in the way people are buying goods and services, businesses are leveraging technology to understand both buyer and seller dynamics.
Communication avenues are being driven by social media, and individuals and businesses are now able to consume and share unstructured content where and whenever they want. Enterprises, however, are often complex and fragmented with multiple touchpoints, legacy systems and processes, and channel and data constraints.
In Gartner’s 4Q18 Global Talent Monitor it was cited that “people have become so used to advanced technology in their day-to-day lives, that they expect the same thing from their workplace. However, businesses are having a hard time matching the speed at which technology is adopted at home.”
“…people have become so used to advanced technology in their day-to-day lives, that they expect the same thing from their workplace. However, businesses are having a hard time matching the speed at which technology is adopted at home.” Gartner (2018).
The article continues, that “employees grow increasingly frustrated with workplaces that expect them to work with outdated, slow and complex technology”. The article attributes technology as now ranking in the top 10 reasons Australian employees will leave their current role. Despite the article referencing Australian employees, the study is part of a larger global research effort.
In the bid management industry, technology adoption has been traditionally slow on the uptake, but with the new Bid Coordinator Apprenticeships Standard being introduced in the UK (and similar models emerging in other countries), attracting and retaining digital natives by removing technology friction will be critical for staying competitive.
Analysing the flow of data between systems provides highly valuable insights, enabling teams to understand the relational factors that dictate whether an RFx has been a success or a failure, and guiding teams on how to shape a winning RFx in the context of each new opportunity.
Process convergence and automation strategy
Another challenge for companies wanting to streamline their traditional bid management processes is the relative compartmentalisation of the key phases in bid management and different ownership of the many steps used to perform them.
Each phase is typically assigned a ‘tool’ to manage the step. Content and knowledge capture is managed in Word or Excel; with collaboration enabled through document management and storage systems hosted on web-based intranets that require time-consuming and expensive configuration to ensure it is fit-for-purpose.
In the digital end-to-end process, companies are able to streamline their disparate processes with seamless connected workflow, information assets and data insights. In doing so they can assess their current state, identify resourcing and knowledge gaps, and develop a prioritised plan for bridging them.
By replacing paper-based formats with a cloud based platform with high-quality online user interface, companies can now incorporate advanced tools to capture and aggregate company, regional and business unit contract revenue data, content analytics, and team performance analytics.
In the very near future, these systems will combine robotic process automation (RPA) with cognitive technologies such as machine learning, speech recognition, and natural language processing to automate higher-order tasks with AI assist that in the past required the perceptual and judgement capabilities of humans. These enhanced capabilities have potential to be applied to shredding of RFx requirements, bid and project team formation, kick-off meetings and gate review workshops; solutions development and KPI and contract performance outcome reporting.
“These enhanced capabilities have potential to be applied to shredding of RFx requirements, bid and project team formation, kick-off meetings and gate review workshops; solutions development and KPI and contract performance outcome reporting”.
Transitioning to a digital bid management process
The tasks and skills that are required of bid management practitioners in today’s global business environment have changed significantly. Instead, their roles are extending to encompass information facilitation, repositioning them as knowledge experts rather than technical writers. This includes a greater emphasis on leadership, project management and coaching across dispersed environments that support globalised, remote workforces.
Transient workforce trends also mean companies must take steps to retain critical knowledge. To keep up with their competitors, they must also keep their employees engaged and supported with tools that help to cultivate a flexible, collaborative and fun workplace.
In today’s global business environment it’s no longer sufficient to rely on traditional best-in-class bid management approaches. Digital technologies are now crucial for defining, monitoring, and improving the quality of sales and revenue enablement activities, and transparency generated through digital solutions can be leveraged even further.
To make the most of digital transformation, companies investing in their bid management functions first need to analyse their current methods for managing the quality of their process in order to determine where their methods are not best-in-class. Once they have addressed these shortcomings, sales and revenue enablement teams can prioritise their digital agenda. A concerted effort is essential if digital investments are to pay off.
That payoff can be substantial. Companies that use digital technologies to drive the end-to-end bid management process to their fullest potential stand to improve the quality and win rate of their bids while increasing revenue, reducing costs, and boosting innovation. And let’s not forget that failure greatly boost costs—in the form of lost contracts, redundancies, warranty claims, and lawsuits—and damage to revenue and brand reputation irrevocably.