Do you run your bid management processes through office productivity suites? Here are the challenges.
During a recent webinar on, “Digitizing your Bid processes”, we polled the audience to understand how do they handle their bid management processes. 94% said they still run their bid management processes using office productivity tools!
It is not uncommon for organisations to use office productivity suites for multiple business functions. Spreadsheet is probably the most widely used, followed by document editor, and email services. And while these suites continue to improve their functionalities, their DNA poses many challenges for organizations running their key revenue-impacting processes atop them. Little wonder that Wall Street Journal wrote how CFO organizations across different industries are realizing the challenges of their over-reliance on spread-sheets.
From a B2B sales and bid perspective, fundamentally there are two challenges in using office productivity suites:
I. Un-synchronized processes – Different teams working on different elements of the bids (solution, pricing, proposal) is the essential nature of a bid response. Relying only of office suites make the processes un-trackable and therefore un-reliable. Resulting in:
1. Lack of visibility – When you are running 30-40 bids a year, executives need proper visibility of the overall progress. Which bids are due when, where are we lagging, which elements need expedition, etc.? Today, the only way to know this is to pick up the phone and talk to the sales or bid manager. Some organisations release a weekly tracker but that is not completely effective.
Lack of visibility implies lack of focus on important deals, poor resource allocation, and thereby lesser chances of win.
No one ever drove towards victory, without clearing the fog.
2. Limited retrievability – During a bid processes multiple documents get created, revised, and reviewed. Whether it’s – Solution, Proposal, or Pricing. And by different authors. The lack of synchronization and integration leads to serious depletion in productivity with participants constantly re-working to synch their work with one another.
Secondly, what if employees leave, change roles. At times the email storage gets corrupted. Laptops crash. It’s not easy to retrieve information in such a scenario. Some organizations have started creating folders to dump their data. This is a good start but not enough.
Person-dependency can be the single-biggest obstacle in the information economy.
3. Poor traceability – Given the nature of the data it includes, bid information is extremely sensitive and confidential. Its crucial to know which participants performed which actions. Who approved the bid? Which conditions were not approved? If email is the system of record, getting this information is extremely difficult and highly person dependant.
Audits exists for a reason.
4. Make-shift Integration with upstream and downstream processes – The role of bid management is quite literally, central to the B2B sales process. It sits between the CRM and the ERP. While the CRM will store all leads, the qualified ones will flow into Bid management. If the bid is won, the order details will flow into the ERP for invoicing and collections. Without an application in the centre, both the CRM and ERP struggle to remain in synch, and leaving organizations with a lot of reconciliations.
II. Dis-integrated data - The second challenge using office suites for bid response is dis-integrated data. In this day and age when organizations are leveraging data for competitive advantage, by not digitizing the bid management process, B2B organizations are leaving a lot on the table.
Bringing together historical data into a single-repository has been the foundational premise for leveraging it. Joining the dots, and forecasting practices and policies can set one organization miles part, from its peers. Imagine the possibilities if your – solution, pricing and proposal data could be brought together, along with win-loss information. In particular, B2B organizations can leverage data at two levels:
a. Price-to-win: By analysing past deals and comparing it with similar/recent deals, organizations can make better deal decisions. Clustering and segmentation techniques can help determine win characteristics for different territories and business units.
b. Technical Solution/Estimation: What is the variance between the current estimation/solution compared to similar bids we executed earlier. How do the BOMs compare? Where can we leverage past work and where it may be riskier. These are the essential decisions every technical participant/reviewer/approver needs to make. Without integrated data, such decisions are no more than gut feelings.
c. Risk Assessment: This is probably an equally important aspect in a bid, but one which gets lesser attention. Bringing together data from earlier bids, organizations can develop risk scores for upcoming bids and thereby reduce/minimize their exposure.
2. Business trends:
a. How has the value and volume of bids changed over time?
b. What has been the discount trends of bought-out items, by OEM or sub-con?
c. Who is our key competitor – by territory?
d. How do the commercials change – from approval-1 thru contract, by BU?
e. Productivity of bid team members
Un-synchronized processes and dis-integrated data are at the core of un-competitive decisions. While office suites have a role to play, running revenue-impacting process atop them, can be a critical handicap. Business applications bridge most of the challenges and position organizations on the path of competitive advantage. Let’s hope that digitization and data analysis can bring down the 94% significantly, in the coming years.
Comments and observations welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.