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When drafting request for proposal (RFP) documents from scratch, organizations often lack time to customize them in a way that would truly resonate with potential vendors. Likewise, service suppliers that are sending their RFP responses can benefit from an automated process that lets them focus on properly responding to each RFP’s questions — especially when they are answering to multiple RFPs.
Enter RFP automation — a solution that helps both organizations procuring services and vendors providing them.
In this article, we will discuss what RFP automation is, what its greatest benefits are and which RFP processes can be automated.
What is RFP automation?
RFP automation is the process of completing the RFP creation, management and evaluation tasks with the help of automation technology.
Procurement teams deploy automation primarily through RFP management software, also called strategic sourcing software. RFP software technology relies on artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) to power its automation capabilities.
What RFP processes can be automated?
Numerous RFP process steps are manual and time-consuming. However, RFP technology can help automate reminders, project management notifications and stakeholder cooperation.
Most commonly, these RFP steps benefit the most from automation:
- Stakeholder requirement collection: Instead of manually sending emails to each stakeholder involved in the procurement process, RFP software lets you collect their RFP requirements to streamline your research process and save their feedback for future reference.
- Creating vendor profiles: RFP software enables vendors to update their information actively, which is very useful if you have a vendor profile catalog. When you need to send out a new request for proposal, you will always have the latest vendor offering and information at your disposal.
- Making and saving RFP templates: Store your RFP templates and questions to create new RFP projects faster and easier, without searching for and patching up old RFPs together. You can save and categorize individual questions based on the kind of procurement, or create questions groupings for technical information, security questions etc.
- Sending out RFPs and communicating with vendors: RFP software lets you select the right vendor from its database, issue the RFP, provide updates and send follow-up notifications to vendors.
- Tracking vendor proposal progress: Always be aware of who is responding to your RFP by checking the RFP software dashboard instead of getting in touch and inquiring manually with each vendor. This can significantly shorten and optimize your RFP timeline.
- Scoring proposals: The RFP scoring process engages all stakeholders and parties related to the RFP. It is a time-consuming and potentially complex process that RFP automation can radically simplify. It takes away breaking down each proposal to its relevant sections, collecting and collating feedback and averaging scores manually to replace all of it with reviewing the results with very little effort.
Benefits of RFP automation
RFP automation helps organizations that procure services create and respond to more RFPs — 43% more per year on average.
It works wonders for vendors, too. According to the RFPIO’s 2021 Benchmark Report on Proposal Management, when reinvesting the time savings made with automation into improving response quality, service providers can benefit from a major revenue boost.
For both vendors and organizations looking to procure their services, saving time through an efficient, automated process can create additional hours to consider business opportunities or improve other processes.
RFP automation allows the establishment of a proactive process, in which technology handles most of the heavy lifting, while stakeholders and team members can focus on the quality of the actual content in RFPs and responses.
In a nutshell, the three most tangible benefits of RFP automation are:
- Time savings and increase in productivity: The effect of automation is most visible in the rise of productivity and time saving. When procurement teams spend less time performing routine tasks, they can focus on more high-value aspects of procurement.
- Better compliance: Numerous emails, messages and spreadsheets are a standard fare when it comes to manually issuing RFPs. This creates the so-called siloed knowledge that increases the risk of sending RFPs with wrong info. RFP automation tools centralize this knowledge through a collaborative environment in which procurement teams and stakeholders work together on RFP requirements and questions.
- Data capture: According to Deloitte, 54% of those surveyed say that analytics will have the biggest impact on businesses in future. Automated processes can gather data that lets businesses evaluate their RFP ROI. With data capture, RFP software empowers cost optimization and process efficiency. According to RFP360’s Piper Jordan study, the company redirected over 40 hours of week to other work processes after implementing RFP automation.
3 signs you need RFP automation
There is plenty in favor of RFP automation as we’ve established, but how can you know when you need to implement it? Here are the three most telling signs that RFP automation would simplify your processes.
1. Your services are becoming complex
Companies whose product or service catalog is becoming extensive deal with the kind of complexity and tight RFP deadlines. To solve this, they need a single location where they can store and find all the approved RFPs and proposals.
RFP automation library helps store and centralize all RFP questions for specific services and products. For vendors, it can be used to store their past winning answers they can reuse for future RFP responses.
2. You have an increasing need for more RFPs (or more responses)
RFP software automation delivers high-quality RFPs and proposals, depending on whether you’re procuring vendor services or supplying them.
The automation software allows you to:
- Insert the most relevant RFP questions or answers automatically and build a draft quickly
- Collaborate in real-time and add automatic workflows aided by experts
- Use formatting templates to quickly brand your RFPs or RFP responses
3. You have issues with compliance standards
If your business is tied to numerous regulations and compliance standards, such as GDRP, HIPAA, FERPA and others, RFP automation can help by automatically building audit trails and providing user access only to the content they need for their specific work.
By limiting access to sensitive data, RFP automation tools add a level of content control and visibility that hugely improves your risk management approach and keeps your content and information management processes ready for audit.
Also, organizations can export and audit trail report from the RFP automation software on demand, instead of waiting to hear back from the compliance team.
RFP Automation Takeaways
Automating your request for proposal processes comes with numerous benefits, most notable of which are:
- Boost in productivity
- Saving time
- Improving compliance
- Capturing valuable data
Numerous RFP processes can be automated, from collecting requirements to tracking vendor proposals and scoring them. RFP automation is particularly advisable for businesses with complex services, the increasing number of request for proposals and those needing to comply with a number of different compliance standards.
Andrej Vidovic is a content writer for a B2B marketplace website DesignRush, writing on such topics as digital marketing, branding, business growth, website development and design best practices.