Developing a proposal or Request for Proposal (RFP) can be a challenge considering all the components that are necessary to produce a comprehensive and accurate document. Add to this the fact that many people in your organization need to weigh in on the content, and you’re on deadline, and suddenly an RFP becomes a Really Frustrating Process.
For most accounting firms, the proposal process is a constant problem wrought with inconsistencies. For this featured Spotlight we interviewed John Bowles, the Chief Information and Digital Officer of Dixon Hughes Goodman (DHG) about his recent efforts to find a way to both simplify the proposal process and shore up document integrity using the integrative technology of Microsoft Office 365 with custom extensions to Microsoft Word.
What prompted you to look at streamlining the proposal process?
As you can imagine, DHG has a lot of content and a large number of offices. Our content was reviewed frequently enough and vetted for accuracy, but we still struggled with producing consistent deliverables. People were using outdated information and bios and it was tough to keep up with the latest version. Furthermore, we needed a way to provide well-designed templates to deliver high-quality, consistent proposals.
How did you come to the decision to leverage Office 365 and Word for Proposals?
We knew we needed some form of technology that was easily accessible by everyone in the firm – we didn’t want people to need training to access the software.
So the next question was whether we would buy something or build something. There are a lot of off-the-shelf programs that work well, but none seemed to fit our unique needs. We wanted to have many integration points in order to make it easier on our people and liked the idea of everything being accessible in Office 365 and Word because it was something our people already knew how to use. Our approach allowed us to build a customized program that checked all the right boxes.
In what ways has this technology assisted in streamlining your proposal process?
We are using this technology in two ways. First, we built a solution that leverages existing technologies and fluencies. This new technology allows us to arrange digital artifacts, such as bio or industry qualification descriptions, into organized, context-sensitive collections. The product is very user-friendly – Word creates panes of content that appear on the right side of the screen and as the user selects criteria, other fields of data pop up, creating a drag-and-drop experience. This intuitive technology ensures that our content is aligned and maintains ideation integrity.
Second, we are using Microsoft’s SharePoint online portal to help catalog our digital artifacts, including all proposal content. We call this our Content Center because within this system, RFP and Proposals are designed to work together. The process begins with gathering approved content, which is then catalogued and tagged in SharePoint. Our former methods meant that people would use infographics to go with various narratives, which means the outcome was not consistent across the firm. The new system allows us to provide the right contextual content and assign a shelf life to that content. Adding a shelf life ensures content is reviewed periodically for accuracy.
Who is using this product in your firm and what are the current outcomes?
We have rolled this product out to 50 of our marketers. So far, we have had no complaints. Our team is excited about the fact that this is taking the pain out of assembling proposals and offsetting the inconsistency in the document building process. This system allows us to start the proposal process with a guarantee that the information we’re using is vetted, accurate and current. This helps ensure the level of brand consistency we are looking for and that we are always putting our best foot forward.
Did anything surprise you during this rollout?
If we were surprised by anything it was probably that our users were quick to embrace the change as well as provide some great feedback on what they’d like to see in the next version of the product.
When you build content, you need to properly catalog it. Our next wave of effort will be in the Knowledge Management area. This effort will involve categorizing Knowledge Management content into our Content Center and tieing that into our Workflow system, which will fire off an alert for someone to review, confirm or possibly de-commission content every six months. We are also looking at how to use the system to manage our overall content workflow (automation). At the end of the day, everything we do in marketing comes back to content. We believe this product will allow us to improve outcomes for the content and the content builder.
Want to learn more about how to use technology in your marketing process? We would love to help you achieve a level of zen with your RFP and proposal processes. Contact us today to get started!