This post was originally published by RFPIO.
Microsoft is a company dedicated to empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. True to its mission, Microsoft is committed to helping customers modernize processes and achieve digital transformations at scale. This commitment applies internally, as well: Microsoft encourages all employees to use a growth mindset across all efforts and requires everyone to ask questions and continually improve their processes, tools, and workflows.
In 2019, proposal professionals at Microsoft saw an opportunity to improve the efficiency of proposal response management with AI-based tools and enhanced collaboration across teams. By augmenting Microsoft’s proposal response process with the right solution, it was clear they could save their salesforce valuable time that could be otherwise spent with customers — and propel their proposals to a new level of excellence.
Microsoft needed a scalable and flexible response management platform that supported multiple teams, languages, and content types, while smoothly integrating into its tech stack. And it needed the right solution partner to help. With RFPIO’s partnership, Microsoft reimagined its proposal process — significantly improving efficiency and productivity with 5 key principles:
Unleash the power of knowledge
According to a McKinsey report, employees spend nearly 20% of their time looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks.
RFPIO believes that democratizing knowledge is essential to working effectively. That’s why it offers an unlimited user licensing model, enabling customers to give everyone access to the answers they need. No hidden fees, and no strings attached.
Similarly, Microsoft believes in giving its teams the tools they need to thrive. For sales teams, that means spending less time searching for answers, and more time listening to customers, creating solutions, and managing pipelines.
RFPIO made giving access easy, thanks to its integration with Azure Active Directory (AAD). With a simple email, thousands of users across the company have securely activated their accounts using their existing Microsoft corporate credentials.
The response from the field has been overwhelmingly positive. Eric Fink, Dynamics & Business Applications Specialist, said, “The first time I logged into RFPIO, it took me about 10 minutes to get comfortable with the platform. After that, I quickly found responses to all of my open questions — seeing 100% value from the very beginning.”
Today, a year and a half after implementing RFPIO, nearly 7,000 Microsoft users already have access to the platform. In the 18 months since deployment, Microsoft users have pulled over 36,200 ready-to-go RFx responses from the managed RFPIO Answer Library. With a conservative estimate of 20 minutes saved per response, Microsoft estimates $2.4M in savings.
Stay secure and connected
Strong privacy and security practices are critical to Microsoft’s mission and essential to customer trust. The standards captured in its Supplier Security and Privacy Assurance (SSPA) reflect company values and extend to suppliers who handle Microsoft data on their behalf.
RFPIO’s proposal automation solution meets the privacy and security policies and integrates nicely into Microsoft’s existing tech stack. Microsoft’s RFPIO platform is hosted securely on Azure with AAD authentication and integrates with Microsoft Translator to support its multi-lingual customer base. In addition to the standard browser experience, RFPIO has a variety of modalities that foster adoption by meeting employees right where they are:
- Microsoft Teams – Proposal Project App
- Microsoft Teams – Answer Library Chatbot
- Microsoft Teams – Notifications Bot
- RFPIO® LookUp for Office (Beta)
By giving everyone access in familiar platforms, RFPIO has improved collaboration and enables proposal managers, contributors, and Field users to search faster — and find the information they need to work effectively.
“We were able to retire a Business Applications chatbot we built for the Field. The RFPIO chatbot is available right from Microsoft Teams and surfaces content from all of our content collections without the maintenance overhead.”
– Vicki Griesinger, Director of Business Strategy, Worldwide Public Sector
Simplify content curation
According to 2019 research from Richardson Sales Performance, the top two biggest challenges when pursuing new opportunities are demonstrating competitive differentiation and creating a case for change.
When sales and proposal teams have ready access to pre-approved content, they’re able to spend more time showing how their solution addresses their customers’ specific problems.
That’s where content curation steps in. At Microsoft, content curation goes beyond organizing and presenting online content. It’s a craft. Content managers shape compliant, compelling, and customer-focused information by proactively seeking out information from subject matter experts, harvesting answers from proposals, and storing content in a shared database for future users.
RFPIO simplifies this process. Advanced content organization, moderation, and review features mean content managers are able to keep content relevant, fresh, and working in harmony with RFPIO’s AI engine.
As a result, proposal professionals can use the AI engine to automatically respond to commonly-seen questions — SIG questionnaires (documents many corporations use to understand risk from potential bidders) that used to take several days to complete, now take just a few hours.
With trusted content at their fingertips, Microsoft’s proposal professionals have time to focus on crafting compelling win messaging tailored to each customer’s needs. With more time to spend polishing each proposal, the stronger their proposals are — and the more likely they are to win.
“At a fast-paced company that is agile at anticipating and responding to the ongoing evolution of technology, Microsoft’s Content Managers have relied on RFPIO to efficiently deploy the best competitive positioning to win business”
– Lisa Duplessie, Business Program Manager at Microsoft
Enhance communication and collaboration
A 2019 study from Forrester found that teams save an average of 4 hours per week from improved collaboration and information sharing. Teams stay collaborative and aligned when all members are working in sync and communicating constantly to accomplish a common goal.
When communication is dispersed across email, chat, and in-person meetings, keeping track of moving parts is complicated and time-consuming, and it’s easy for teams to fall out of alignment.
Microsoft focused its attention on keeping everyone connected and communicating by rethinking their proposal processes. With RFPIO, all communication happens within the application in a single place, using in-app commenting and @-mentioning. Proposal contributors and proposal managers use in-app collaboration features for their projects. SMEs, proposal managers and content owners all communicate within each question-answer pairing, which helps keep content fresh and improves deadline commitments.
Communication around project status has also been simplified to a few clicks. Rather than reaching out to proposal managers for a status update, anyone can check RFPIO project status right from the dashboard in Microsoft Teams. By tracking status in real time, project teams are able to prevent roadblocks before they happen.
“RFPIO’s enterprise-level capabilities enable multiple business units, including partners, to collaborate on a single platform. It also reduces communication channels during the proposal development process.”
– Page Snider, Director of Business Program Management, Microsoft Consulting Services
Stay flexible and keep evolving
According to the Adobe State of Create Report, 78% of respondents agreed organizations that invest in creativity increase employee productivity. When each problem or inefficiency becomes an opportunity to think creatively about finding a solution, the lines defining limitations become blurred.
When the team at Microsoft set off to reimagine the proposal process, they knew it would be a continual journey, a persistent state of questioning the status quo — constantly making tweaks, adjustments, and changes as they go along.
That’s why a solution that was flexible enough to grow alongside their process was a necessity.
“RFPIO has unmatched flexibility in completing a wide variety of Excel templates, making my job easier and faster. Not only that, I appreciate that RFPIO approaches our relationship as a partnership, listening to and implementing our suggestions.”
– Lisa Puckrin, Shipley Certified Proposal Manager at Microsoft
The customer success team at RFPIO has worked closely with Microsoft to continuously evolve to meet its changing needs. Diane Holt, business program manager at Microsoft, added, “RFPIO is a rare gem in that the company delivers a mature product with the agility of a startup. This tool continually improves with capability and usability.”
RFPIO and Microsoft are working together to find new ways to improve efficiency and advance productivity. Rather than staying ensconced in familiar workflows, Microsoft is a company that welcomes the hard work and creative thinking required to push the status quo.
In the end, both Microsoft and RFPIO believe that when teams are willing and encouraged to think outside the box, processes become more efficient, nimble, and agile… and that’s when results start snowballing.