Ultimate Guide to Better RFP Project Management: Creating Order Out of Chaotic Manual Processes
Does your procurement team struggle to keep track of your RFP response process? If so, you’re certainly not alone. While creating requests for proposals is a necessity for any company wanting to buy goods or services from a third–party vendor - the process is often quite chaotic.
Does your procurement team struggle to keep track of your RFP response process?
If so, you’re certainly not alone. While creating requests for proposals is a necessity for any company wanting to buy goods or services from a third–party vendor - the process is often quite chaotic.
That’s especially true when attempting to write and manage RFPs manually.
The issue tends to come down to the vast amount of information that goes into the proposal process. Here are just a few of the factors most RFPs need to include:
A well-written overview of your specific needs
Your primary goals and project scope
Background information on your organization
Vendor qualifications and requirements
Any relevant terms and conditions
A detailed timeline
Due to all that goes into an RFP, it’s normal for the documents to be 20-100+ pages in length.
Beyond the massive scope of the document, there’s also tracking and managing all the responses to your proposals, which can be a full-time job in itself.
All this complexity reinforces the need for robust RFP project management.
If you don't have all your RFPs, responses, and quotes strictly organized - you risk overlooking your best options for suppliers.
Project management in this regard typically involves:
appointing a proposal manager to gather intelligence
scheduling and planning stakeholder meetings
facilitating communication between departments
However, if you don’t have an existing process in place for managing your RFPs, you may not know where to start.
That’s why we’ve put together this detailed guide to incorporating winning RFP project management at your organization. Discover how to master the request for proposal process with clever management techniques and intuitive software tools.
5 Invaluable Benefits to Improving Proposal Management
Project management fundamentals are the perfect remedy for the chaos of the RFP process.
That’s because proper project management breaks down the RFP into smaller, more digestible tasks and workflows.
With a trained proposal manager and intuitive software tools like DeepStream at the helm, each individual process will run smoothly and efficiently.
That’s the #1 way to ensure you’re releasing proposal requests that will lead to positive, long-lasting relationships with top-tier suppliers.
Increasing productivity and efficiency aren’t the only benefits you’ll see from incorporating project management into your RFP process, either. Here are 5 enticing benefits associated with RFP project management.
1: Clearly Defines Objectives & Aligns Team Members
If there’s no solid structure in place for how you write, release, and track RFPs, your procurement team won’t know what they need to do or which area to focus on first.
If there are only one or two team members in charge of manually creating and managing RFPs, they’re likely bogged down with a ton of work - which can lead to costly mistakes.
With clearer project management in place, your proposal team will all have plainly defined objectives.
The proposal manager will assign teams to work on RFP creation, response tracking, and supplier evaluation - causing the entire team to align and work at peak efficiency.
2: It Refines the RFP Process Into a Science
With a structured system in place for RFPs, your team will gradually become more familiar with the process, which will improve their speed and overall quality of work.
Practice makes perfect, so the more times your procurement team is able to write and release an RFP to bidding companies, the easier and more predictable it will become.
Before you know it, the RFP process for your organization will transform from a total nightmare into a walk in the park. Instead of dreading RFPs, you’ll look forward to using the best vetting and selection criteria to identify the top supplier(s) for your business.
3: Clears Up Confusion Between Teams by Clearly Defining RFP & Other RFx Processes
Many companies lack a clear understanding of ‘request for’ processes - as they view RFPs as the catch-all for procurement.
Yet, an RFP is only one example of a ‘request for’ process that you can use for evaluating third-party suppliers. Putting proper project management in place includes defining all RFx events for every department involved in the process.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the most commonly used RFx processes:
Defining these events for your staff will help clear up confusion surrounding RFx processes.
Some RFx forms can help make the RFP process simpler, such as a request for information.
They enable you to narrow down your list of potential vendors so that you only have to send RFPs (which are far more detailed) to a few suppliers that you already know are qualified.
4: It Makes Dealing with Issues & Unknowns Easier
If you have your proposal process down to a science, it will make dealing with any unexpected issues far easier.
A hiccup that would have brought everything to a screeching halt will now only take you a few minutes to troubleshoot. Since you’ll have advanced oversight of all your tasks and workflows, pinpointing the issue won’t take long at all.
5: It Makes Your RFPs Stronger & More Relevant
The primary purpose of an RFP is to ask targeted questions to ensure the supplier you choose is not only capable of providing you with what you need but is also trustworthy and a good fit for your organization.
Without RFP project management in place, your procurement team likely won’t know what to include in your questions.
It takes coordinating with key stakeholders at your organization to come up with a list of the most pressing questions you need to ask potential suppliers. It’s crucial to leave no stone unturned here, either. Besides meeting with your procurement team, you should also speak with IT, accounting, and any other departments that will see an impact from the proposal.
7 Simple Steps to the RFP Process for Better Project Management
Now that you know why RFP project management is worth your time and effort, how do you go about implementing it?
After all, there are plenty of ways to approach project management, so what’s the most effective one for RFPs?
While there are a few ways you can go about it, we’ve put together 7 easy-to-follow steps that encompass all the best practices of successful project management.
1: Clearly Identify Project Goals
First, you need to sit down with your procurement team to uncover all your goals for the proposal process.
What do you hope to gain from submitting the proposal? (i.e., finding a parts supplier that has reasonable prices that we can form a long-term relationship with)What does your ideal supplier look like? (i.e., define your desired price range, supplier qualifications, etc.)
How long do you have before you need to make a decision on a vendor?
These are all essential questions to ask during your meetings with your procurement team, executives, and stakeholders. Don’t forget to write down the goals that you come up with and share them with everyone to ensure everyone is on the same page.
2: Form Your Proposal Team
Now that you have your goals in place, you need to form your proposal team. To start, you need to appoint a proposal manager that will oversee and direct the entire process.
From there, you can decide who will fit best for other roles, such as writing the RFPs, developing a budget, and coming up with supplier questions and qualifications.
Your procurement team is an obvious starting point, but you don’t have to only use them. Your proposal team can and should include members of other departments, such as IT, accounting, and legal.
3: Divvy Up Essential RFP Tasks & Workflows
Once your team is put together, it’s time to start assigning tasks to individual team members.
You should consider the workload of each team member, as you don’t want to risk bogging someone down with too much work. Here’s a preview of some of the tasks you’ll need to divide up responsibilities for:
Coming up with questions for the RFP and saving them to a list to automate later
Writing the RFP in a word document
Reading, tracking, and filing supplier responses
Developing a budget for the project
Those are only a few of the tasks involved with the RFP process, which is why splitting up the work across your procurement team is a must. Using RFx software can also dramatically speed up the process and even eliminate some tasks due to automation.
4: Equip Your Team with the Proper Tools
Now that everyone knows what they need to do, it’s up to you to make sure they have the tools and resources they need to get the job done.
For example, your writers are going to need full access to your knowledge library and educational materials.
Beyond that, you need sources to view performance data and customer references for each vendor.
To make the entire process easier and more effective, cloud-based RFx software like DeepStream automates RFP processes and keeps track of all your communications/responses in one location.
5: Write an RFP Brief for Your Team
Before your team gets started, prepare a detailed brief that you email to everyone involved in the RFP process.
Make sure to include the project goals, the breakdown of individual tasks, and the complete timeline when everything is due.
That will let your team know exactly what they need to do and by when, which will keep everything on track. You should also be open to questions from your team during the process, which you can mention in the brief.
6: Schedule a Kickoff Meeting
Now it’s time to formally kick things off by meeting with everyone one last time. This is your chance to go over your strategic plan one last time before your team gets started.
As such, you’ll want to go over everything in full detail while you have everyone together.
It’s also a good idea to release the project brief before the meeting so that your team can reference it. Once the meeting concludes, the onus lies on the proposal manager to keep everything on track.
7: Monitor Your Progress
Last but not least, you need to keep track of your progress by analyzing key metrics. In particular, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your responses from bidding companies.
The most reliable way to monitor the success of your RFPs is to use software like DeepStream’s. With it, you can evaluate supplier quotes, keep track of communications, and automate key processes all in one location.
Use DeepStream to Streamline & Simplify RFP Project Management
If you want to spend far less time worrying about RFx processes, then you need DeepStream.
Are you tired of wasting time writing RFPs manually?
By now, you should have a better understanding of RFP project management. Yet, every process has its challenges, so here are 5 candid tips for mastering the RFP process.
1: Coordinate with Executives
The supplier you choose will affect your entire organization, which is why you shouldn’t take the RFP process lightly.
Closely coordinating with your executive team and Board members will ensure that your proposals closely reflect the needs and values of your business.
2: Lead with Confidence
Any type of project management requires confident leadership. Once you form your project goals, you should stick to them like glue. It’s normal for resistance to occur in organizations whenever a change is imminent, which reinforces the need to stand strong.
While you should certainly pay attention to relevant employee feedback, there’s a difference between that and caving to employee resistance.
Should some resistance arise, double down on your vision and elicit confidence in your team.
3: One Size Does NOT Fit All
It’s important to be adaptable with your RFP project management. By that, we mean that not every proposal requires the same amount of effort.
For smaller projects, you may not need a 47-page proposal with a massive laundry list of requirements. Instead, there’s no shame in drafting a shorter RFP that’s more concise and to the point.
4: Don’t Alter the Process for Small Issues
It’s normal for challenges to pop up here and there during any process, and RFPs are no different. Yet, you must resist the urge to change your process in order to correct a small issue.
Keep your eye on the prize and focus on the big picture when small problems arise, as they’re likely only temporary. Instead, focus on the root cause of the issue and what you can do to prevent it from occurring again.
5: Patience is a Virtue
It’s crucial to be patient when trying out a new RFP project management technique. Nobody masters something on their first try, and it will take some trial and error to tweak your RFP process until it’s picture perfect.
So if you run into a few hiccups or you don’t find an amazing supplier during your initial timeline, don’t give up, and don’t discourage yourself. Good things take time, and it’s worth sticking with RFP project management until you find the formula that works for you.
Elite-Level RFP Project Management to Save Precious Time & Money
Project management and the RFP process are a match made in heaven - primarily due to the complexities of drafting and releasing a request for proposal.
By following this guide, your procurement team should be able to make quick work of your proposals, so you can ultimately find the best vendor for your needs.
To greatly expedite and enhance your RFx processes, don’t wait to try out DeepStream. Our cloud-based RFx platform enables automation, communication tracking, supplier evaluation tools, and a highly intuitive interface. We can set you up in 2 short days, so don’t wait to start your 14-day free trial.