Herding Cats: Organizing Your RFP Responses Using File Sharing and Document Collaboration
Here is the scenario that many request for proposal (RFP) or request for quote (RFQ) responders face: It is a quarter to 5:00pm on Friday. The RFP (RFQ) is due at 5:00 pm today. Not 5:01pm. The computer system that accepts bids stops accepting inputs at 5:00 pm, sharp. No exceptions. You don’t have all your responses back from your co-workers. You begin to PANIC. Or, if you have been here before, you cut-and-paste some routine, generic responses so the spaces don’t appear blank. Either way, this is the best that you’ve got. Not your best work. Want to do better?
Managing and responding to RFPs is tough. Bid requesters ask many questions about service, pricing, corporate policies, contract terms and conditions, compliance matters, data security, just to name a few. Chances are, you are no expert in all these fields. If you are well organized and have done this fire drill before, you probably fare better than most. But for most of us, it is like herding cats. You need input from many colleagues who have lots to do other than work on your RFP. And try to set a meeting where all parties can attend. Good luck; it’s not going to happen. You need a better process of gathering the information you need, synthesizing it for the RFP, having your colleagues review it multiple times, all before the submission deadline. A document collaboration platform can help you better manage this process.
MANAGING TIMELY RFP RESPONSES
Many bid requestors send a text document template or spreadsheet for respondents to complete. In these instances, you should upload the template or spreadsheet into the document collaboration system as the primary document to edit. When you use a document collaboration system, you allow controlled access to documents for selected people. Each person has a unique collaboration identity so you can manage who can edit, view, or download which files, if any. The collaboration system hosts the primary document you and your colleagues will edit. An RFP collaboration process can work in this way:
1. You upload the primary RFP document to the collaboration system.
2. Using its file sharing feature, you send email links that invite your colleagues to participate in the collaboration effort. You want to password protect access to the hosted document since it most likely contains confidential information about your company. You should also set an expiration date on the link. This will help you manage the tight RFP timeline and prevent unanticipated additional edits after you begin your final review of your RFP document.
3. In the note section of the link you send (or in a separate email message), be sure that your colleagues understand that they have two ways of editing the primary document: First, they can follow the link, enter the password, and join others in a real-time edit of the primary document. Note that in the Crimson Econtracts collaboration platform, colleagues can use video chat and messaging while editing the primary document in real-time. Second, colleagues can edit the primary document any tine it is available, whether or not a real-time session is active. All edits are version-controlled and saved on the secured server.
4. You can also schedule meetings in the collaboration platform by adding a meeting in the Calendar app and sending meeting invitations. Be sure to schedule one real-time final meeting before the RFP is due. At this meeting your group can review the final submission and add last minute information as needed.
5. Some bid requesters require that you convert your proposal to a PDF and sign it. In the Crimson Econtracts platform, electronic signature capability is included.
By centralizing your RPF responses using a documentation collaboration platform, you are able to better organize your materials and resources, ensure that the subject-matter experts address the bid requestors questions (as oppose to providing generic, fill-in-the blank replies), produce a quality, responsive submission, and get it completed in time.
A BETTER RFP PRESENTATION
If you are fortunate to get an invitation to make an oral presentation, you can use the document collaboration platform to prepare your best presentation. First upload your PowerPoint slide or develop in the collaboration platform your RFP presentation using the Impress app. In the Crimson Econtracts platform, you can create a new presentation from the main menu. Next, using the Talk feature in the collaboration platform, send email links to colleagues to share your presentation. You can use the Talk feature to allow many colleagues to view your presentation in real-time. Have your colleagues mute their Talk application while your are presenting. Colleagues can use the message feature to introduce suggestions and ideas. You can allow colleagues to edit or add to your presentation by sharing editing permission. Once you and your colleagues finalize your presentation, share the link with them or convert to PDF to preserve it.
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About the Author.
Nat James is a practicing North Carolina attorney in the Research Triangle Park area. Mr. James has drafted, negotiated, and closed business contracts for clients since 1992. This material represent his observations from past experiences. It is not intended to provide you legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship between you and Mr. James. If you need legal assistance, seek independent legal counsel by contacting your State Bar or State Bar Association.