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RFP Content Libraries and the Chaos Dilemma

We often think that content automation will solve the vast majority of our reusability problems when it comes to finding exactly the right answers to our mountain of RFP questions. To some degree this is true but it is only workable with a well thought out strategy to make the effort of constructing an RFP Library worth the challenge in the first place.

Here are some observations:

One of the most useful scientific laws (The second law of Thermodynamics) states that in ‘any closed system the level of disorder (chaos and entropy) will always increase unless work and energy are applied to prevent it’. This precept applies equally well to our efforts to implement RFP and Proposal Libraries.

The typical RFP automation project involves, as it should:

  1. Collecting valid question and answer pairs from past proposals
  2. Correcting them for accuracy and more general use
  3. Applying consistent formatting and styling
  4. Populating them to the content library

This is a considerable exercise and once completed can certainly yield excellent results in the short term.

But from the first use on, the content begins its natural aging process. Products change, services are added or modified, corporate positioning evolves.  

So the first question in tackling an automation initiative should be: “Do we have the organizational wherewithal to make the necessary commitment to a long-term content improvement strategy?” Or to put it another way; “Can we apply the necessary energy to prevent content chaos and entropy from setting in?”

Sounds daunting but it’s really a simple philosophical approach to any project of this type. As proposal writers we are not always in the best position to have the answers to all possible questions. For this we typically rely on Subject Matter Experts or SMEs. Yet these experts are traditionally unwilling to spend much time doing proposal work and would much rather focus on their day-to-day job responsibilities. What’s to be done?

Senior Management Support

By far the most effective strategy is to solicit a clear and unequivocal buy-in from the leadership team in sales, marketing and product management or their equivalents. There needs to be a clear commitment from the top-down that in order for an automated RFP system to truly add-value, all the contributors must play their part or chaos will reign. 

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