Microsoft Sets the Pace for Proposal Automation in 2020Microsoft just closed its financial year on June 30 with record results ($126B revenue) with dramatic increases in its efforts to add advanced features and technologies to its Office 365 product line. 

Microsoft Office Remains the Best Bet for Full Featured Proposal Automation

Microsoft Word and the other Office components continue to set the standard for the core features of a robust proposal automation solution. Inherent in Office are many RFP and Proposal centric capabilities including:

  • Content Development and Management
  • Approval and Change Control
  • Branding and Messaging
  • Collaboration with Subject Experts and partners

And let’s not forget all the other valuable tools inherent in Office-based systems such as robust graphics and video, spreadsheet support as well as integrated slide presentations. It’s a very long list.

Microsoft is making great strides in pulling together all of its advanced proposal features under the Office 365 umbrella. The product focus here includes; SharePoint, OneDrive, Teams, Exchange and, significantly, Microsoft AI Cognitive Services.

The detailed product roadmaps may be found here:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/

“You may complain about this or that corner of Microsoft Office, but it’s still the most comfortable, familiar, powerful, and reliable set of productivity apps on this or any other planet.” PC Magazine – March 2019

Beware Shiny Proposal Software Objects

Yet with all this capability directly accessible in Office, ready to be leveraged and automated, some software providers continue to try and supplant this multi-billion dollar investment with proprietary, non-Microsoft offerings, and platforms.

Some are even claiming that the path forward for proposal automation should be based on newer, yet unproven, architectures that come with shiny names attached like “artificial intelligence” or “machine learning”. In addition, the user interfaces on these products are unfamiliar to regular Office users. 

Our view is that products driven by proprietary, non-standard platforms should be evaluated with an extra measure of risk attached. The survivability of these products is certainly questionable given Microsoft’s continued and massive investment in our sector. 

Reconsidering First Principles

As proposal automation has moved forward at a quickening pace this year, there may be value in stepping back and reminding ourselves of first principals:

  • Is the content we are presenting on-point, persuasive and well-articulated?
  • Have we understood the prospect’s overall business goals in their context as opposed to ours?
  • Are we displaying a true understanding of our own solutions as they relate to the prospect’s requirements?

Proposal automation saves time and effort up to a point. The question now is how should those savings be leveraged productively to advance the goal of more closed business? At some stage, more automation is not going to yield improved results. A focus on human connection and understanding, married with the right level of software support will yield an optimal result. It’s not clear yet where that balance lies. 

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