Why RFPs Need A Human Touch
Post Written By Maurice Harary, Forbes Councils Member
With artificial intelligence (AI) transforming a variety of industries, many people in the world of requests for proposals (RFP) are asking if the bidding industry is next. AI may be on its way to changing the world, but it is not yet ready to take over the world of bidding. Cutting-edge technology can help your contract proposal operations reach their full potential, but experienced (human) experts are still needed to deliver a winning bid.
The promise of artificial intelligence is understandably appealing to firms leveraging RFPs for new business and growth. Artificial intelligence, or the idea that digital technology can achieve a level of learning, thinking and acting like humans, presents a future that can replace the most arduous tasks (as many people would characterize RFPs). They may think the process of identifying a relevant contract opportunity, creating and submitting a proposal, and winning a signed contract for new business can be fully automated.
For now, however, even advanced machine learning technology still lacks the dexterity, accountability and independence needed to make this future a reality. Take, for example, the idea of AI-enabled autoresponses to an RFP’s requirements or scope of work.
Intuitive advancements to proposal templates make inputting a prewritten response more seamless, but RFP language is still far too divergent for software to identify the correct response and input a completely responsive answer without any human guidance. Even bid offerors in the same industry will all have different priorities and specific needs and use varied terminology.
The day when RFP software is advanced enough to handle these language intricacies is likely coming, but it is not here yet. In our experience, no software at the moment comes even particularly close.
Still, technology-enabled efficiencies are becoming an increasingly important part of competitive bidding. Prewritten responses should not be automatically added to a response without personal review, but they can save time and money when used strategically. Additionally, automatic tracking of metrics, key performance indicators (KPIs) and other information relevant to your industry and organization is an important tool to keep your bids informed and up to date with the latest information and intelligence.
Curated databases are slowly incorporating machine learning techniques to improve the relevance of search results and help you identify a perfect RFP opportunity. Again, personal attention is needed to fully implement these advantages, but directing your team to input customized search parameters such as geography, contract size, industry type, etc. can lead to a more optimized process of RFP opportunities for your organization to review.
The Human Touch
Aside from the complexities of human language, RFP opportunities and bids need a personal touch to translate explicit requirements into an intuitive format that gives a bid reviewer the information they need in a digestible way. Automated responses coming off an assembly line are less likely to stand out, and winning an RFP is all about standing your proposal apart from the rest.
Making use of visually engaging charts, graphs and images will help your message come across more clearly while demonstrating your business’s technical skills. Evaluators often value creativity, because it demonstrates a solid understanding of the subject matter while saving them time and effort.
For example, design software like Adobe can help you create infographics, but an expert is needed to identify which information to highlight and decide the best visual format to do so. Because the information needed for RFPs is still contained in such a wide variety of formats and documents (different companies using different financial formats, different states using different information fields, etc.), AI struggles to pull the information efficiently and plug it into necessary visual templates.
A Hybrid Approach
RFP experts both external and in-house can help businesses and organizations on both sides of the RFP process to manage, design and win bids. In our experience, a hybrid approach that blends AI-enabled time-saving tools with expert-driven, detailed responsiveness is the best path forward — more Ironman and less Robocop!
Forbes Article Link: Why RFPs Need A Human Touch