Keeping Tabs on the RFP Process

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By Ganesh Shankar
CEO and Co-Founder, RFPIO, Inc.

For many compliance and privacy officers, the way the company’s sales and marketing teams respond to requests for proposal (RFPs) falls well under the radar of legal, privacy and compliance concerns.  But should it? In many cases, the content that ends up in RFPs could be exposing your organization to unnecessary risks that you may not even know about until it’s too late.

For example, your company may have an opportunity to submit a bid in response to an RFP issued by a government agency for products or services offered by your company. If successful, the RFP response could generate significant revenue and positive exposure for your company. But to respond fully to the RFP, your company may need to disclose valuable intellectual property such as trade secrets and confidential information as well as regulated content.

The decision to provide this information to a government agency requires careful consideration. Such information may be inadvertently disclosed by a government agency to a third party or may become the subject of a request for disclosure under applicable state or federal freedom of information laws.

As this example illustrates, there is often a tension between what is best from a business development perspective and what is best from a legal and compliance perspective. Resolving this tension can be difficult, which is why it’s so important to ensure your company is addressing the RFP process with the seriousness it deserves.

Although RFP questions may often seem to call for standard marketing hype responses, they should ideally be prepared with greater precision as RFPs often specify that responses become part of the binding contract. Additionally, you should consider whether your RFP responses are subject to contractual or regulatory confidentiality obligations.

It almost goes with saying that in today’s world sensitive information such as patient information or social security numbers should never be included, and responses should be reviewed to determine whether statements could be misconstrued as admissions of regulatory noncompliance or otherwise be used against you.

The RFP response process can be complex and hard to manage since it can often involve answering dozens of complicated questions involving multiple disciplines and departments within a constricted time frame. Too often, this means that as responses come together at the last minute, the legal and compliance reviews that should be occurring never happen. To address these challenges, organizations are increasingly turning to RFP automation software to help keep RFP responses on track.

MasterControl, a supplier of quality and compliance-focused document control software, faced a similar issue as many of their customers when it comes to RFPs— the company’s manual processes for responding to proposal requests relied on disparate documents, Excel spreadsheets and overworked subject matter experts to get RFPs out the door. This often left scant time for oversight due to the amount of legwork involved.

The company found that it was taking on an average of 32 hours each to complete more than 100 RFPs per years. Through the use of a cloud-based RFP automation tool, Master Control was able to reduce that time by 40 percent.  What’s more, sections of RFP responses that potentially represented legal or compliance concerns could now be automatically flagged and routed for the appropriate review cycles.

Beyond giving the compliance and legal teams much-needed oversight, automating RFP processes also made the sales and marketing team more effective since they could more accurately determine the success of their RFP responses. In this case, complying with regulations turned out to be a business benefit rather than a burden. If your RFP processes are more of a black hole than you’re comfortable with, it may be time to look to the cloud for process improvements – and more peace of mind.

About the Author
As the CEO and Co-Founder of RFPIO, Ganesh Shankar strives to change the RFP response approach, with cloud-based automation technology that helps businesses increase close rates through quality responses and intelligent processes. A highly experienced Product Manager, Ganesh has successfully implemented software at Fortune 500 enterprises. It was in this role, surrounded by the inefficient method of Requests for Proposal, that he chose to pursue a dream and create RFP management software that would positively transform the way companies do business.