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Success Story: Ellucian Achieves High Marks with Qvidian

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When responding to a request for proposal (RFP), many proposal teams spend countless hours sifting through old documents in a number of files to identify and extract relevant content. Qvidian customer Ellucian, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) company with a mission to enhance productivity and communication for clients in the higher education space, faced this problem, finding that its internal RFP workflows were not as productive, communicative and efficient as they could have been.

Proposal teams and thought leaders throughout the organization wasted many hours searching through file names and keywords to address and answer each question in an RFP, making it difficult to meet deadlines and deliver the final document within a reasonable time period. Not surprisingly, Qvidian’s latest customer survey revealed that 45 percent of respondents’ report receiving RFP content on time as their biggest pain point. Also, with a client base of more than 2,400 institutions across 40 countries, Ellucian needed a system that could organize, manage and automate its content via one central solution so it could be sure that the content used in the final document was the most recent – a major concern for proposal teams. In fact, Qvidian’s customer survey revealed that 55 percent of respondents find that their content libraries are only “somewhat” in sync with the changes within the business and product lineups.

With these roadblocks top of mind, Ellucian decided it was in the company’s best interest to implement Qvidian’s proposal automation capabilities. Upon using the platform, Ellucian users immediately understood how beneficial this technology could be for their workflows. Time spent researching file names, formatting and updating responses and correcting human errors in formatting were virtually cut in half – and proposals that were once perfunctory and basic evolved into personalized, well-written documents that displayed Ellucian’s above average capabilities and assets. As a result, what began as a small group of five RFP users in the Ellucian network soon grew to more than 250 licenses to use the platform across the organization in multiple locations.

The time Ellucian employees gained back from streamlining their RFP process was then redirected to other strategic initiatives throughout their organization so they could better serve both their employees and customers. Ellucian’s experience with Qvidian’s proposal automation solution is a prime example of what matters most in the RFP and proposal industry—having the time and resources to develop persuasive content that wins deals.

For more details on Ellucian’s experience with Qvidian and to get a better understanding of Qvidian’s extensive RFP/proposal automation platform, watch the video below.

Organization is the Key to Opportunity

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Starting a new job can be overwhelming. For proposal managers, coming into a new job AND learning a new proposal automation process? It could be a lot to handle if one weren’t organized, but organization is the key to opportunity.

I recently had a conversation with a young professional who joined her current company just six months ago. She was hired to help manage their content for RFPs (requests for proposals) and proposals. Her company had already implemented Qvidian, but the system wasn’t being utilized properly. She and her newly formed team would take care of that.

Fortunately, for her and anyone else new to Qvidian, Qvidian offers multiple ways to learn the system from on-site training to the online Qvidian University, weekly open Q&A calls, on-demand webinars to the annual Qvidian Connect Conference that provides over 40 hands-on training sessions and opportunities to learn from fellow customers. Qvidian is one of those rare companies that is completely committed to its customers’ success. For newbies just entering the field, this can be tremendously comforting. In addition to providing many ways to learn the system, the depth of the functionality supports pretty much anything you want to do with your content.

When she started with her company, they had about 2,500 pieces of content in their library. The biggest issue, however, was the writing itself. With a variety of SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) contributing material and no one overseeing it, their content had multiple voices instead of the sound of a single, consistent author. On top of that, grammar was a huge concern; some of the content in the library had never been proofed. Everyone had meant to do it, but since the company didn’t have a full-time content manager, there were too many things on too many people’s plates for it to get done. It was up to her to take care of this, but with the support of Qvidian, there was no doubt she would succeed.

Because the company had started using Qvidian, their content was already organized into folders inside their Qvidian library. This made keeping track of what was and was not reviewed significantly easier. It was also the perfect time to make sure that branding issues were addressed. Qvidian made this simple as well with the use of the style templates they had already created inside the system. She just needed to make sure they were applied. Completing the content overhaul took time, but was straightforward because of Qvidian; no hunting and pecking, no searching shared drives, no emailing colleagues for content that could be living on their desktops.
Two months passed and the content overhaul was complete. As they moved along, they quickly realized that with over 150 RFPs each year, each one varying in size and complexity and only the 6 of them on the team, they wanted ALL the efficiency that Qvidian could provide in and beyond their content library.

The team is actively pursuing the use of Qvidian’s proposal automation features. In addition to proposal automation, Qvidian provides multiple supports for collaboration within the system. It delivers visibility into the entire RFP and proposal process tracking the progress of all collaborators to help ensure deadlines are met. In addition, Qvidian even provides training on best practices in writing proposals. That’s a step not taken by many technology providers. Qvidian teaches RFP, bid and proposal writers the value of letting their customers know, upfront, that they truly understand their needs and then demonstrating to them why theirs is the solution they seek.

Qvidian offers a complete proposal solution and enables its customers to achieve huge efficiencies and high quality that is driven by consistency in messaging, accuracy in content, and proper branding needed to make RFPs and proposals rise to the top. This young professional told me, “We know that utilizing Qvidian to its fullest will benefit not only our team, but also our company as a whole by helping us achieve as many wins as possible.”

I remember what it can be like to start a new job, the uncertainties of your surroundings, the pressure to perform, and the desire to excel. I think about the horror stories others have shared with me about life in proposals without a system like Qvidian. Put those two together, and the pressure could be unbearable.

I can’t help but wonder if this young woman realizes what her start in this field could have been like. Qvidian is not unlike other disruptive technologies; streamlining processes and adding so much efficiency that it’s hard to imagine life without it. It’s almost like the difference between life with or without cell phones. How did we ever survive without them? How do RFP, proposal and bid managers survive without Qvidian?

The Science to Managing Content and Creating Winning Proposals

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In my previous blog article, I discussed ways that the best content and proposal writers use an artistic approach to developing content. In other words, they apply a more creative mindset to develop content that doesn’t sound like everyone else. And that’s a good thing.

Yet at the same time, there is – and should be – a scientific method to managing content and building proposals. Think of this as the part of the equation where proposal teams can automate manual processes, improve collaboration between key stakeholders, and create great proposals faster and much more efficiently than ever before.

It’s a real opportunity. On average, Qvidian customers create sales presentations 40% faster and increase their win rate by 28% … and you can, too.

This blog examines the role the right proposal technology can play in the “scientific” part of the process and takes a closer look at the benefits of RFP technology.

Improve Accessibility

According to our 2015 Content Automation Trends Report, 83% of salespeople reported that they had a hard time finding content. This challenge is bigger than just creating frustrated salespeople, especially when you consider that when they can’t find what they need, they may rely on outdated content.

To solve this challenge, use RFP technology that offers functionality to serve up the most appropriate content resources for each selling situation. RFP solutions can also provide search capabilities that help salespeople and proposal writers quickly find exactly what they are looking for.

Personalize Content

Personalized content is an extremely effective way to stand apart from competitors’ proposals and effectively demonstrate that your organization really understands the prospect’s challenges. RFP technology delivers powerful personalization functionality that uses existing data from your CRM system to customize content in real time.

Collaborate with Subject Matter Experts

Content doesn’t update itself, so it is critical to improve collaboration between subject matter experts and content owners. Users can take advantage of technology to assign content, request updates, and track assignments or expired with ease.

Tracking and Analytics

Speaking of tracking, RFP technology also helps proposal teams take advantage of powerful content analytics so they can track the popularity, usage, and effectiveness of content. This is clearly the most obvious example of the scientific approach being the opposite of art. This removes all subjectivity and individual opinions and attempts to help users make the most effective decisions possible.

Bring this scientific philosophy to your writing, and you’ll be vastly improving the ways that your company reaches out to prospective customers. By using the right technology to help manage content, your organization can see results where they matter most: topline revenue growth and a stronger bottom-line.

To learn more about applying art and science to your proposal efforts, please download our new guide, The Art and Science of Developing and Managing Sales Content, today.

GUEST POST: Insights for a successful Qvidian implementation

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If your organization is considering the adoption of Qvidian’s Proposal Automation application (and you should), you’re likely anxious to solve some of the internal issues that have brought you to the conclusion you need to improve your content management and/or RFP response processes. This makes total sense, and it is exactly the mentality our organization had as we entered the process as well…excitement and anticipation for how much better things can get.

It’s important though to take a moment to consider that your eagerness to harness the value Qvidian can offer may cause you to move too quickly and result in difficulties around training, user adoption, and content management that can significantly delay or even prevent you from realizing the benefits Qvidian can afford your organization.

With that said, here are three questions I suggest you take the time to answer before diving into the implementation project. Your responses can go a long way helping navigate the process and achieve your objectives.

  1.        “What are my desired outcomes from having Qvidian?”

How do you get the most out of what Qvidian can offer your organization? Well, it begins with understanding your current issues and investing the time to learn how Qvidian can address them. For your biggest challenges, take your time, slow things down and make sure you’ve really clarified a new direction for moving forward before you begin to tackle secondary concerns. That may not get stated often enough…formalize and introduce any adjustments to your existing processes for the initial phase of your rollout before proceeding with the rest of the implementation. Allow those processes an opportunity to breathe and see if they are producing the desired outcomes. If not, go back and adjust. Once you feel confident that you have arrived at a solution that will address your biggest concerns, then it becomes time to introduce the additional features of Qvidian. Make sure to follow the same process with rolling out the second phase of your implementation as well.

  1.        “How can Qvidian help me achieve those outcomes specifically?”

This is an important piece to consider because it will help you prioritize where to focus your efforts during the implementation process. My personal recommendation for using Qvidian is a phased rollout that could easily require up to a year to execute.

Many companies begin their relationship with Qvidian around managing projects and storing, organizing and searching content. These solutions have significant value in their own ways and address different problems. I’d suspect most organizations start with the content library, which makes a lot of sense, but be sure to identify your most pressing needs so Qvidian can address them specifically. Once you’ve identified them, place all your focus on succeeding there before adding more areas of focus.

  1.        “How big of a change is this for my team and how much can they handle at a time?”

If your company is migrating from a different content management solution then perhaps the change in providers won’t create a significant disruption, but if your users are new to cloud-based content libraries and RFP response tools then asking them to adapt to both a new way to build their documents AND a new content management system simultaneously can create significant challenges for your end-users.

Consider phasing in the two main tools one at a time (starting with the one that addresses your most pressing needs) and allowing an acclimation period for your users to adjust to the initial changes before rolling out the other components of Qvidian.  This should minimize any issues around user adoption and allow you to develop some experience with the application upon which to base the rest of your decisions. Speaking from experience, I can state it’s likely that your view on how best to leverage the application may be different after six months of using Qvidian and unfortunately, there’s just no way to side-step that initiation period. However, planning for it can not only minimize the issues you encounter, but also help inform your decision making for the remaining phases of the rollout of Qvidian to ensure you are getting the most out of what it has to offer.

Ultimately the entire process can be summarized by saying “Slow it down”. Take the tasks on one at a time and make sure each change you make to your previous processes is producing the desired outcomes before taking on and rolling out the rest of the application.

Qvidian is a wonderful solution and it can provide value to your organization in a number of ways, but it’s a large application that can take time to get to know, particularly for your end-users. Be sure to pace the rollout at a speed that lets them learn and accept each piece of the puzzle before putting it all together. In the long run, you’ll be better off for it.

Alan Hull, Senior Proposal Writer

Alan has worked on Morneau Shepell’s Proposal Team since 2009. His area of specialty is the consulting and administration of pension and benefit plans. Since studying Marketing at the University of Toronto, Alan has amassed over 12 years of experience in proposal writing working for firms across Canada. He also has extensive experience in project management.